P2: Practice differentiated instruction. A teacher who differentiates instruction understands that homogeneity does not exist within any classroom and thus he or she provides instruction that addresses the diverse needs of students “when planning and delivering rigorous and relevant, yet flexible and response instruction” (Broderick, Mehta-Parekh & Reid, 2005, p. 196). One way I tried to differentiate instruction during my internship was to integrate a variety of learning styles, giving students choices, mixing up the structure of my lessons, and creating opportunities for students to learn and respond to material in different ways. Practicing these aspects of differentiated instruction kept me from favoring a dominant culture or learning styles, engaging my students and motivating them to excel in areas of strength and familiarity while challenging them in areas of weakness or uncertainty. When designing and teaching a unit on the Shakespearean tragedy Othello, I did my best to honor personal development through learner-centered approaches, recognizing that students do not learn the same material in the same ways.
As we studied the play, I tried to incorporate activities that catered to a variety of learning styles: we listened to audio recording and followed along in the text, students read the text aloud, we watched scenes from a film version of the tragedy, students read and acted out scenes, then some students read while different students acted, we analyzed soliloquys for rhetorical effectiveness and we practiced interpreting and summarizing difficult passages. Throughout the unit, I performed a variety of informal assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the different learning activities and at times would allow students to choose how we would study the text for a particular scene. Moving forward, I will continue to plan lessons and curriculum that honors the diverse ways in which students learn by differentiating instruction. It was really interesting to see what learning styles were most successful in each class and to make adjustments based on the student feedback I received regarding how students felt they learned best. They were good sports as we experimented with different learning styles and activities. Many students enjoyed the variety of learning approaches as well as the opportunity to provide input based on their own needs and as a result it was not only a valuable learning experience for the students, but also for me as well.