My thoughts on adapting resources

On Saturday, I gave a talk on minimising teacher workload. As part of this, I briefly mentioned adapting resources & differentiation implemented badly. And I have thoughts. Lots of thoughts. I could have talked about this at *much* greater length but was limited by time.

(If anybody is interested in watching a replay of my talk then it is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFWfjZUkBWA from around 2 hours 17 minutes in).

Primarily, many of my thoughts arose after this twitter poll:

Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this poll. But I found the results interesting. I’m going to start by being contrary:

I use the same “resources” (be it powerpoint/booklet/whatever) for a set 1 where I’d expect the students to get grade 8s/9s as I do for a set 4 where I’d expect 3s/4s.

Sounds mad, right? Let me explain why I don’t think it is.

The core knowledge to what we teach a “top” set is identical to what we teach to a “bottom” set (excluding differences in foundation/higher & combined/separate content). The same.

I therefore don’t feel the need to endlessly tweak my resources to fit the group in front of me. The stuff I’m teaching is the same.

Now I don’t quite know how people have interpreted my phrasing in the poll above, but if it’s been interpreted as adapt the resource itself (i.e. powerpoint/booklet) then I think 81% is wayyyy too many adaptations and way too much addition to workload. I’m going to repeat this a million times; but the content we’re teaching is the same. Same kinetic energy equation. Same units. Same knowledge needed. I worry that the feeling of needing to adapt a lesson comes from wanting to “differentiate” the lesson for different groups.

Now if the poll has been interpreted as needing to adapt delivery of the lesson then I think that’s spot on. But I’m worried this is not how it’s been interpreted and teachers feel the need to endlessly tweak a lesson resource over and over again.

What do I mean by adapting delivery? Well I mean that I’d model a *lot* more for a lower prior attaining class. I’d give a lot more worked examples. I would question a lot more and only when I’m absolutely sure that all students have understood what I’m teaching, would I then let them start a task.

Now, I *could* adapt my resources for this. But I don’t. Remember that your lesson resource is not the lesson itself. Your delivery is the lesson. You are the differentiation between classes and indeed between students within a single class.

Now for those of you that use my resources; you’ll know that I have one big task that is ramped in difficulty from basic, medium and hard. These tasks are designed on purpose to allow student progression through them. The basic questions *should* prepare students for the medium ones and, in turn, then medium questions *should* prepare students for the hard ones. (At least if I’ve made them well).

And I guess this is the second thing I want to push back on. Don’t have students doing lots of completely different tasks. It’s hard for your own workload in putting them together & also incredibly difficult to monitor.

Instead, I’m a big believer in “ramping” of difficulty. It:

  • Is easier to manage.
  • Doesn’t set an arbitrary limit of what a student can achieve.

Let’s say I make the decision to give a “bottom” set only the basic questions from one of my sheets as that’s what I think they can achieve. That sets a limit on what they can achieve. They can’t exceed that as that’s all I’ve given.

Instead, by not setting a limit, they can exceed this and move onto the harder questions and achieve at a higher level. This is vital. “Differentiate” up. Not down.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had a lower set outperform a higher set. The ramping of a task allows this and, in my experience, these students *love* getting to the harder questions and feeling like they’re doing really well.

So there we have it. Don’t feel like you need to tweak your resource all the time. But definitely tweak your delivery.

Unnecessary workload begone!

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