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Reflect on your learning with Jane & Yeasmin

Prompt to use your reflection grid and hear from the course mentors.
YEASMIN MORTUZA: Hello, everybody. My name is Yeasmin Mortuza. I’m here with my colleague Jane Winter. And this is the second of our set of three video diaries for this course on differentiation for learning. So I’m going to hand over directly to Jane for our first comment. Over to you, Jane.
JANE WINTER: Hello, everyone. Lovely to be here again. And the first comment is from Christine. Thank you so much, Christine. You’ve really been contributing a lot to this course, and we’ve got a couple of your slides in this diary. And so Christine makes a great, great point. When you’re teaching students, you need to start where they are, not where you wish they were, not where last year’s teacher says they are, where they really, really are. And she makes the lovely analogy of talking to students who live in the desert about pedestrian crossings on roads. If you were using that in England, that would be a helpful thing to talk to children about to help them with their understanding.
If you talk to children who live in the Sahara, it would be no use to them whatsoever. So it’s about knowing the child in front of you. And even if you’re living in a fairly homogeneous environment, you may have children coming through all sorts of different backgrounds and experiences. And if we make assumptions, we’re not helping the children in front of us. I used to move schools a lot, and I remember one particular history teacher. I really liked him. Except he kept talking about the last year’s syllabus in order to situate the learning of that year. It didn’t actually hold me back academically, but it did make me feel very excluded.
And in a more severe case, it could actually confuse children. So when we’re talking about starting where children are, it’s about starting where they are emotionally. And we’re going to talk about that a little bit later in this diary. It’s about starting where they are academically, but it’s also thinking about their whole life experience and valuing it– you know, all sorts of diversity and not making assumptions. Now, I love this image that Yeasmin has made to go along with this slide. And see all those arrows? They’re all going in the same direction. And they’re all making progress, but they’re starting at different places. And not all those arrows are the same length either.
We help every child reach their potential by starting where they are and taking them as far as we possibly can along that route, however far that journey is. So thank you for that lovely image, Yeasmin. And I think you’ve got a comment from Jacqueline now.
YEASMIN MORTUZA: I have indeed. Thanks, Jane. So Jacqueline’s comment– we’ve stuck with the same arrows. So Jacqueline, thank you again for this comment and also for your comments throughout. So I think Jacqueline’s comment relates to aiming for all students to achieve. So Jacqueline uses the word achievement rather than attainment. And I think that’s really important because, especially in secondary schools, we could get stuck on this word attainment, whereas achievement is about ensuring that irrespective of thought points, that students move forward, that they’re progressing forward, and that if we identify where their start point is, as Jane explained, we can then identify what it looks like to add value for that student from that point onward.
And that’s what true differentiation is about. So if we know where the students start and ensure that they’re all actually moving forward, then what we’re doing is we’re looking at progression rather than attainment. And so thinking about rule retainment, especially in secondary school, sometimes it trips us up, really. So Jacqueline talks about all pupils achieving and not just a few and also how do you do that, the manageability of that. Well, two things just touched on very lightly here is that differentiation is ensuring that students are both supported and challenged. And that’s going to look slightly different for each pupil because they’ve got their different start points.
And some of them will fly forward faster, moving at a faster rate than others as well. So it really is truly is a different learning journey for all of the students. And later on, we’ll talk about how do we do that because we don’t have to use the students as their own resource in order to achieve that. So Jacqueline mentions that it’s really important that that achievement– that there is a sense of achieving because that achievement, sense of achievement, is actually going to become a positive feedback loop that we can draw upon and rely on to help this the whole business of progression. So thank very much, Jacqueline for your comment.
I’m going to hand back over to Jane for the next comment from Christine. Over to you, Jane.
JANE WINTER: Yes. Yes, thank you, Christine again. And she makes a lovely comment about where she describes a 14-year-old boy that she works with who’s got special educational needs. And she explains how he feels– really lacks confidence. And he’s really reluctant to start a call and a task, but she gives him the support that he needs. And after a while, he’s able to get into that state of flow that we’ve been talking about, that lovely feeling that is so great when you get into it, where you’re just lost in that moment. You’re concentrating. You’re working at using your ability. You’re not bored.
You’ve having to really think, but then you’re not overstretched so that you start to worry that you can’t do it and get stuck. Great. That’s where we need all our students to be some of the time. Now I think the point that I really, really want to go without though is when we think about giving students opportunities to get into flow, we think about meeting their academic needs and the skill set that they’ve got and what they can do, but it’s more than that. With Christine’s student, it was emotional. Now, yeah, he’s got special needs, but a lot of those students in front of you that haven’t necessarily got special needs as such, they will lack confidence.
They will have had painful past experiences. They might not come from families that support them and help them to understand that, yes, they can do these things. So yeah, you might be a secondary teacher teaching top set GCSE, and you think, yeah, these students should just be able to do that. Give them the support they need. Give them that bit of scaffolding, that little bit of reassurance. Remind them of when they could do it. Just give them what they need initially so they can then go forward independently. And it’s by giving them that support when they need it, that emotional support, that they can then do what they need to do. So don’t just stick to the academic.
You know, remember that that person in front– they’re a whole person. They’ve got multiple needs, not just learning needs. And you might think, well, that’s not your job. Well, A, yes, it is your job. And B, it will make your job a lot easier if you take the time to do that. So thank you so much for bringing that up, Christine. It’s slightly off the tangent for what we do talk about in the course but really, really important. So thank you. So I think you’ve got a comment from Iptyeal now, Yeasmin.
