Published Online: January 27, 2015
Published in Print: January 28, 2015, as Delisle: Comments Underscore Differentiation's Failings

Letter

Delisle: Comments Underscore Differentiation's Failings

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

To the Editor:

When I wrote my Commentary "Differentiation Doesn't Work" (Jan. 7, 2015), I anticipated that it would generate some discussion. Indeed, it has. In reading the comments made directly to Education Week on edweek.org, as well as the dozens of emails I have received from readers in several countries, I can conclude only one thing: Differentiation works … unless it doesn't.

Many of those who disagreed with my premise touted their own successes with differentiation, while those who struggled with its implementation (mostly teachers) used terms like "overwhelmed" and "discouraged."

Those opposed to my views called me "misinformed" or "naive," while those who liked what I had to say applauded my "bravery" and "clarity" in stating the flaws of differentiation.

A good number of readers assumed that I wanted to return to the days of whole-class instruction (I don't), and surprisingly few readers expressed concerns for how little gifted students benefit from differentiation in heterogeneous classrooms, which was a major point of my Commentary.

My favorite comment came from a reader who stated that differentiation, as a concept, is "sublimely beautiful," while its implementation has been "ridiculous." Amen to that.

I stand by my assertion that differentiation in a heterogeneous classroom setting is a difficult, at times impossible, task to complete for a single teacher.

If students were "strategically mixed" (as one reader put it) in classrooms instead of being placed haphazardly, without regard to their readiness to learn, then differentiation would have a chance at succeeding. However, until such time, differentiation will leave more students behind than it propels forward.

Editor's note: The Commentary "Differentiation Doesn't Work," by James R. Delisle, provoked an avalanche of reader comments. Because of the extraordinary level of interest in the essay, Education Week is publishing this Commentary by one of differentiated instruction's foremost proponents, Carol Ann Tomlinson.

James R. Delisle
Distinguished Professor of Education
Kent State University (Retired)
North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Vol. 34, Issue 19, Page 26

Related Stories
You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented