Differentiating for Adult Learners

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 7: Professional Community for Teachers and Staff

“Professional Learners. Differentiating for Adult Learners” by Melissa P. Johnston. School Library Connection, May 2016.

This issue’s focus on differentiating to address the needs of learners got me thinking that in the case of providing professional development, we have to differentiate for our adult learners as well. In looking back at the columns from this past year, we have talked about a variety of strategies you can utilize when working with adult learners, but I was just reading a new study that finds that the attention span of the average adult has now dropped to about eight seconds (Gracey 2016). After just eight seconds, teachers are going to be chatting with their neighbor, texting, checking emails, and/or looking at their social media feeds instead of paying attention to you. So how do you hold the attention of teachers in a professional development session?

Differentiate for the Needs of Your Learners

Differentiated instruction refers to a “systematic approach to planning curriculum and instruction for academically diverse learners” (Tomlinson and Eidson, 2003, 3). Differentiated instruction is based on the assumptions that students differ in their learning styles, needs, strengths, and abilities, and that classroom activities should be adapted to meet these differences. Differentiated instruction involves giving learners a range of ways of accessing instruction and assessment; interacting and participating in the global classroom; demonstrating and expressing what they learn; and understanding and taking in information (Powell and Kusuma-Powell 2011). We all know that these are best practices when it comes to teaching our students, but why does it seem that professional development for teachers is still a “one-size fits all” experience? Continue reading “Differentiating for Adult Learners”

Three Ways to Differentiate Inquiry

author-Maniotes_Leslie1Inquiry offers many opportunities to differentiate learning. This column by Leslie K. Maniotes from the May issue of School Library Connection describes three ways to design more differentiation into your inquiry lessons: using a workshop model, increasing student voice and choice in the process, and incorporating a variety of student groupings into daily work.

Inquiry as a Workshop Model

The Guided Inquiry Workshop 1
(Kuhlthau, Maniotes,, and Caspari 2012)

Inquiry learning occurs in a workshop model. Similar to the writing workshop, a workshop provides time for students to work, and for teachers to hold conferences (Obermeyer 2015). In Guided Inquiry, each workshop session includes these basic components: Starter, Worktime, and Reflection (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012; Maniotes, Harrington, and Lambusta 2016).

The workshop model provides time for interventions outside the traditional classroom structure. Teachers confer with students during the Worktime to address individual needs and to keep students productively moving along their process, thus providing opportunities for differentiated teaching and learning. (Kuhlthau 2004; Maniotes, Harrington, and Lambusta 2016). Continue reading “Three Ways to Differentiate Inquiry”

What Barriers Do You Face in
Differentiating Instruction?

In the May issue of School Library Connection, Maria Cahill takes a look at responses to our most recent survey and highlights articles to help you overcome common barriers to differentiating instruction.

Survey results

For our May 1QS, we asked school librarians, “What barriers do you face in differentiating instruction?” As expected, time is the barrier that school librarians face most frequently, and as the table illustrates, this problem tends to be even more pronounced at the elementary level. Lack of resources was identified as a challenge for nearly one-third of respondents, and support from teachers and/or administrators was indicated to be the third most common obstacle to differentiating instruction. Continue reading “What Barriers Do You Face in
Differentiating Instruction?”