Teaching & Learning: What’s fair is not EQuaL

An equitable learning environment is not an “equal” experience. If student data is used closely, some experiences and resources will vary so that all students can achieve the same learning outcomes. Available materials may be the same, and ready to be provided, but not all students need the same materials.

Differentiation is partly about Content, Process, and Product. The other components that are perhaps even more critical are student Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences. A hands-on experience may only differentiate at a “basic” or “surface” level. For example, a hands-on activity around math concepts might be more effective in groups of students based on similar readiness levels. The task, if not the tools, would be different based on the students’ current skill level.

What value is there for a student to do the same activity as everyone else, if they already have mastered the skill? The same can also be said of the students doing the activity who lack understanding of the basic concepts for completing the task.

Readiness, Interests, and Learning Preferences can increase the depth and effectiveness of differentiation for a truly equitable learning environment.

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John McCarthy, EdS, authored So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation
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