El British International School Abu Dhabi recently had an inspection, where the inspectors commented on more than one occasion how well the teachers know their students. This is knowing how successful each student is being with their learning and what needs to be done to help them make the next step.
This sounds quite simple but is actually at the heart of good teaching. When lessons are devised and adapted to cater for the needs of different students, this is known as “differentiation”.
Once upon a time differentiation didn’t exist. Teachers would convey the material, perhaps written on an old blackboard, and students wrote it down. This was the same diet for every student and you either learnt it or you didn’t. One would expect many adults remember being taught this way!
In more recent times, lessons were planned to be divided into 3 sections, thereby differentiated 3 ways. This meant different work for the top, middle and bottom of the class. It was a step forward perhaps, but often meant a lack of challenge for many students.
Nowadays, teachers try to differentiate for every student in the class. Students may all have similar starting points but there are options for how to progress and students can also make their own decisions about the path of their learning. This does not mean separate lesson plans for each student, but it does mean very flexible lesson plans so each student is constantly being challenged and moving their learning forward. Students also need to be lots better these days at evaluating how they are learning and how they can improve further – waiting to always be told what to do by a teacher is a thing of the past.
Planning for lessons as described above is not an easy task and is something that teachers develop through years of practice and hard work. It is a skill that is expected in a school such as The British International School Abu Dhabi – every student needs to be helped to do their best in every lesson.
I am constantly in awe of the lessons I see around the school and the teaching strategies and strong relationships that underpin the excellent learning. The inspectors made a point of highlighting this too, commending The British International School Abu Dhabi on having a team of “highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers”. The British International School Abu Dhabi are very lucky to have such amazing teachers at the school.
Patrick Horne, Principal at The British International School Abu Dhabi