The largest factor contributing to student success is understanding student interest, learning style and needs. Excellent teachers recognize the need to provide equity for all students. A classroom must differentiate for multiple learning styles and individual student needs, including home or socioeconomic factors.
In order to provide equity and teach social justice in a classroom setting, a teacher must recognize differences to create positive change.This involves building a rapport with students in order to understand background factors on behavior and learning. By establishing an open line of communication and making all of the students feel equal in the classroom, students can feel as if they belong in the room to meet expectations. Maintaining consistent communication methods involving eye contact, greeting and body language demonstrates equality to students. To ensure equity for all students, staff members must be equal and remain unbiased while communicating with students. There are several ways to support equity in classroom discussions through participation or tracking the time per student. Connecting with students and creating a classroom community is not enough. A teacher must be willing to incorporate the social differences within the classroom into authentic assessments. Equality in a classroom is demonstrated through equal actions regarding teacher and student interactions.
Each student entering school is unique. To provide the best possible learning environment a teacher must differentiate for all student needs. Maximizing student choice in learning exercises is one key factor in differentiating. Instructors must incorporate student choice to demonstrate proficiency of learning objectives. Rubrics need to be adjusted with differentiating assignments and projects. Learning objectives must remain the same for all, while differentiating projects and rubrics allows learning to take place at an individual level and become truly student-centered. Smaller scale methods to meet the needs of all students may include asking questions at the appropriate level for each student. This is to ensure the content of each lesson is accessible by all students in the room. Equally important to know is knowledge of the type of learner. Students may be kinesthetic, visual, or auditory learners. Utilizing a variety of instructional methods, or differentiating a lesson for various learners will ensure we are meeting the unique needs of each student.
Differentiation within a classroom can be a difficult task to accomplish. A teacher must be willing to attempt to do so, even if they are unsure of all of the answers of a task. To demonstrate leadership in their classroom a teacher must be willing to try new and innovative ideas with students. Providing the opportunity for student led discussions or student centered activities may be a daunting task they must approach with confidence and be willing to adjust to meet the needs of all students. These student led products will be completed at various aptitudes, which is the purpose of such an approach. The celebrations for each product and success is an important task for the classroom leader. Celebrating all accomplishments equally is a must.
Most of the assignments that I assigned while teaching were student led and open ended, offering students the opportunity to demonstrate learning objectives around their own interests. Sometimes the results were unsatisfactory because I failed to notice an aspect of a student’s learning needs. I took those situations as a learning experience. For example, one assignment was an introductory project with digital images and editing titled “About Me.” The assignment involved bringing in pictures from home and creating a digital collage with photo editing software. Once complete, students were required to explain their projects to the class. During the presentations I realized how different each student’s background was and could see the angst on some of the student’s faces as their peers described their interests or home life. I used that feedback and helped to promote that we are all different and have different interests to reinforce equality in the classroom. To celebrate the completion of the assignment I would share my background with students and try to relate to each student in some way with their descriptions.
Differentiation and equality are more than words or actions within a classroom. It is an ongoing demonstration and learning experience for the teacher. It is also something all teachers need to practice across their student population to raise student achievement.