A table saw. A puzzle. A path with many routes.
Barrie Bennett once shared an analogy at one of his workshops: if a teacher uses Think Pair Share, an effective stand-alone thinking strategy in the classroom, then that strategy would be as effective as sandpaper might be in a woodworking class: a tool that has its use but causes minor change.
If, however, the teacher were to ask students to ponder an Evaluation or Synthesis level question from Bloom’s Taxonomy during their Think Pair Share and, after employing Wait Time, the teacher used Numbered Heads to increase accountability, while affording students the Right to Pass (from Tribes), then this multi-layered integration of a number of best practices would be as powerful as the table saw: a way to make major change.
In 2004-2005, I had the opportunity to join the 2nd Cohort attending Barrie Bennett’s Instructional Intelligence workshops. I was extremely impressed by his passion for education, but also by his mission: to seek out teacher best practices and to integrate them as much as possible, like puzzle pieces, to achieve maximum effect in the classroom
This wonderful experience has impacted the trajectory of my career significantly. I made a conscious decision to seek out and participate in as much professional development as I could, and in doing so, I have had many opportunities to learn new concepts, strategies, and philosophies.
Differentiated Instruction and Assessment is, I feel, the next stage on the path to becoming an effective teacher. By that I mean, D.I.A. asks me to not only use best practices in the classroom, such as Six Thinking Hats, Assessment For Learning, or Synectics, but to use those based on knowledge of my students, and to accept that there are many paths to learning.
That is to say, it is not enough for me as a teacher to know, or even to use, as many of the best practices in education; it is using those practices because that is what best serves those particular students and their particular needs at that particular time.
As I learn more of Differentiation, I feel as if I am moving further along the path to becoming Bennett’s ‘table saw’ of teaching, integrating as many puzzle pieces of effective teaching to assist students on their many paths to understanding.