Differentiation of Instruction – brouhaha

Learn_differentlyHave you been keeping up with the point-counterpoint debate in Education Week in response to James DeLisle’s rant against the effectiveness of Differentiated Instruction? (“Differentiation Doesn’t Work,” www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/01/07/differentiation-doesnt-work.html )

I know Jim and his screed doesn’t surprise me. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool IQist who (to his credit) fights tooth and nail for quality education for gifted students. But, of course, Jim defines them according to the sacrosanct IQ score. And nothing more.

There have been numerous cogent rebuttals to DeLisle’s over-the-top opinion piece. Among my favorites are by Grant Wiggins:  https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/on-differentiation-a-reply-toa-rant-and-a-posing-of-questions/  who takes a thoughtful and measured approach. (Yes, DI is hard, and indeed, it can be effective for ALL students). I also enjoyed Jay McTighe’s satirical commentary entitled Exercise_Doesn’t_Work_-_A_Reply where he writes under the name of Dr. L.A. Zee ” At the dawn of this new year, I set a resolution to lose weight by starting an exercise program. In theory, exercise sounds great – it promises to help one trim excess poundage, enhance physical health, reduce stress and gain mental clarity. However, after a dis-spiriting, 5-minute, mid-morning workout, it became obvious to me that exercise doesn’t work.” This is the same mindset that DeLisle demonstrates in his argument that Differentiation of Instruction doesn’t work.. “Oh, this is hard to do. It doesn’t work so let’s go back to the old way of doing things.”

However, this is a serious issue that deserves much thought and discussion. To give Jim the benefit of the doubt, maybe that was his intention in dropping this bomb on the pages of Education Week. Maybe, but in Jim’s antiquated worldview, I know he’d like nothing better than to see MI killed and buried so we could go back to the old-school system of merely picking smart people via IQ test scores alone. To Jim, and others of the IQ-ilk, these newfangled brain-based ideas about smartness are nothing more than dumbed-down political correctness.

What’s your experience – both personally and professionally? Does DI, indeed, under-serve the logically talented and creatively gifted students in our classrooms? Is it asking too much of teachers to create differentiated lesson plans? Too time-consuming? To complicated? What’s your experience?  Will you add your voice to this Great Debate?