To the Editor:
In his Jan. 7, 2015, Commentary on differentiated instruction (“Differentiation Doesn’t Work”), James R. Delisle makes a number of baffling claims in his facile dismissal of the practice, which he does not attempt to define and seems to confuse with the separate issue of ability grouping. I am wholly unconvinced by the piece.
He quotes one researcher as saying that, three years after extensive professional development was provided to help teachers differentiate their instruction, “no one was actually differentiating.” If by that, it is implied that the teachers were making no distinctions between their students in their pedagogical practice, I’d suggest that these are not teachers worthy of the name.
Later, Mr. Delisle cites a 2008 Thomas B. Fordham Institute study that reported that 83 percent of teachers in a nationwide survey said “differentiation is ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ difficult’ "to implement. How is that different from any good teaching practice?
I’m no fan of our profession’s propensity for jargon and the never-ending quest for one simple solution, but perhaps I understand differentiation differently. I see it as another name for the art of good teaching, which requires the teacher to pay attention to each student and tailor instruction accordingly. And that is a pedagogical practice—no matter what we call it—that has been around since before Socrates asked his first question.
John C. Gulla
Edward E. Ford Foundation
A version of this article appeared in the February 04, 2015 edition of Education Week as Differentiation Is Another Name For Good Teaching Practice