Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is a regular feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

We were joined at one of our December Faculty Council meeting by Yev Lapik, and the topic of Differentiated Instruction came up. She mentioned that she would be interested in any resources on the topic and I promised to send her a link to a web site with some good ones.

In a turn of events that, I’m sure, will surprise no one who know me–I never did that.

At last, though, this is me making good on my promise. The link that I was going to send Yev is to the Web site of ASCD (formerly, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Design) that has morphed into “a membership organization that develops programs, products, and services essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.” Here is a link to the home site, and here is a link to the section about Differentiated Instruction.

A lot of the focus is (understandably) on K-12, but, given the fact that some of our students are essentially learning at 10/11/12 levels, some of the resources are applicable and the research is interesting. Plus, this sort of site, I’d argue, gives us some insight into the trends and practices of K-12 education, and thus into our students’ experiences.

I’m highlighting Differentiated Instruction in particular due to a conversation I had with Associate Dean Brown Monday. If you didn’t know, Monday was the first day of summer registration, and he said it was “like open registration down there,” as in full and busy. He also said that he was shocked by the number of students who were from out of town, who’d flown into Chicago for a few days to set up summer housing and, while here, come to the school to get registered for a class or two, and he said that he expects the trend to continue. “You’ve been around long enough to see how our student population has changed. I expect that to continue, and to a greater degree,” he said. By that I took him to mean that he expects us to continue to get more and more students, younger and younger, who are less and less local (as in, right out of CPS).

One thing that has been true about the student body of HWC since I’ve been here is that it features a diversity of diversities, including and especially in regard to academic preparation. The decision to teach to the talented tenth or the lowest common denominator or somewhere in between (or, as in differentiated instruction, all of the above) has long been what I’ve identified as one of the toughest aspects of teaching at a community college, and I expect that as colleges like ours become more attractive options for college-going students–whether for economic or academic reasons–the gap between our “top” students and our most challenged students will only grow, making the need for the capacity to differentiate our instruction all the more urgent.

Anyway, check it out. And while you’re there, check out the stuff on 21st century curriculum and the brain and learning, too (under “Research a Topic” under “More”)…

5 thoughts on “Website Wednesday

  1. Hey Dave, when do you find the time to read all this stuff!

    I’m so glad that you do and that we have a forum in which you can share what you have read and where we can dialogue about such important topics.

    Differentiated instruction is something we promote in Early Childhood Education although we don’t usually call it that. Instead, you will see phrases about supporting the individual learning needs of all children. This phrase is a catch-all for the range of developmental domains we must support in ECE settings including cognition, language, socioemotional development and physical development. It is also a phrase that includes diversity among children & families including culture, ethnicity, language, SES, family structure, etc.

    What we have found in the Child Development research, and this may be relevant to HWC too, is that smaller group sizes are critical for teachers to have the opportunity to get to know their learners on this level. This shows up in the research over and over.

    Which is supposed to be the advantage of going to a community college, right? You have smaller class sizes and more access to your professor. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it exceedingly difficult to learn about my students’ learning when I teach 5 classes of 36 students each. I keep trying, but it takes a very conscious effort. If CPS teachers, for example, struggle to do this with 30+ kids that they meet with all day 5 days a week, it would make sense that we have a challenge on our hands in our setting.

    I have tried to get to know students very early on in the semester and this seems to help. I set it up so students are required to send information via e-mail after or during the first session (gives me an idea of their writing), I take pictures in my classes (I learn their names easier), and now on LiveText we include video clips and other interactive feedback tools. Without a lot of extra grading, I get to know each student as a person and as an individual learner – as best I can.

    Does anyone else have good ideas for getting to know your learners?

    Happy rainy day 🙂

  2. Stumbled upon this page by accident and found the link on Differentiated Instruction that was meant for me! Just added it to my summer reading plans, very curious about this whole thing.

    As for name memorization, we have to assign student seats in our lab classes, so we could track microscope usage and such, that helps me tremendously! I have a horrible memory for names but here I make a map of my student seating for each class and after returning their graded assignments just a few times I remember ~90% of my regularly attending students quite well!

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