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Differentiation Portfolio

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April Gora

on 21 June 2013

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Transcript of Differentiation Portfolio

Definitions of 'Differentiation & Inclusion'
Differentiation Portfolio
What is inclusion?
Inclusion can be defined as valuing the diversity among people and specifically all members of the school setting. When a school adopts a strong inclusion philosophy, all students are given the opportunity to succeed and feel a sense of belonging. Inclusion is about appreciating difference and allowing muliple pathways to achievement. Students are not compared and particular traits are not valued over others. Ultimately, students learn from each other and become proud of what they contribute to the school community. When inclusion is adopted at a school and classroom level, students feel that their presence is valued and feel compelled to participate in meaningful ways (Tomilson, 2003, pp.6-11). All students regardless of their socio-economic situation, cultural background, gender or disability are able to progress and feel connected to their environment.

What is differentiation?
Inclusion is not possible without differentiation. Differentiation can be seen as the mechanism that helps to create inclusion in a school and class environment. Without differentiating between students, a one fits all mentality occurs and this does not allow each student to reach their full potential. Instead it allows a select few to succeed.

Differentiation is a complex concept to explain as each student needs to be treated individually and each example is highly specific to the individual or class. However, there are many overarching principles that can be applied. These principles include building relationships with students to understand their cultural background, home life and interests. When diversity is respected, a positive learning environment is able to be established and the teacher is able to target work to their learning profile and preferences. When the teacher encourages their students to establish a growth mindset, where students believe that they can improve and are focused on the process of learning rather than on achievement (Sousa, 2011, pp.17-43). The student will understand that intelligence is gained through hard work. Differentiation involves the teacher taking responsibility for pre and ongoing assessment, in order to inform their planning and teaching. Without knowing the students current level of readiness in relation to a particular set of objectives, the teacher is not able to create tasks that offer students the right amount of challenge. When tasks offer an appropriate challenge for each student, all students can engage in high level curiculum. These principles are crucial to ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop and feel a sense of belonging.
Professional Reflections
The following slides will outline my application of differentiation during my fourth year practicum.

My teaching areas included Year 12 Classical Studies, Year 12 English Pathways, Year 12 English Communications and Year 11 Modern History. As these subjects are SACE subjects the assessment criteria had been finalised and submitted to the SACE board prior to my placement. Therefore the differentiating which I implemented occurred during class activities and during the drafting process. Although the assessments had been finalised, some of my mentor teachers offered their students an element of choice in their assessments. This catered to their preferences and learning profiles.

Year 12 English Pathways
From my initial observations, I knew this English class was going to be challenging. The first student's work that I was asked to read and provide feedback for, took me approximately forty five minutes to mark. This was because I strugged to understand what the studnet had written. The task was to compare a newspaper article with a report on the TV news, both of which had to be on the same topic. I provided a large amount of detailed feedback on the draft copy and then spent some time discussing both reports with the student. As I made my way around the class, it was evident that all other studnets had understood the task and were capable of creating a report with the required features. Yet this particular student had struggled to convey her ideas in a logical sequence and was missing many of the vital elements. I knew this was a 'real' situation where I had to differentiate the type of feedback I gave this student, in comparison to the majority of the other students.
Pre Assessment for English Pathways:
The first unit of work which I conducted for the year 12 English Pathways class, was on creating an imaginative narrtive stemming from a piece of artwork. This was an area I felt passionate about as I had prepared an excusrion to the Art Gallery and had done extensive preparation prior to my placement. Luckily I had a flexible mentor teacher who encouraged me to take a risk and implement some of my own ideas. The first activity I involved the class in was a pre assessment task. This was aimed at discovering each studnets level of readiness in relation to thinking abstractly about art, and then being able to convert this into written form. I used a booklet format so it could not only be used as a pre assessment, but could also be used to stimulate their creative thoughts. As a class we discussed Ken Robinson's 'Divergent Thinking' video to help students engage with their imaginative thoughts. Here is the booklet:

This assessment was graded on their level of creative thinking. I wanted to know if students were interpreting the art work in a literal sense, or whether they were able to use metaphores and symbolism to reveal a deeper connection to the art work. I also graded their pre assessment on the type of language used to convey their thoughts.
Vocational Courses
Reynella East College Offers many VET courses on campus. As a member school of the Southern Adelaide and Fleurieu Trade School (SAFTS), REC is able to offer VET courses to their own students as well as to other students in nearby schools. Being part of this trade school scheme also allows REC students to undertake a cross institutional course at one of the other trade schools in the district.

A School Diversity and Inclusion Profile for Reynella East College
"We offer a diverse curriculum in a learning environment that supports all students in reaching their academic potential. Through the many specialist facilities and programs that we offer, we are able to give our students the opportunity to explore their talents in the artistic, vocational and physical arenas." - (Reynella East College, 2013).

Throughout my practicum at Reynella East College I was able to witness how this statement translated into the lives of the students and teachers. The school offers a large range of subject choice for each student from year eight through to year twelve, and encouraged extra curricular participation through student interest.

