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Published by Michael Villalon

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Published by: Michael Villalon on Jun 21, 2012
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Challenge 2 : Meeting the needs o diverse learnersin the classroom
All schools share the mission o helping every student reach his or her ull potential. However, teachers otenind students in a class showing much diversity in their needs and interests. Students dier a lot in theirmotivation, prior knowledge and skills, learning styles, multiple intelligences, interests and backgrounds. Totap each student’s potential, teachers need to value each student as an individual capable o making progress.Embracing learner diversity is thereore an important direction in school-based curriculum development.
Nevertheless, schools have to realise that there can hardly be a one-size-its-all approach to addressinglearner diversity. To ensure eective learning or all students in the classroom, teachers need to developsensitivity to individual students’ needs and respond to them by fexibly adapting their teaching strategies andcontent. Teachers can develop such sensitivity through analysing dierent sources o inormation (classroomobservations, assessments, portolios, learner proles, etc.) to nd out how each student learns and designan appropriate curriculum or them. With a good grasp o students’ characteristics, teachers can turn learnerdiversity into an asset by capitalising on their dierent talents, interests and backgrounds brought to theclassroom setting. For instance, students can make unique contributions by playing dierent roles or doingdierent tasks inside and outside the classroom. Teachers can then give their students opportunities to developtheir potential.
Irrespective o the extent o learner diversity existing in the classroom, to teachers and school leaders, raisingstudents’ achievement is imperative. Among dierent students, lower-achievers have presented the biggestchallenge or teachers. By setting low expectations on them and giving them ew opportunities to engageactively in activities requiring higher order thinking or application o language and generic skills (e.g. creativity),teachers may sabotage the chance o improving their achievement. For more able students, they also need tostretch their potential. Thus, it is important or schools to set reasonably high expectations on students andprovide the right level o support in order to motivate them to make consistent eort in their learning.
To be able to provide the right level o support, teachers’ instruction plays an important role. Qualityinstruction is refected by teachers’ ability to respond appropriately and fexibly to students’ dierent needs.Teachers adjust their teaching strategies to support individual students’ learning. For example, they may use co-operative learning in some tasks and provide multi-sensory stimuli in some other tasks. To exercise such sound judgements, teachers need to possess rich knowledge and skills in using dierent strategies and content toimprove every student’s learning and achievement. Such knowledge and skills can help them make proessionaldecisions on the most appropriate teaching strategies to support students under dierent circumstances.
High ExpectationsHigh Support
School practices
The three school cases oer dierent insights into how students’ diverse needs can be met through strategiccurriculum planning, quality instruction and appropriate assessments. In the school cases, clear learningtargets and expectations are set or all students at curriculum level so that students have a clear picture owhere they are heading and how to make progress. Core and extended teaching content is designed withbasic competencies included to ensure that every student can develop essential knowledge and skills andthe potential o more able students can be stretched. Greater variety in learning input and output can beincorporated into the school-based curriculum to provide more dierentiation or students with diverse needs.The school cases have also included a number o teaching strategies which are fexibly used based on students’specic needs: explicit teaching o language skills, teachers’ quality demonstrations, use o graphic organisers(e.g. story map, ve senses), adjusting the level o diculty o input in a progressive manner, multi-sensoryteaching, use o interesting content to engage unmotivated students, experiential learning, dierentiatedlanguage tasks, assigning dierent roles to students with dierent needs in activities, thinking aloud (e.g. useo syntax surgery) to understand the thinking process in reading, etc. Teachers’ instruction that attends tolearning styles and the needs o students can remove barriers to learning and support individual students toachieve more academically. The assessments (use o success criteria, alternative assessments, dierentiatedinternal examination papers, etc.) illustrated in the school cases are aligned with learning and teaching as acycle. They are also examples o how teachers can help each student make improvement through assessmentor learning.
Respecting and valuing individual dierences means that autonomy is given to all students so that theycan make choices to pursue their interests and develop their potential. Schools need to be committed todeveloping the talent o individual students by providing them with challenging learning opportunities. With arm belie that there are dierent pathways or students, teachers are capable o making a dierence in eachstudent’s learning.
Quality InstructionCatering or Learner Diversity
Supporting the literacy development o diverse learners:From theory to practice
Literacy skills enable students to read, write and think with independence, comprehension and fuency andthese skills are essential or students’ success in school and in lie. English teachers rom Christ College andPAOC Ka Chi Secondary School are aware o the need to support the literacy development o their studentsstarting rom their junior years o school; however, they encounter diiculties in teaching literacy skills tostudents with diverse learning needs. Although students in the junior orms are streamed into dierent abilitygroups, teachers ind that students’ English language abilities vary considerably among classes. Apart romthis, students are very diverse in terms o interests, motivations, cognitive abilities, learning styles and readinesslevels. As teachers are aced with learner diversity between classes and within classes, they hope to improvelearning eectiveness o individual students by employing strategies that cater or their diverse needs.
Strategies used and implementation details
When it comes to addressing learner dierences, there is no one-size-ts-all approach and strategy. A widerange o eective strategies supported by valid research evidence indicating that intervention works has beentried out in the two schools over the past two years to maximise student learning. The ollowing table outlinessome o the strategies adopted by teachers and the reasons why they should be put in place, supplementedwith examples o classroom practices showing how these strategies are implemented in the classroom.
Strategy used and rationaleExample o classroom practice and implementation detail
in the pre-reading stage topromote active engagement
Struggling or immature readersare usually passive readers whostart reading without preparationand read without knowing whyand how to approach a text, whileeective readers set a purposeor reading and activate theirschema beore reading. Beingan active reader is importantbecause prior knowledge can helpreaders become ready to assimilatenew inormation, which in turnsimprove the chance o a successullearning experience and retention(Wendling & Mather, 2009). It is
1. Teaching students how to preview a text
- Beore reading a text, teachers trained students to ollow somesteps to read around the text to get a sense o what it would beabout. First, look at the pictures and captions to see what theypresent. Then, see i there are maps, charts or graphs. Next, lookat the titles, headings, and sub-headings to get the big ideas.Ater that, read the rst and last line o each paragraph or moreinormation.
2. Using KWL to activate prior knowledge and engage students
- In the Unit “Festivals”, beore students read the textbook passage,they were asked to write what they already knew about the twoestivals in the irst column (activating prior knowledge).- Students were then asked to write down what they wanted to learnmore about the estivals in the second column (having a purposeor reading and active engagement).- Ater reading the text, students wrote what they had learned andshared their ideas with the whole class (active engagement).

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