Have you ever planted a garden?
All plants need the same basic things — water and sunshine. But you can’t treat all plants the exact same and expect them to thrive.
Some plants need water every day while some plants only need water once a week. Some like bright, intense sun while others prefer to be mostly in the shade.
Some plants can grow very fast and can weather many difficult conditions, while some grow slowly and require delicate care.
The gardener’s job is to learn about the differences between the plants and then give them what they need to thrive. The gardener creates the environment in which the plants will either be successful and produce great fruit or wither away.
A gardener is a lot like an educator. When an educator assesses their students to learn their differences and strengths, they are differentiating.
Differentiation is the process of teaching students in the way they learn best. While it is often found in lower level classes, differentiated instruction tends to be non-existent for Advanced Placement (AP) classes. One of the biggest populations that this is hurting is gifted and talented (GT) students.
Currently, many schools offer AP classes as their only program for gifted students. Are AP classes really able to meet the needs of these GT students? Education specialist Carrie Simpson doesn’t think so.
The way most AP classes are taught right now is lecture and test based. This limits the opportunities that students have to learn and work in different ways.
One of the reasons Ms. Simpson says differentiation is not found often in AP classes is because there are many myths teachers believe about differentiation. Some of the myths are:
- Colleges don’t differentiate
- AP classes are already leveled
- Differentiated instruction is only for struggling learners.
After debunking these myths, Ms. Simpson shares different ways to include differentiation in instruction. For example, giving students a quick pre-test when starting a new subject can help you figure out what knowledge students already have about it. This allows you to tailor the content to be exactly what they need.
What will educators learn?
In this course educators will learn:
- Why differentiation is important in AP classes
- How to meet the needs of GT students in AP classes
- Common myths about differentiation in AP classes and the facts
- Practical ways to implement differentiation in AP classes.
Which T-TESS Domains and Dimension does this course apply to?
- 1.1 (Standards and alignment)
- 1.4 (Activities)
- 2.1 (Achieving Expectations)
- 2.2 (Content Knowledge and Expertise)
- 2.4 (Differentiations)
Ready to learn more?
Carrie Simpson, Ph.D., has been in the field of education for 14 years, serving in the classroom and in administration. She currently teaches courses on diverse populations for the University of Texas at Dallas. At the administrative level, Dr. Simpson has served in special student services as well as gifted student services and has led the Richardson ISD implementation of differentiated instruction across all secondary content areas. She has presented on the topics of gifted education, differentiation in the AP classroom and in the secondary classroom, inclusion models, instructional rounds, and brain-based instructional practices.
T-TESS Cube is a library of professional courses led by experts in education. The courses are aligned to the T-TESS Rubric. They are a great way to develop teachers and administrators.