Treating Students as Individuals

I find it interesting that in this age of national education standards there is still a strong push to treat the learning needs of every child individually. Don’t get me wrong, I actually agree with addressing each student’s learning needs individually, but I’m not sure that these individual needs and accomplishments are accurately assessed through norm-based testing. That, however, is another issue.

Having spent years working in exceptional education I was required to develop individualized education plans for each of my students and while this was a somewhat arduous task I was able to accomplish it because generally I worked with a classroom of between 12 and 16 students daily.

As a secondary math and health teacher I taught four to five classes of 18 to 26 students so individualizing instruction for 90+ students was not accomplished so easily.

In the ‘70s there were three (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) learning styles, but then in the ‘80s and ‘90s the focus moved to multiple intelligence and a dozen more learning styles were identified. The problem here was that there was very little research on how to translate this information into a useable strategy to better meet the needs of each student.

The new millennium buzzword for meeting individual student needs is differentiated instruction. What I like about DI is that the focus is on concrete ways to develop lessons and curriculum to meet more of the needs of individual students. It is still difficult, as a secondary teacher, to develop curriculum and lesson plans, meet state or national performance standards while also individualizing instruction, but I can say implementing a well-developed DI program can accomplish this goal.

As the acceptance of differentiated instruction has grown there is more quality coursework and information on how to implement a DI program. Here are a few I have found useful:

With the strong push to have all students meet state and national normative standards I believe you’ll find if you implement a few DI concepts your students will become more successful learners and ultimately achieve personal and legislated learning goals.