How Will Students Be Able to Receive Timely, Differentiated Support?

In the traditional system students receive letter grades for assignments and tests, but they don’t have the chance to go back and successfully learn the content. They just move on to the next unit, the next assignment, the next test. This is what it means to “pass students on” or that the traditional system is “time-based. At the end of the semester, students are simply passed onto the next grade level and next curricular level regardless if they learned what they need to be successful.

Modern schools organize around how to best meet the academic, social-emotional, and developmental needs of students. There are several aspects to meeting students “where they are.” First, schools need to understand where students are in terms of academic knowledge and social-emotional skills. Second, teachers will need to take into consideration where students are as they organize units and learning experiences. We know that tracking and heterogeneous grouping of students isn’t effective. However, there are times when working on a specific skill or standard that it will make sense to group students, i.e. flexible grouping. Third, students need the opportunity to revise their work — they need productive feedback so they understand what they don’t understand, they need opportunity for instructional support to address misconceptions, and they need time to practice and revise. This is the phase where students both master content and learn to be better learners. Schools will need to organize schedules and calendars to ensure there is adequate flexibility for students to continue their learning and for teachers to provide timely, differentiated support.

Questions to Consider

  • Where are your students in terms of their academic and social-emotional skills along a continuum?
  • How might you organize curriculum and learning experiences if you wanted to make sure there was opportunity for students to practice and revise?
  • What are the benefits of having teachers working individually with one class of students? What benefits might be offered in creating more flexibility by having team teaching?