What to Anticipate from a TeachThought PD Differentiation Workshop –

What to Expect from a TeachThought PD Differentiation Workshop

by John McCarthy, ed

Meeting the needs of every learner is an established expectation of every educator. We want “all” students to be successful in their subjects. We want every child to strive forward and grow into the place where they can safely get jobs and/or earn a post-secondary degree or certificate. Differentiation is a key component to achieving this goal.

Based on my experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum director and instructional consultant working with schools internationally, I see the capacities and opportunities where professional staff ‘can’ have a greater impact on learners. A challenge is to identify the skills and structures already in place in the workforce and to examine the core components of differentiation that can help create a better system for planning and delivering learning experiences that are aware of the needs of the people match students.

The aim of our differentiation work with schools is:

  • help their educators adopt a common language of differentiation
  • Explore core concepts for differentiated teaching practices
  • and use the ideas for ongoing joint reflection on your professional path.

workshop flow

Our foundational differentiation workshop is two consecutive days for the maximum learning experience. The intent of this format is to encourage participants to explore core concepts, experience differentiation, think about applications in their work environment, and design lessons that can be immediately reintroduced into the classroom.

We often conduct this workshop both on-site and online, and sometimes a mix of both. While ideally our work will be completed over the above two consecutive days, we recognize that schools have logistical and financial needs that may require logistical variation.

When a virtual element is included, the workshop is sometimes structured to take place on non-consecutive days and even formatted as multiple 3-hour blocks to suit the needs of specific schools. We aim to differentiate the workshop structure so that the school or district involved can best meet the needs of its teachers and staff.

Day one begins with building a common language and understanding for a systemic approach to planning and executing differentiation. Teachers engage in reflection and conversation through the use of case studies and connections of core concepts to their existing teaching practice. The core concepts include:

  • Establishing a common definition of differentiation.
  • Understanding the relationship between intentional and intuitive approaches to differentiation.
  • Clarifying the meaning and system for intentional planning: content, process and product – based on the learner’s context, based on readiness, interests and learning preferences.

For the remainder of the day and up to the second day of the workshop, teachers engage in a cycle of exploring practical strategies and applications based on readiness, interests and learning preferences, with planning and reflection time to actively incorporate the concepts into upcoming lessons.

See also The difference between differentiation and personalized learning

The second half of the second day is dedicated to personalized learning experiences of consciously implementing differentiation based on the needs expressed by the participants. Here the common language is cemented into the teachers’ work by making connections to the ‘reality’ that exists in their workplace. Topics and resources for this period will be developed based on a pre-planning session with the school prior to the workshop to ensure staff needs are met in the best possible way.

We can and have offered an adapted version of the workshop in the formats 1 day and 1.5 days. However, the opportunities for putting the key concepts into practice are not as intensive as in the two-day model. These versions serve a different purpose than the standard workshop. The condensed formats provide participants with the key ideas and concepts they need to consciously plan and implement effective differentiation as a standard workshop.

While teachers use their working time to adapt an existing lesson to suit willingness, interests and/or learning preferences, there are fewer opportunities for in-depth practice. We have found that the processing time for most teachers to truly internalize these new planning skills is rooted in the experience of the standard two-day workshop.

In all workshop formats, teachers are left with a wealth of strategies to incorporate into their lesson planning process. They take away a clear understanding of the core common language of differentiation that can have a powerful impact in the professional conversations and collaborative planning and reflection of employees.

Our differentiated classroom workshops empower leaders with the language to include questions with teachers in their requests and equip them to explain what they intend to differentiate in the classroom. It also helps provide direct links to what has been accomplished and next steps to further enhance the learning experience.

If you want to design and deliver lessons that help all students grow, our differentiated instructional services are great ways for teachers and instructors to improve and hone their craft. To learn more and schedule a call, we invite you to visit our Differentiated Guidance Workshops page.

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