And remember, the only reason why educators are doing differentiated instruction is because they think it'll somehow improve student achievement. In reality, there is little evidence to support the theory.
I think I know what the problem is. The concept behind differentiated instruction is partially right. Kids need to be instructed at their skill level and some kids learn faster than others. Instruction should take these two factors into account. However, learning styles and other individual differences are a bunch of hooey. And, it's easy to show that they are.
One way to prove this is to design a highly refined teaching sequence that clearly teaches concepts. Ideally, the teaching sequence would teach the exact same thing to each student.
This is where the DI laserdiscs (the precursor to DVDs) come in. The laserdisc programs were designed to provide a minute or two of instruction during which the narrator shows how to work a particular operation or discrimination. (See some examples of the video presentations from a new DVD-based programs, which are most likely similar, here.) Then the live segment stops and a problem appears on the screen, with instructions. After the kids work the still-frame problem, the teacher simply proceeds with the program and the correct work for the problem appears on the screen.
Quizzes and test are incorporated into the program. After a test, the teacher assesses the number of kids who missed items in a part of a test and determines what remedy is needed. If a remedy is needed, the teacher determines it by choosing from a simple menu that indicates various remedies. The rules for managing the kids were simple. Here they are for the math videodisc program:
- Do not present from the front of the room. Use your remote and circulate among the students as the video presentation is going on and when students are working the still-frame problems.
- Model responses you expect from the students. When the narrator asks a question, answer it. Reinforce students who answer.
- When students are working still-frame problems, direct them to follow the instructions on the screen. Do not "reteach" or explain things that were presented during the live segment of the video.
- Reinforce students who work quickly and accurately.
- During the early parts of the program, be very strict about mechanics. Students are to write the problems exactly as specified. Don't permit them to omit signs, omit specified steps, or deviate from solutions that are shown on the screen.
So now if Brophy is correct, the videodisc program should prevail in studies and even lower performers should do well, regardless of their learning style. Several such studies were, in fact, conducted using the DI videodisc programs. Engelmann describes one study that compared the performance of "learning disability" high school students and "remedial students" who had failed previous science courses to the performance of advanced-placement students who were in their second year of chemistry.
This study was done as part of the initial field-testing of our videodisc program on Chemistry and Energy. The learning-disability kids and remedial kids went through the laserdisc sequence, after which they and the advanced-placement kids were tested on bonding, equilibrium, energy of activation, catalysts, atomic structure, and basic properties of organic compounds. Although the advanced-placement students were light-years ahead of the video group in achievement (close to the 90th percentile in math and science), the remedial students outperformed them on every topic, and even the learning-disability students outperformed them on bonding and equilibrium. The mean post-test scores for the video group was 75, compared to 71 for the advanced-placement students.No doubt, if the AP kids went through the video sequence, they would have outperformed the LD and remedial kids. But the laserdisc studies show that all kids can learn what they are supposed to learn if the instruction effectively communicates to the kids, teaches the kids exactly what to do, and provides adequate practice. The only stipulation is that the kids have the requisite skills assumed at the beginning of the program.
There is no need to monkey around with learning styles, multiple intelligences, individual differences, or any other faddish excuses educators use to excuse substandard teaching.