Posts Tagged differentiation

Is inquiry based learning student focused?

To some, the title must seem a ridiculous question; “of course it is!”  Bare with me…

I’d just like to present a quick moment of pause as we continue our industry wide rush into: inquiry process, 3 part lessons, 21 century learning, and student engagement as a focus.  While I find these are all good things to consider or are good approaches to use in a classroom, I want to point out that we have shifted away from the more student focused differentiation and focus on individual student needs to an assumption about how all kids learn and what all kids want.

These are all good strategies and focuses, but we are leaving the individual analysis and response that is the hallmark of differentiation for the belief that these strategies are a miracle catch-all for everyone?  Perhaps they are, but only if we infuse differentiation.  Are we sure that these “new” strategies equally meet the needs of all our students?  I am not convinced because I know someone who will fail to learn, grow, and achieve in these engaging, rich, inquiry focused and technology infused investigative pedagogies…that person is my son; he has autism.

My son’s autism is quite pronounced and a real barrier to these learning environments-the ones that involve social skills, discussions, compromise, social queues, and group coordination.  He, and others like him, will not learn successfully in these styles; he needs one-on-one, transmissive, route learning.  Granted, he may represent an extreme end of our educational spectrum, but assuming you agree and see how these strategies will be a barrier and a hindrance to him, we have to ask are selves, “who else?”

If it won’t work for my child, we cannot posit that it will work for everyone; once we have accepted that, we must work on who else, how many, and what to do about it.  What about the introvert? What about ESL learner?  What about marginalized groups that feel the power imbalance in society: visible minorities, TBLG youth, students with a non-verbal LD, and the like?  What about the bully…sure we can work on his social skills, but what about his academics? How will his/her participation affect the learning of his/her peers?  What other groups/individuals might not enjoy the benefits of these new pedagogies?  The way we teach creates our LD’s; what we value, determines which students will be successful and which won’t.  Why is this not part of our discussions—how can we modify these strategies…is it too early in the discussion?

I liked differentiation; I know no one is telling me I can’t do that within these strategies, but no one advocating the point anymore either.  Are these new techniques truly student centered or have we shifted to a more standardized model while seemingly trying to address student needs?  The discussion has been too general; people have assumed if they meet students’ needs, then they meet the
needs of all students.  People have assumed equity in learning and success….why?  Is it warranted?

Lots of questions in this post; they are honest and not rhetorical.  I’m not sure what the answers are.  I like these strategies that a couple of years ago we called 21st century learning skills.  I just don’t know how to come to terms with their possible inequities.

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