YEASMIN MORTUZA: I do indeed. Thanks, Jane. So Iptyeal, I hope I’ve got the pronunciation right– makes a really, really important inquiry and shares a concern about identifying the needs of what we– the range of students, especially in a mixed ability class. Quite often, in secondary schools, we have sets and there are mixed-ability lessons as well. Right. So the thing to recognise here, whether you’re teaching in mixed ability or in sets, is actually the true, for want of word, abilities or range of a student is actually a spiky profile.
And when we look at things like test results, they don’t give an indication of the complexity of how any five children will make their way through a particular learning task because we are complex beings. We think in complex ways. And we do have a mixed bag of aptitude towards different areas of skills that we draw upon for learning. So actually, any student, any one student, is going to have strengths and weaknesses in a range of different areas, irrespective of whether they’re in a mixed-ability group or whether they’re in setted groups as well. And so how do we unravel all of that? Well, the truth of the matter is– that places enormous pressure on teachers.
The truth of the matter is we can’t unpick all of it for each student as a separate entity, but what we can do is have a broad understanding of the range– the range– one of the likely things that some students will be able to do and maybe struggle on, the likely stumbling blocks, et cetera. And if we allow for all of the different possibilities to be catered for, that’s when true differentiation starts coming. I think, especially in secondary schools, we then have the problem of thinking that we, the teacher, are the main resource in the classroom. Yes, we are the mastermind behind the lesson plan, but actually we forget that the students are their own resource.
They are their own resource for themselves, and they are a resource for each other. Now, if we start tapping into that as a resource, we can allow students to self-differentiate. And then it befalls faster to oversee the process. So if we are giving them autonomy and allowing them to self-differentiate and self-regulate, we just need to make sure two things. We need to make sure that we’ve provided them with the opportunity, the learning tasks– the range of learning tasks are there available– and also that, during class time, we are able to intervene, to support, to direct, to redirect.
And so that way, we don’t actually need to have a thorough understanding of how one student may learn, but, rather, we’ve got a generic understanding of the range of stumbling blocks that students come across. And that way, we let ourselves off the hook because it would be impossible to hold information like what that graph suggests in our head as we’re going about our day-to-day business. OK, so really building using collaborative learning to allow students to self-differentiate, I think, Iptyeal would go a long way towards helping to deal with mixed-ability teaching. And it lets us off the hook for identifying the needs of all students.
But, of course, we do need to be aware of specific needs which would impact on our plans. We do need to have that awareness as well, but it means that we don’t need to have knowledge of this micro-detail that high-level differentiation might imply. So thank you very much for that comment. I’m going to hand it back over to Jane for Elena’s comment. Over to you, Jane.
JANE WINTER: Yes, thank you for this, Elena. You make a great point. And she actually says assessment doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be stressful. And if it’s all about giving children the grades, making them feel judged, making them compare themselves against each other, making it like a competition, and knowing that everything is written down, and there’s numbers attached to them that relate to their ability– I don’t like that word, but you know where I’m coming from. Assessment doesn’t need to be like that. It shouldn’t be about levels and labels and everything written down and file for prosperity forever. It’s about knowing your students.
It’s about celebrating what they can do and finding out what they need to do next. It shouldn’t be threatening for a student where differentiation is working well. It’s about feeling heard. It’s about feeling known and understood and having work that fits what you can actually do. And that is empowering. And there’s also creative ways that we can do assessment, but quizzes and games are only as good as the environment in which you are using them and the way that they’re done. Because quizzes and games, if they’re done and the students say, oh, that’s to give me a label, or that’s to show what I can do, it’s very threatening. Where they’re collaborative.
And you know that it’s helping you understand what you can do and know what your next steps are. And this leads very much back to what Iptyeal and Yeasmin were saying on the last slide about giving students the power to self-differentiate, to find out what they can do, and make decisions for themselves. That isn’t threatening. And it’s great when you can have the opportunity to get in that flow that we’ve been talking about and know that the people around you want you to make progress. When you learn a new skill, it feels great, doesn’t it? And you can feel yourself moving on. And that’s what good assessment is.
It’s about giving students the power to learn, to move on, not to think, oh, I’m not quite so good as the person I sit next to. Or oh, I’m a lot better than that person over there. It shouldn’t be like that. It really, really shouldn’t. So thank you so much for bringing that up, Elena. That’s the end of another video diary, and we’ll be back towards the end of week five with our final video diary of the course. However, we can’t do this if you don’t give us permission. So do look out. If we’ve made a comment on one of your comments asking for permission. There’s also the question and answer session.
If you’ve got a question, pop over to set 5.2 and post it there for our expert educators to answer. And that will be uploaded by the 14th of February. And I think that’s it for this time, so see you online.

You’re now a good way through the course and we would like to encourage you to take some time to:

  • Reflect on your learning so far
  • Celebrate any Eureka moments you may have had
  • Consider any implications for you in your classroom

Reflection grid

Take a look at your reflection grid for this week. Add to your reflection grid based upon your understanding of the course, discussions and classroom practice this week.

Make a note of any outstanding questions, as you can take these to the Q&A session.

  • Step 5.2 – post questions before 6 February 2020.

Mentors video diary

Your mentors will reflect back on the first two week’s key themes and your comments. You can use this to catch up on the course discussions and see if you missed any of the highlights so far. This second video diary will be available after 31 January.

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