Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Learning How We Learn

As a school administrator, there are few things more gratifying than watching as your faculty reflects on their own practice, shares ideas with each other, and collaborates to make themselves and, thus, our school that much better. That is exactly what I witnessed this past Monday, as we spent the day together learning, sharing, and growing.

The focus of our time together, as has been the focus of much of our professional development this year, has been on what is known as Differentiated Instruction. Simply put, it is a process of classroom instruction that employs a variety of planning and implementation strategies aimed at reaching students of varying ability and of varying learning styles, within the context of a single classroom. Our program, coordinated by our Assistant Principal for Professional Development, Mrs. Melissa Perl, featured a presentation by the University of Memphis's Project Rise followed by two group activities: one which introduced a differentiated technique known as the Jigsaw Method, and the second, designed by Mrs. Perl, gave teachers the opportunity to begin planning differentiated lessons within their own grade level and discipline.

As I noted to the teachers in our final session, though, much of the success of differentiated instruction depends on the degree to which we know our students - their abilities, interests, and learning styles. The last of those three is often the hardest to assess, yet often the most important to ensure maximal learning. Therefore, we will be doing our best to make sure that we do, indeed, have a handle on each child's learning profile. As a start, though, it would be both informative and fun for each student to visit and take their free learning style profile assessment. Send us the results, and we'll be sure to share it with your child's teachers as but another helpful tool in maximizing his or her learning experience.

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