The following table has been created to give insight into the diversity of students at the school. The types of diversity demonstrated in the table helps to explain why the school implements particular programs which will be explored in the following slides.

Subject Choice
Reynella East College offers an abundance of subjects, special interest programmes and extra curricular activities, which cater to the needs and interests of the diverse student body.
During years 8 and 9 students must complete a full year of English, Maths and Science. They have the choice to undertake a trimester of study in History, Geography and Language. The Arts subjects (music, art, design and drama) are rotated for five weeks for each art subject. While Physical Education can be selected for a semester or a full year.

Students may also choose to become involved in special interest programmes. These programs offer extension for students who are want to reach their full potential in specific sports and musical instruments. Studnets can select to add these programmes to their normal study load.

As students move into year ten they are offered greater choice. They may choose from the following subjects: Art 2D Studies, Digital Design, Drama, Textiles, Automotive, Clay Sculpture, Commerce, Child Studies, Computing, Craft, Dance, Design, Digital Design, Electronics, Fashion Design, German, Information Processing, JapaneseMedia, Metal Technology, Music, Outdoor Ed., Photography, Special Sport, Wood Technology.

During the senior years students are offered subjects in relation to their future aspirations. Many students therefore select Vocational Education Training(VET) subjects. These subjects are accredited towards the student's SACE, as well as towards TAFE and tertiary courses. Often the accreditation is at a certificate two level..

Class structure throughout the school
1st entry during my observation days:
The Maths, Science and English classes are all streamed based on ability levels. My first impression upon discovering this was quite negative as I felt that this could be demoralisimg to students in the lower classes . I was also concerned that this approach would create a fixed mindset in students..Would students never be given the opportunity to move into more advanced classes? Why did the school take this approach? I needed to understand this as I remember reading in one of my topic readings that this was not the ideal way to structure classes. The reading by Hattie (2009) Suggested that streaming classes could alienate some students. I was determined to find out more regarding this structure.

2nd entry mid way through placement:

During my placement I taught year 11 and 12 subjects, however during my observation days and some free lessons, I decided to visit some of the younger classes. I visted a year 9 English Basic class on a regular basis to better understand the middle school program. The year 9 class was called 'basic' because the students had been assessed as being at a lower level in terms of their literacy skills. The class was usually disruptive and had very low levels of concentration when completing class activities. However their teacher had a very unique and engaging personality and it was evident that they enjoyed listening to him. I took the time to navigate around the classroom and read samples of work from most students. I could see that some students had struggled with basic grammar and had failed to meet the required word count. However there were a few students who had produced work of a higher standard and had written engaging film reviews. I was still puzzled? Why would the school stream their students?

I had a chat to the teacher of the Basic English class and expressed my confusion over streaming studnets into what looked like 'ability' based classes. He said "We don't like to to pigeon hole students and say they will always be labelled as basic, but the the streamed classes allow students to work at an appropriate level" (Year nine teacher, 2013, conversation, 21 May). This made me think back to the concept which we had been discussing in our tutorials, regarding stretching students so they are appropriately challenged. I could see that even in the the English Basic class differentiation was still occuring. I realised that the level of differentiation in a non streamed class would be much greater and more difficult for the teacher to manage. I was begining to understand the schools intention behind creating streamed classes.

To better my understanding around the streaming of classes I decided to conduct a short interview with the Deputy Principal.

A journal entry:

My first thoughts about class streaming based on ability levels...........
Student Support:
Mentoring Program: Students who are struggling with the challenges of school life, Whether this is be due to organisational issues or through learning difficulties, are offered extra assistance through a mentoring program.
Christian Pastoral Support Workers (Chaplain); These workers offer students support when they are experiencing difficulties, but are not sure whcih specific service they need to contact. The school Chaplain also offers a Christian presence in the school (Reynella East College, 2013).
School Counsellors: Offer students one on one support and also implement the peer support and leadership programs in the school.
Here is a sample of the students work which required me to provide extensive feedback at a more basic level, compared to the rest of the class:
Students were then grouped into three different groups based on readiness to interpret art work and use language effectively. The groups were then involved in activities which were shared with the rest of the class. This simultaneously helped to establish an honest and respectful student cohort.

Group 1: In pairs students were asked to create a dialogue between two characters in a painting. Each pair had to create a 400 word narrative.

Group 2: In pairs students had to create a background story for the characters in the painting.

Group 3: In pairs students use symbolism to create a narrative based around the sculpture presented.

This activity took a little longer than first thought and was achieved over 3 lessons.
Then came the excursion to the Art Gallery. Students were asked to select 2 artworks to use as inspiration for a narrative.

