RGS PeRL has recently concluded the academic research project on “Differentiated Instructions for High Ability Diverse Learners in a Regular Classroom: A Case Study in an Independent School”. The study investigated on how RGS teachers plan and implement differentiated instruction to address the needs of high ability diverse learners in a regular classroom. This study also investigated the enablers and their challenges faced when implementing it. 18 teachers participated in this qualitative study through interviews, analysis of unit plans and lesson observations.
Through the research, the investigators found that there is evidence of good practices that is aligned to principles of differentiation). For example, there is conscious use of diagnostic & ongoing assessments. There is also evidence of the use of flexible grouping based on the understanding of students. Some teachers understand that differentiated instruction should be a planned process to anticipate and respond to different needs of students. However, most teachers tend to focus on advanced learners & underachievers with regards to readiness level. Most teachers diagnosed readiness based on academic results but less of socio-emotional needs and prior knowledge. Hence, the needs of the middle group, which is also the majority, might not be sufficiently addressed.
During the interviews, most teachers expressed their need for mentoring & more exemplars on the application of differentiated instruction in their discipline & consolidation time for teaching and learning.
Based on the findings, there is a need for the school to continue to articulate the meta-language of differentiated instruction. The school will have to continue to emphasize that the use of differentiated instruction must be based on the principles & must be responsive to students’ needs. As such, PeRl department will provide support for consolidation & collaboration. For example, PeRL department will steer DI conversation during Professional Learning Space. Teachers who are ready, can also choose to embark on a practitioner inquiry project with PeRL personnel to evaluate the impact of differentiated instruction in their classroom.
PeRL department will adopt a Differentiated approach for Professional Learning for the staff. For example, having department champions, clinics, open classroom demonstration, providing unit plan exemplars & videos. PeRL personnel will also work with leaders to evaluate and review implementation of differentiated instruction.
In conclusion, there should be systemic efforts by leaders of different levels in planning, implementing and assessing the progress as the school moves towards the goal of expert teaching.
The findings were presented in the staff conference this year and were used as a reference for staff development plans next year.