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Manual Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms (Professional Development)

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Providing Effective Professional Development for Educators

High-quality professional development has a positive impact on the classroom in terms of both teacher effectiveness and student learning. By focusing our staff development efforts around these key principles, we hope to provide administrators and teacher leaders with tools to plan for, implement, and reflect on high-quality staff development that introduces, models, and encourages teachers' continuing journeys along the road to more fully differentiated classroom practices.

About This Book

Change can be difficult. Most of us tend to avoid it, especially if our practices have been successful in the past.

In The Limits of Organizational Change , Herbert Kaufman suggests that change invites us to experience "the humiliation of becoming a raw novice at a new trade after having been a master craftsman at an old one" , p. Good leadership for differentiation, therefore, must recognize the difficulties inherent in changing long-standing teaching habits and beliefs while celebrating the successes that happen along the way. In Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms , Carol Ann Tomlinson and Susan Allan outline nine principles about change in schools and describe how they relate to leadership for differentiation: Change is imperative in today's classrooms.

The focus on school change must be classroom practice. For schools to become what they ought to be, we need systemic change. Change is difficult, slow, and uncertain. Systemic change requires both leadership and administration. To change schools, we must change the culture of schools. What leaders do speaks with greater force than what they say.


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Change efforts need to link with a wider world. Leaders for change have a results-based orientation.

NCSALL: Differentiated Instruction

This action tool offers teacher leaders tools to facilitate the change process, reminding them that teachers will be at varied levels of readiness for change and, consequently, for staff development on differentiation. Furthermore, we must consider and respond to teachers' interests and, most particularly, preferred ways of learning if we wish them to accept—and even embrace—change. While there are certainly differences between kindergarteners and practicing teachers that require variations in teaching practices, good teaching is good teaching.

Savvy teachers have always incorporated differentiated practices into their teaching repertoires to a certain degree, whether or not they have called those practices by that name.

Follow the Authors

The trick is to refine and add to those practices over time. If good teachers believe in and strive to increase the amount and kind of differentiation that is evident in their classrooms, then staff developers must do no less. We believe that differentiation is the key to achieving equitable access in computer science education, where every student regardless of race, gender, language, or socioeconomic background has an equal opportunity to succeed.

We have developed this solution over years of administering computer science education, frequently revising it based on teacher feedback and student outcomes, until it evolved from conventional classroom differentiation into a promising new approach combining technological innovations with computer science pedagogy. To allow students of various learning profiles and abilities to complete the same activities together as a class, we give every activity five levels of scaffolding differentiation.

Lower scaffolding levels give students more direction, focusing on tasks involving code recall and application, while higher levels gradually remove scaffolding to emphasize critical thinking, analysis, and planning. Recalling code commands and consistently employing precise syntax TechSmart level are fundamental skills to mastering coding. Even when students focus on problem-solving and critical thinking TechSmart level , they continue practicing these fundamental skills rather than ignoring them through code-adjacent activities that obscure or abstract them.

With every exercise containing these five scaffolding levels, the whole class can advance as a group through a well-designed progression of lesson activities while giving each student an appropriate level of assistance and challenge. Since teachers can easily shift individual students between levels for each exercise, students are not grouped into permanent and limiting tracks, but can progress through the levels of coding skill at the right pace to gain confidence and efficacy.

Adjusting to the Needs of All Learners

Computer science can seem to have a particularly high barrier of entry among academic subjects. Due to the nature of coding, students must enter exactly correct words and symbols, often with idiosyncratic syntax, to write code that the computer can interpret. Furthermore, many students have difficulty with keyboard typing, which can slow coding to a glacial pace.

How can scaffolding ameliorate these problems while teaching students to master them?

Chapter 1. What Is High-Quality Professional Development for Differentiating Instruction

These starter code comments make the purpose of each line clear, while containing consistent keywords for each code command that needs to be used. Students can type or paste these keywords into Code Assist , a code-writing helper that sits alongside the coding environment.

She taught in high school, preschool, and middle school, and worked with heterogeneous classes as well as special classes for students identified as gifted and students with learning difficulties. Her public school career also included 12 years as a program administrator of special services for advanced and struggling learners. She was Virginia s Teacher of the Year in Special interests throughout her career have included curriculum and instruction for advanced learners and struggling learners, effective instruction in heterogeneous settings, and bridging the fields of general education and gifted education.

She is author of over articles, book chapters, books, and other professional development materials, including How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, Leadership for Differentiated Schools and Classrooms, the facilitator s guide for the video staff development sets called Differentiating Instruction, and At Work in the Differentiated Classroom, as well as a professional inquiry kit on differentiation.

She works throughout the United States and abroad with teachers whose goal is to develop more responsive heterogeneous classrooms. Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms. Its Basis in Theory and Research. What Leaders for Differentiation Need to Know. Establishing Conditions to Initiate Systemic Change.