Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Encouraging Differentiated Instruction

The building I work in has undergone so many changes in the past few years. Can we say four principals in three years? Oh, and I'm new there too. We have spent a lot of this year establishing trust among the teachers we work with while taking a "back to basics" approach to the way teaching and learning takes place. We've had to think long and hard about the changes and initiatives we've decided to implement this year.

For example, I have been working with SpEd teachers on increasing the use of differentiated instruction strategies. There were a lot of factors which led to our decision to move forward with this. The main factor was that our SpEd students just weren't performing as well as they should, and a learning walk showed that there wasn't a lot of differentiation going on.

So, here's what we have done so far

We've taken a pulse
  • We obtained different viewpoints from department chairs, instructional specialists, and also talked with classroom teachers about their needs
  • When we conducted our learning walks, we all used the same observation form, and when we completed our observations, debriefed as a group, and recorded our findings on one form.
  • We shared our results with the teachers, as well as our plan for providing assistance.
We developed a data-driven plan
  • We worked with our division instructional specialists to provide training to SpEd teachers and the core content teachers they collaborate with
  • We made sure the professional development included some strategies that teachers would meet instant success with if they tried them
  • We provided follow-up activities during department and faculty meetings
We tweaked the plan
  • We conducted follow-up observations
  • We talked to teachers during post observation conferences. It was also a great opportunity to reflect with them on their past experiences. 
  • Articles of interest were emailed to teachers, and discussions surroundings those articles were held during department meetings
  • During faculty meetings, we showcased those teachers who were having success with these strategies so that their coworkers could share in their success, and
  • We plan on starting this cycle all over again...
When implementing any sort of initiative, you need to remember that as a school leader it all starts with you. Your teachers and staff will follow your lead. You need to show your passion and enthusiasm for this, be willing to model and inspect your expectations, and continue to do so for any initiative you want to see become a permanent part of your school's culture. 

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