EACH IS A UNIQUELY DIFFERENT LEARNER
Each child is a student unto himself, or herself, as the case may be. Every student is a uniquely different learner. No two are identical. No two have ever been identical.
Proponents of individualized instruction were absolute right when they encouraged it, forty to fifty years ago. Proponents of differentiated instruction are absolutely correct as they campaign for it, under this newer heading, today.
What was encouraged then, and is advocated now, is that every student be recognized and acknowledged to be a unique and different type of learner.
Mass instructional methods just do not work for every learner at basic, elementary levels of schooling. Such teaching methods have always been counter-indicated for students at beginning levels.
Our system of schooling has been called mass public education because of the very commendable goal of educating the masses. Unfortunately, efforts to teach our children by mass instructional techniques have resulted in a massive disaster.
The task that teachers need to devote themselves to requires that they recognize and acknowledge that each student learns in her or his own way. Then the even greater task is to discover or devise instructional methods that will enable each student to learn in the way that each learns best.
Differentiated instruction stresses the additional need for teachers to vary their instructional methods enough to permit them to present lessons in a variety of ways so that if given students don’t “get it” one way, other ways for them to “get it” are presented.
Most of us readily accept that medical patients have to be individually diagnosed and individually treated in order for them to heal. Individualized approaches are just as necessary in order for effective schooling to take place.
Students need to be diagnosed individually in order for their individual learning styles and their separate instructional needs to be ascertained. After that, ways and means of teaching each of them need to be developed and implemented.
Special Education Programs have demonstrated the effectiveness of developing and implementing IEPS (Individual Education Plans) for the students enrolled in SPED.
Now it is being recommended that Individual Learning Plans or Individual Instructional Plans be developed for all students.
Many teachers are now being told to do what a few very competent ones have long been doing. They are being required to do pre instructional testing, interim testing and post instructional testing, throughout the academic year, in the major areas of instruction for their students. This enables teachers to make their teaching data driven. Data driven instruction is highly recommended.
This enables teachers to develop data-driven lessons that closely match the separate instruction needs of their students.
It is no easy task to plan and implement instruction for every student. It has never been easy. In all likelihood, it will always be an exceedingly difficult task to accomplish.
No teachers have ever been adequately recompensed for the time, energy and effort that they put into teaching.
Any teachers who survive the circumstances, pressures and frustrations they have to suffer in our schools and succeed in accomplishing the tasks expected of them deserve acclaim and monetary awards equal to that currently heaped upon athletes, performers, politicians and other such celebrities.
Meeting Individual Needs with Young Learners, Westwood and Arnold ELT J. 2004; 58: 375-378
DeWeese, Tom American Education Fails Because It Isn’t Education, December 10, 2007, News with Views.com