How does my Ubd unit reflect my understanding of differentiated instruction?
Within my UbD I tried to incorporate elements of differentiation so that all students were able to benefit to their fullest capacity from the lesson within the unit. I have identified 5 components of DI as: pre-assessment/Individual differences, environment, content/standard, process/instructional strategies, and product/post-assessment. All of these components interwoven together within the unit help to ensure that all students are able to gain the most learning. Currently, there is an increasing need for DI as current educational trends indicate the homogeneity of the past has been replaced with widespread diversity in the student population (Subban, 2006). Furthermore according to Eric Jensen (2005) because students are growing, they have different bodies and brains with different hormones and a unique body clock which will at any given time be at a high or low. We need to always be able to reach students regardless of this high or low and DI instruction is the answer. Bobbie Dunn (2010) also states, “These complicated organs called brains all develop at different rates, and there are some students who are far more ready than others.” To deal with this fluctuation Jenson suggest educators have: tolerance, activity shifts, movement and thoughtful scheduling. In other words we DIFFERENTIATE a principle behind UbD units.
The first component of differentiation, the driving force of the learning needs, that I will discuss is pre-assessment/individual differences. In the modern classroom you will find tremendous differences among your students. I decided to discuss this component, because for me it is the heart of the unit.According to Tomlinson (2001), “In a differentiated classroom, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs” (p.7). In order to discover the learning needs of my students, I needed some initial data. I used NWEA Skills Navigator as a pre-assessment to gauge what my students needed to learn. I found that students had many missing skills ranging from 2nd-6th grade in the strand of Coordinate Geometry. It was apparent I needed to have a differentiated unit in order to allow all students to grow in this strand. Once I had my pre-data I used some authentic pre-assessments and pre-assessment tests. I used the same pre-assessments as my post-assessments. I decided to throw in a test because I wanted some hard data to prove that learning did take place, but I also made sure to have authentic tests so that students could all show what they learned within their range of skills.
Another very important component of differentiation that I included in the unit, but did not talk about every detail was the environment. This component, I find very critical to the success of the unit because of how the brain responds to perceived threats. In order to help students, I made sure to have their preferred lighting arrangement available, preferential seating based on the activity, students were given choice so that they could work on something that suited their learning preference, multi-sensory instruction that included the use of song, videos, visuals, interactive notes, heating that was adjusted to students’ likings. Choice was one of my major focuses in this unit as it allows for students to take ownership of their learning. Weselby (2017) supports the use of choice in DI in his statement that when , “Students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.” My goal is to get students engaged and choice helps considerably. Thus, it is my opinion that environment really helps set the stage for engagement a critical component to getting are students on the road to learning.
Both pre-assessment/individual differences and environment were at the foundation of my unit. These two components, in my opinion, guaranteed the success of my unit from the start. The third component of differentiation that I identify in my unit is content/standard. For this unit, technology based assignments were key to differentiating instruction. IXL a web based program allowed me to differentiate coordinate geometry skills from 3rd-7th grade. Students were able to decide if they needed to level up or level down based on their progress because the goal was growth among all students. I found that when students started at their own level they eventually would fly through the higher levels. The key was meeting them at their level first and bridging any gaps. IXL provides a smart score and allowed me to monitor my students’ learning needs. I sued this information to correctly place students if they did not do it on their own and as an opportunity to give individual mini-lessons. The content would also be approached by allowing students to practice on art projects using the coordinate plane that varied based on their abilities. In this unit technology allowed for differentiation to happen more easily due to the leveled skills while still reaching for grade level standards. Although, not all will meet grade level standards, my goal is that students show growth towards meeting them.
Process/Instructional Strategies is the 4th component of differentiation that I identified within my unit. To meet this component, I tried to vary the instructional pieces and assessment tools. Instead of direct instruction being the primary method of delivery, I found songs, videos, visuals and used interactive notes, art projects, digital math games, and interactive notes to help deliver instruction. I also opted to allow students to use voice recording when written work was an option, as I was looking content not the process. With that being said, I found flexibility to be a key factor in the process of learning. According to Hurst (2013), “The very nature of differentiated instruction demands flexibility.” I had to understand that things would not always go according to plan and I would use assessments to help drive my instruction. Daily instruction was assessed by both the teacher and students. Students were to perform a daily checklist assessing what they learned. I used Kahoot to gauge learning and direct instructional needs. Exit slips that involved kinesthetic learning were performed to informally assess students knowledge. Both forms of assessments were used to allow students reflection time, an essential need of learning new content.
The final component of differentiated instruction I identified was product/assessment. This component greatly helps me prove that all my students made progress. Authentic post assessments such as varied journal prompt responses and written short essays with teacher/student rubrics, or a a creative poster product with a teacher/student rubric allows students to be individuals performing real life tasks while still showing what they learned. It does not limit students to a limited range of learning questions, insteads allows them to explore the whole spectrum while working at their individual levels. Authentic assessments are important in that they provide multiple solutions for students to demonstrate mastery while allowing them to display their creativity and innovation and are most effective when they resemble real life situation (Burns, 2015). I also plan to use NWEA skills navigator as a post assessment tool which will allow me to show growth from grades 3-7th if applicable among all students. My goal is growth. Lastly, I will use a post-assessment test on some basic coordinate geometry skills as hard data students did learn the basics, however, the unit was not limited to these basics. Although I can do without the tests as forms of assessments throughout the unit, I prefer them for my own assessment of the success of the unit for data. However, I also believe that with a well thought out unit that embeds the principles of differentiation will ensure success on these tests.
Without all these critical components of differentiated instruction, it would be highly problematic for student success. All these component work together to ensure all students are making progress towards educational goals. According to Tomlinson (2001) by differentiating what students learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they have learned encourages substantial growth in all students. I look forward to testing out my UbD units effectiveness in the near future.
Burns, V. (2015). 53 Interesting Ways to Assess Your Students. [N.p.]: Frontinus Ltd. Retrieved from http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2051/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1017975&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_Cover on March 19, 2017
Dunn, Bobbie. “3 Techniques for Brain Based Differentiation.” 2010. Web. 02, March 2017 <http://www.weteachwelearn.org/2010/05/3-techniques-for-brain-based-differentiation/>.
Hurst , S. (2013, August 8). Six Necessary Components of Effective Differentiated Instruction. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.readinghorizons.com/blog/six-necessary-components-of-effective-differentiated-instruction
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 April 2015. Retreived from:http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2051/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=141347&site=ehost-live
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD), 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 5 April 2015. Retrieved from:
Subban, P. (2006). International education journal. [Differentiated instruction: A research basis] Issn 1443-1475, 7(7), 935-947.
Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms.
Weselby, C. (2017). What is differentiated instruction? examples of how to differentiate instruction in the classroom. Retrieved 2017, February/02, 2017, from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/