Reynella East College was formed in 2011 from the amalgamation of the Reynella East preschool, junior, primary and high schools. It is one of the largest government schools in South Australia and due to its large number of enrolments, there is great diversity among the student body. The school caters for this diversity by offering gifted programs, special interest programs and support for special needs students. The school is involved in extensive pre assessment of students in the transitional phase from year seven to year eight, and placed into basic or advanced classes depending on academic and behaviour reports. These areas will be further discussed in this presentation.
Although the percentage of Indigneous studens is low, REC has an Aboriginal Education Worker dedicated to assissting Indigenous students, for a total of nine hours per week. Their role is to provide Indigenous students and families with the appropriate support required to aid the student in their achievements. The Aboriginal Education Worker also assists in embedding Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum.
From analysing Reynella East College's 'My School' profile, it can be concluded that the a majority of students fall into the middle sector of the community. This is calculated by using the student's family background information, such as a parent's occupation and their level of achieved education.
Currently REC has the facilities to conduct Certificate Two in Allied Health, VET Doorways to Construction, Certificate Two in Hospitality and a short course for those interested in becomming a barista. The following pictures indicate the sophisticated facilities the school has to successfully deliver these courses.
Industrial Kitchen facility for students studying hospitality
Hospitality students with their banana & caramel hotcakes
Pathways to Construction students presenting their cubby house
The cafe with all facilites required for the barsita course
While I was beginning to understand that streaming students into ability based classes was a necessity in such a large school, I was interested to know how this process took place. The Deputy Principal was able to explain the vigorous process which he and another Leader are involved in at the end of every school year. He explained that he and the Leader go to the primary schools from which their new year eights are transitioning from, and speak with each student's class teacher. They discuss their academic progress, behaviour and any other information which will assist REC in their transition. The Deputy explained that this was a very tedious process, but expressed the importance of it. The student's NAPLAN results and their subject grades are also collected. REC then conducts a pre assessment prior to the students beginning year eight, in English, Science and Maths. A report is then generated from the interviews and assessments, and the students are streamed accordingly. However, a parent has the right to over ride the schools decision at any time. At the end of each term all students are reviewed and adjustments are made where required. The Deputy explained to me. "Getting the streaming right in the first term can be hard because a student may produce good results on paper, however their ability to stay on task while in class may not be at the standard of their academic results. For this reason there can be a lot of movement at the end of first term"(Deputy Principal, 2013, interview, 6 June). He went on to say that, "this is the strategy which our school uses to differentiate and it has proved successful over the last few years" (Deputy Principal, 2013). The Deputy then showed me the spreadsheet which is used to gather all the data on each new student entering the school. I was astounded at all of the behind the scenes work that went into differentiating at REC.
Special Needs students: Students are placed into core subjects according to their learning needs and supported through modified programs. ‘English Plus’ and ‘Maths Plus’ classes are provided for students that have a diagnosed learning disability. In 2009, an Area Special Class was created at Reynella East College. The class consists of approximately twelve students who attend a mainstream home group, and then move into their special class for the remainder of their subjects.
(Reynella East College, 2013)
Following the excursion we discussed many of the popular art works and as a group discussed possible writing topics. Then stuents began planning and drafting their work. As students submitted their drafts the type of feedback varied greatly. This is where I had to differentiate between each student's learning needs and personalise all feedback. Some students were still creating storylines with very literal translations from their chosen art work. The feedback I gave these students focused on trying to develop their plot and fully explore ideas, rather than writing a generic story line. Other students had tapped into their imagination and were developing narratives with original ideas, yet their grammar required more assistance. There were a few students who were able to use their art work to inspire cleverly written narratives, while avoiding grammatical issues. Below is a student's narrative which recieved an A. This was his final draft and was effective because of his ability to use a sculpture at the art gallery to stimulate a narrative on a man's hallucinogenic state.
Year 11 Modern History
There were a small group of five students who had been away a lot over the course of the Unit on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I grouped them together on numerous occasions, yet when it came to submitting the final essay I could tell from previous ongoing assessments that they were going to struggle with the essay. I decided to create a 'help sheet' for them. Here is a copy of this sheet and a copy of the assignment sheet which the rest of the class was given.
I found this to be a good strategy to use as students could refer back to it when they were struggling with their essay. The help sheet covered information that the rest of class had been provided with, but in a more simplistic format.
The class assignment sheet
The 'help sheet'
(ACARA, My School Website, 2013)
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), n.d., My School Reynella East College, viewed 5 June 2013, <http://www.myschool.edu.au/SchoolProfile/Index/68421/ReynellaEastCollege/50342/2012>.

Hattie, J. (2009), Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, Chapter 9, Routledge, London, pp. 161-199.

Reynella East College, n.d., Student Support, viewed 8 June 2013, <http://reynellaec.sa.edu.au/student-support/>.

Sousa, D. (2011), 'Mindset, learning environment and differentiation', in Differentiation and the brain: how neuroscience supports the learner friendly classroom, Ind: Solution Press, Bloomington, pp. 17-43.

Tomilson, C. (2003), 'Deciding to teach them all', Educational Leadership, vol 61, no. 2, pp.6-11.
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