I recently completed a unit with Grade 9 Humanities on the European Union. To assess what student already knew about the topic, we completed the following pre-assessment using Google Forms on day one of the unit:
The challenge for me, and I assume many teachers struggle with the same challenge, is how to follow up on the feedback provided by these pre-assessments. One area I’m working on is how to differentiate in a way that does not stigmatise students as ‘special,’ or even the more innocuous labels like ‘less-advanced.’ A label is a label, and it doesn’t feel good to have one with negative connotations attached to you. The following chart illustrates my attempt at overcoming this challenge.
The following class the room was arranged according to three stations, identified as “interested,” “activist,” and “policy wonk.” It was explained that each station addressed a different approach to learning about the EU. “Interested” was for students who had not learned much about the EU before but were interested in finding our more. Wearing headphones, they watched a five-minute introduction video. After the video we discussed as a group some of the main ideas, while they all took notes.
The second station was for the “activist,” or the student with some knowledge of the EU, but in need of organising this knowledge into something a bit more systematic. Students at this stations were given the option of the using the online collaborative application Popplet to create a mindmap, or to draw one the old-fashioned way on paper that was provided. The “policy wonk” station was for the student that had studied the EU before, or had learned about it on their own. The policy wonks were tasked with identifying three key issues facing the EU today, and creating a Google Slide presentation to share these issues with other students.
To assess the students development across the unit, a discussion forum was created using Google Classroom. Each week we discussed a specific challenge facing the EU. Students were assigned roles, such as the researcher–tasked with provided resources; the instigator–tasked with igniting dialogue; the inquisitor–tasked with asking questions; and the responder–tasked with answering question. Each of these responsibilities required different levels of skills and knowledge, and tapped into different areas of student interests. While effective differentiation is a work in progress, the station idea holds a lot of promise: