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How To Differentiate Learning In A Mixed Ability Classroom Carol Ann Tomlinson Online
She told her story at the recent Adult Learner Conference.
Tomlinson said “all you can do in a Mixed Ability school is get them all on their feet.”
She is not the only one. There are people out there who have experienced this or are getting ready to for their adult learners experiences. Whether they work with people with disabilities or not we all need to have a more secure way to share information and share information when we have a mixed ability problem. This is not something you learn in a class setting. It is not something you think about as a student but, it is the most important issue when you talk to people from the opposite side of the equation. I have had the luxury of living and working with several different individuals with a variety of abilities. Some are newly disabled which also involves having challenges, some need a little help navigating social or communication issues and some of them need the help to adapt their skills to avoid a more traditional class environment. They all need the same thing, Connections.
We all need to share knowledge and information and we need to be able to be honest with those on the other side of the equation. The question is how do we do this?
For that I would argue that we need to think like a teacher in a classroom and accept everything as a challenge. In fact it’s not only a challenge but, I have found that it’s often worse to be challenging them about something because their faces start to flinch and there is a lack of confidence. This could be one reason why people like us are inclined to engage them but then pretend we don’t understand or that we don’t believe in what we are saying. All of this is not helping.
Well if we are feeling like teachers we should look at those things as challenges so we can continue to understand and learn as much as we can. It takes more time, patience and focus to be a step ahead of an incoming learner. There are a ton of resources that can help us do this. Knowledge and experience is the key and without that the whole idea of getting them ready to do something for their work and develop as a person just becomes a pipe dream. Our job as the adults in the room should never be to let our students know what we know.
When we are ready to talk to students with disabilities let them know we respect them and that we wish them the best. Without that you run the risk of wasting your time and asking them to act more like you want them to act instead of focusing on what they want them to do to thrive in their new situation. This approach can sometimes be difficult but the job is so much better with it.
Once we have everyone accepted there are some communication methods that are needed. The moment they trust that we are with them from the beginning and treat them respectfully they will respect us. Once they trust us then we can begin to share and then while we try to share information let them take control. You can’t simply say “Do it”; let them try and take charge. This is when you can see just how much better we can all be together when we are all in one room.
Do we get a little nervous sharing information? Absolutely but that is our job and we get to do it in a very comfortable atmosphere. It’s not that this new student can’t handle something; we just need to teach them how to do things and then let them lead.
Once we have students on their feet they can jump in and start learning with us and when they don’t we can get the conversation going for them to be able to meet their challenges. The approach here should always be high expectations and high expectations are the same for both.