Opinion
Teaching Letter to the Editor

High-Quality Instruction, Not Differentiation, Is the Key

January 20, 2015 1 min read

To the Editor:

James R. Delisle has earned our congratulations for calling out differentiated instruction as a fad that is simply not workable in real classrooms. Likewise, he has earned an equal amount of criticism from us for his conclusion that we must return to tracking and homogeneous classrooms to meet students’ needs.

Mr. Delisle, like most other fad supporters and opponents, appears to ignore examining the single most important variable that impacts student learning: effective instruction.

The modern classroom continues to be a heterogeneous place, with large class sizes. The range of abilities, languages, attention disorders, and other variables will remain more of a constant. Given the variables, it is virtually impossible for even the most experienced and creative teacher to implement a differentiated instructional model with fidelity.

The most logical and common-sense approach to the reality of the modern classroom is to approach it with a “whole class” learning model and also to bring to bear, as needed, the pedagogical skills required to move the slower students along with the rest of the class.

The best instructional model, historically and at present, is direct instruction—a highly structured, teacher-guided instruction method with a limited number of variables for students to confront. A focused instructional model, implemented by a competent and confident teacher, can virtually guarantee an initial mastery of the lesson objective by a large majority of students.

If anything leads to the dumbing-down of the curriculum, it has been homogeneous grouping on a class-size scale. Beware of any “solution” or fad that has not first controlled for the most important variable in student achievement: effective instruction.

Randall Olson

Partner

Gene Tavernetti

Partner

Total Educational Systems Support

Fresno, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as High-Quality Instruction, Not Differentiation, Is the Key

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion How Students Want to Reimagine Education Next Year
The main features students are looking for are relevancy and supportive relationships.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Using Rubrics for 'Targeted Feedback'
Three educators discuss the why's and how's of rubrics for assessment.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Rubric Do’s & Don’ts
Six educators share their thoughts on rubric use in the classroom.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Why Students Don’t Learn From Failure
When kids fail, they tune out, so they don’t learn from the experience. Here’s where to find the real teachable moments.
Lauren Eskreis-Winkler
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty