Parents Education Network

PEN Speaker Series Review: Differentiated Instruction and Mindset

January 08, 2013 1:52 PM | PEN (Administrator)

Review of Differentiated Instruction and Mindset: Paving the Way to Learning given by Judy Rex, Educator & Educational Consultant.

By PEN Member Christine Kantor

This was a very meaningful lecture on the framework for teaching and learning; some salient points I took away from the presentation are below.

The most important factor in classroom management is the quality of student-teacher relationships because that is key to a student feeling included in a community. “The promise of the differentiated classroom is the promise that all students will feel affirmed, engaged and supported by their teachers.” - Carol Tomlinson

In my opinion, differentiated instruction is about enabling a journey to success as well.  "There is a brilliant child locked inside every student."  ~ Marva Collins

Rex based much of her lecture material on the work of Carol Tomlinson and Carol Dweck.  

A Quality Curriculum: Engagement + Understanding = Success

But what goes into each variable to reach success?

Engagement starts with community: as Tomlinson writes, "a teacher focused on community-building understands that teams (and communities) must be built."  

What about understanding? The elements of a focused curriculum include:  

Facts: Columbus came to the "New World."
Vocabulary: voyage, scurvy...

Concepts: exploration, change...
Principles: Change can be both positive and negative.
Generalizations: Exploration results in change.
Big Ideas: People's perspectives affect how they respond to change.

Basic: literacy, numeracy.
Thinking: analysis, evidence of reasoning, questioning.
Discipline: graphing/math/social studies.
Planning: goal setting, use of time.
Social: …

… and also keeping a balance between effort and success. 

Non-negotiables for Differentiated Instruction according to Carol Tomlinson:

  1. Teacher-kid connections
  2. An environment that is a catalyst for learning.
  3. A sense of community in the classroom.
  4. Curriculum focused on student understanding for all students.
  5. Persistent assessment to inform teaching and learning.
  6. Respectful tasks for each student.
  7. Flexible grouping.
  8. Attention to student readiness, interest, and learning profile.
  9. Modification of content, process, product, affect, and learning environment to address student need.
  10. Teaching up.

Additional books by Carol Tomlinson like these were displayed and were highly recommended for further investigation into this topic:  

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners

Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom

How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms (2nd Edition)

Judy Rex's parent presentation was the last of three she had given on her visit to San Francisco and although she was winded by the marathon of speaking engagements, I found myself riveted by her words.  


Parents Education Network (PEN), 6050 Geary Blvd., Ste. 101A, San Francisco, CA 94121    Phone: (415) 751-2237

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