Learning, Mistakes and Being Smart

Carol Tomlinson is one of my educational heroes.  She has always advocated for differentiating in the classroom, and she has always said that great differentiation is simply great teaching.

It is meeting the needs of each child, no matter where they begin and helping them move as fast and as deeply as they can. It is not assuming anything about the child, but basing instruction and offering learning opportunities that can scaffold the child to grow, make choices, own their behaviors and support and thrive in the classroom learning community.

This week she gained even more of my respect, if that is possible.  Carol spoke at the Women’s Educational Leaders in Virginia conference (WELV.org).  Valued colleagues, my Superintendent(@pammoran) and a county administrator (@england in va)  tweeted some of her remarks, and it is clear she is speaking to the power of democracy.

Here is her speech through tweets:

Should classes be tidy & filtered by ability, background, etc or should they reflect world?

Differentiation is a civil right and remediation is not a learning propulsion system.

Teachers often teach as tho all students are the same. Like bowling we roll the ball down the middle & hope that we hit the students.

Every “kid” has the right to excellence in learning.

We will never make students better by teaching down to them

C Tomlinson shares her long-term data:pre-post differentiation change efforts. schls where she’s worked-floor comes up-ceiling rises (To see her data/research on differentiation www.caroltomlinson.com)

Differentiation raises the ceiling as well as the floor. Decreases discipline issues.  Rigor of curriculum increases. Higher college attendance, more AP class sections, less discipline, oh & better test scores

What would you accept as evidence that the full range of students are succeeding as learners in your school?

Differentiation looks eyeball2eyeball w/reality that kids differ,most effective  tchrs do whatever it takes 2 hook whole range of kids on learning

Goal of having kids achieve a learning outcome – just getting them there in different ways.

All teachers say they differentiate instruction. Tomlinson calls most of it reactionary & improvisational instead of planned.

Research says teachers do reactive differentiation-start w/same lesson 4 all-then react when kids don’t learn

Some Tchrs say they differentiate by tweaking grades or giving same assignment- but grading “smart” kids harder

Only retain, apply, transfer that which you understand-embed knowledge/skills in big ideas-a must for every kid- teach up!

Core of differentiation is flexibility. Space, time, supplies, management, groupings, etc.  Can teachers give up control?

Students say if teacher creates challenging material but gives me an easier choice – i will most often choose the easier.

Research base:gender, culture ,intelligence, style shapes how we learn-another defining element is predictive power of mindset

Fixed view of smart- success comes from genetics/environment- teachers can’t really override students’ profile -but there’s an alternative quoting Carol Dweck – fluid view of smart- success comes from effort -teacher &learner effort- teachers w/ fluid mindset have the high efficacy

Teachers who see kids through fluid mindset about smart can over-ride a child’s belief about self as not smart Just cause some kids can learn it faster doesn’t mean that other kids cant learn it’s our job to help those kids learn.

kids learn early smart doesn’t make mistakes   kids think if you are smart you don’t have to try by age 3

“smart” kids have fixed belief about their intellect,they fear imperfection-it sends message of not smart-more likely 2 cheat If “smart” is fixed then why try to teach?

Effort begets success! We need to emphasize importance of effort as well as results.

Analogy of Capt. Sullenberger’s experience with today’s Ed challenges. showing 60 Minutes interview. Sullenberger said he knew he had to take control and get them out of the situation. He was the pilot & took responsibility.

When we attempt to push teachers into scripted teaching- we can hang up their capability to teach intelligently

When teacher says to resource teachers, you fix them, the principal needs to be the heat source to change that mindset

We should change the mindset to rigor = hard= necessary for successful life

Student on Differentiated Instruction- it didn’t make me feel smart or dumb, it made me feel important!

To Lead for Differentiation- you must understand, explain, model, support, require, stick with it

http://bit.ly/bcfXpN  for info about Carol Tomlinson http://bit.ly/bNjezK

Carol is one of the reasons I do things like this:


Don’t we wish all of us, especially us adults, understood what those kids do?

2 thoughts on “Learning, Mistakes and Being Smart

  1. I agree with Carol Tomlinson about differentiation as a civil right. Students need to learn in their own way and often can’t just get it our way. We all have goals-we just get to them differently. Thanks, Pam Overstreet-EDM310 Student at the University of South Alabama.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *