A Differentiation Situation


Take this hypothetical situation:

A special educator in an inclusion co-teaching situation comes up with an idea (say, a small book of strategies for writing) to make writing more accessible for the kids with disabilities. It helps them access grade level content and work on the same genre as peers, but it simultaneously creates a bit of a class distinction because the kids without disabilities don’t get their own book. So, the special educator and general educator decide to give every student a copy of the book. As a result, all students have the same ideas made more accessible to them, and they all benefit.

It sounds wonderful, and it is. Only an administrator finds out and questions the special educator about how he is differentiating for “his” students. If all the students have that small book of writing strategies, Administrator argues, then there is no differentiation happening for the students with disabilities.

The special educator counters that all students are doing better because of the small book and that this is a cause for celebration, not consternation.

In considering one of the main roles of a special educator in an inclusion setting – to differentiate appropriately for students – I am curious to know what your take on this situation is. Who is right: the teacher who says all students are benefiting and this is a good thing or the administrator who says the students with disabilities are not receiving differentiated teaching? Please leave an answer in the comments.

I’ll post my thoughts tomorrow.

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6 responses to “A Differentiation Situation

  1. To me this sounds like a great case of inclusion. The two teachers are working together in a learning environment where all students are able to be successful and not feel “different”. I am sure the book contains a bunch of different strategies to meet all the different learners including the SPED kiddos. We all know that different learners use different strategies. Second it is insulting to the inclusion teacher to assume that the only way they are differentiating in that class for their students is by handing students a book of strategies.

  2. The awesome thing about inclusion when it works is that it breaks down barriers and helps both sides through creative approaches like that. An accessible world benefits everyone–think how often you use curb cuts and automatic doors. Similarly, it seems to me that in an ideal inclusion class you wouldn’t need differentiation–you would find things like this that work for everyone. Too bad this administrator can only see beaurocratic details.

  3. I am outraged at the ignorance of the administrator, who in my opinion, should attend professional development in differentiated instruction, since he/she has a lot to learn.

    Differentiating instruction is for all children, not just for children with disabilities. Why should giving every child the supports that he/she needs to be a successful learner ever be questioned? Kudos to the teachers for knowing what is right for all of their students. That’s what good pedagogy is about.

  4. I agree with the teacher. Differentiation is giving students what they need to access the general ed. curriculum in an ICT class. Would it be more ideal to give specific books with specific/individualized supports for each student? Sure. But as another person who commented stated perhaps there were multiple strategies in the book to meet the individual needs of each student. Perhaps even the specific strategy for the individual student was highlighted or had a post-it on it. A book with multiple strategies is an intervention that changes with the student. As his/her needs change, the strategies are already handy and the student can be taught to use them rather than having to create a brand new intervention. In this era of data collection, changing standards, changing curriculum and ever changing teacher evaluation systems, this teacher should be praised for finding an efficient and effective way to differentiate. It is very sad that the administration does not understand this.

  5. It has to be the educator. The point is to help the students with IEPs. If all students benefit in the process, then the teacher is doing an amazing job. The teacher shouldn’t have to differentiate just for the sake of differentiation.

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