Differentiated Instruction … Is Learning a Priority?

To increase your continuous learning, what skill would you choose? We would decide to increase education by improving reading skills. Hopefully, our school teachers are paying attention to differentiated instruction.
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Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction.
One of those products is reading. Reading … this is how Warren Buffett, one of the most successful people in the business world, describes his day. Sitting. Reading. He advises everyone to read more, and that’s certainly a goal we can all get behind.
So how do we do it? And what are we to do with all that information once we have it?
Related: Continuous Learning Holds the Keys to Your Future Success
Reading more and remembering it all is a discussion with a lot of different layers and a lot of exciting possibilities. Improving reading skills relates to reading more books, better comprehension, and, of course, faster reading.
It’s not that they can’t find the solution … they can’t locate the problem.
  • K. Chesterton
Are you one that believes learning is a significant teaching product? What about whether schools and education administrators understand the problem they are trying to solve? Are you familiar with the subject of standardized testing in our public schools?
All of these questions are certainly an interest of mine, though I have never been in the education profession. I like to follow the subjects of learning and standardized testing and the writings of Marion Brady.
Check out Marion Brady’s website.
I am a big fan of the thinking of Marion Brady. Ever read any of his books or articles?
He is a longtime teacher; school administrator; nationally distributed newspaper columnist; and author of courses of study, textbooks, and professional books. His most recent article published in a blog from the Washing Post is “What do standardized tests test?” I will use this excellent work to examine this issue.
Related: Why Questioning Is Critical to Learning and Problem Solving
Like most people, I believe that learning is a product of teaching.  Just not enough learning from the amount of teaching in our schools. The assumption of learning from teaching is the bedrock of traditional schooling.
As Marion states, it shapes nearly all commercially produced educational materials. It’s how the school is portrayed in everything media. It’s why traditionally arranged classroom furniture is in rows facing front, why most teachers talk a lot, assign pages in textbooks, ask questions about what’s been said and read. It’s the conventional process and teaching wisdom. Sad, but very true.
Teachers teach, learners learn, and standardized tests monitor how well the process is going. The tests measure a quantity—the amount of information taught, minus the amount not learned or learned and forgotten. A single, precise number is convenient for sorting and labeling the learning results. Something that the education industry feels like the only way to measure progress.
Simple and straightforward. Right?
But hold on for a minute. There’s an ancient Chinese quotation (from Confucius I believe) which, loosely translated, says,
Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.
As Brady points out, there are three very different approaches to teaching—telling, showing, and involving. The first two lend themselves to standardized testing. The third one—the only one that works—doesn’t. It says that what needs to be evaluated are the outcomes of personal experience, and personal experience is very likely to be too individual, too personal, too much a product of a teachable moment, for its outcome to be evaluated by machine-scored standardized test items.
Involved learners don’t just read about geology; they’re outside, identifying, examining, and classifying, the rocks and earth around the school and other interesting places. Involved learners aren’t filling out worksheets about geometric principles; they’re determining the height of the school’s flagpole by measuring angles and lengths of shadows … by active learning.
Here is the key to Brady’s article, in my opinion. What mattered most wasn’t what he said but what kids did. When he drew that radical conclusion, he states he began a search that continues, a search for experience-creating activities:


Differentiated instruction … so interesting

the teacher can leave the room and nobody notices


So useful

the activity’s relevance is self-evident


So complex

the smartest kid in the class is intellectually challenged


real world
Real world.

Differentiated instruction examples … so real-world

perceptions of who’s smartest constantly shift


So theoretically sound

the systemically integrated nature of all knowledge is apparent


So wide-ranging

wide ranging
Wide ranging.
the activities cover the core curriculum (and much more)


So varied

every critical thinking skill is exercised


So scalable

concepts developed on a micro level adequately model macro phenomena


So effective

when the activities themselves are forgotten, their benefits are fixed permanently in memory
Idealistic? Not in my mind. Perhaps I would call it a great dream. And why not?
As Brady states, if we can stop the standardized testing bandwagon, teachers can pick up where they left off before they were rudely interrupted—trying to figure out how kids learn best. What a novel idea.
In that situation, we will come away from this reform era having learned two useful  lessons:
First, one is that no machine can measure the quality of complex, emotion-filtered, experience-based learning.
And second, if you’re testing the wrong thing, there’s no reason to keep score.

The bottom line

Thank you, Marion Brady, for not giving up and for keeping the dream alive.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is entirely up to you.
Do you have a lesson about making your learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
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It’s up to you to keep improving your ability to learning to learn. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning from all around in your environment.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that struggle gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your continuous learning?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on continuous learning from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Aware of These Amazing Facts on Innovation?
Creative Collaboration is the Solution for the Toughest Business Problems
Ideas on Learning Reform and Its Instructional Implications
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Differentiated Instruction … Is Learning a Priority?