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Knowing the Learner

Page history last edited by Mrs. Train 7 years, 7 months ago

Back to Differentiated Instruction


“We know that learning happens best when a learning experience pushes the learner a bit beyond his or her independence level. When a student continues to work on understanding and skills already mastered, little if any new learning takes place. On the other hand, if tasks are far ahead of a student’s current point of mastery, frustration results and learning does not.” (Howard, 1994; Vygotsky, 1962)



You know that student who hates to write? 

Maybe she is embarrassed by her spelling, maybe she has difficulty transferring her thoughts to paper, maybe she has dyslexia.  However, when she participates in class discussions, you find that she is articulate and creative!  It is quite clear that she understands the material, but because the only way she can communicate her understanding of it to her teacher is through a written assignment or test, she can never prove that she knows it.  Sad, isn't it?


That's why it is important to get to know your students. And yourself.


Please watch Animal School

a video from Preparing our Children for Success, by R. Z. Greenwald

(Direct link: http://youtu.be/o8limRtHZPs)



We differ in so many ways!


During a talk at a PD day presentation, a speaker happened to mention going to hear a jazz musician, referring to the musician by name. At least a third of the teachers had no idea who he was talking about while others were nodding their heads. 


It's the same with our students. Some watch t.v. shows and movies, others don't. Some have access to unlimited technology and others don't. Our experiences help frame who we are.


Ways in which are students are different:

  • Readiness Level - at what stage is the student? What is her prior knowledge of the topic? Their skill level?
  • Culture & religion - different customs, affiliations
  • Language - first languages in home may be English, Hebrew, Yiddish, French or Spanish
  • Economics
  • Motivation to achieve - different levels of academic expectations
  • Learning styles & Multiple Intelligences
  • Learning differences or difficulties
  • Physical limitations
  • Availability of technology
  • Personal Interests
  • Adult support system
  • Social acumen or ability


How to Help Your Students Learn

Knowing your students, their passions and interests, their learning preferences, can help you tailor your teaching to their needs. The brain pays attention to what matters to it Know what is interesting to teenagers and incorporate these into your instruction: identity and purpose (personal goal setting), socializing (discussions, flexible groups), technology (use media and technology), fairness and equality (ask essential questions and discuss "big ideas"), and the opportunity to make choices.


Meet them on their level and make sure that they understand what you're teaching. Instead of boring them, give them choices and make learning interactive.  Give them an opportunity to talk to you and discuss what they are thinking. Make them partners in their learning.


Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences


As all teachers know, we must ultimately consider differences at the individual level. Learning styles emphasize the different ways we process information, solve problems, create products, and interact. The Gardener model of multiple intelligences describes various levels or areas of aptitude.  Together they provide a helpful way to evaluate ways to approach differentiation for individual students. 


Please read more at Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences.



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