Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 1 - UVA Differentiation Conference

I have the luck to be one of the few hundred teachers and administrators at the University of Virginia's Summer Institute on Academic Diversity, which is focusing on Differentiated Instruction. The conference is being led by the amazing Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson. 

Each day the conference begins with a talk given by Dr. Tomlinson, and let me tell you...she does a great job of making that 3 and a half hours fly by. I call it a "talk" and not a "lecture" because she really makes you feel like she is talking to you, and that you are free to contribute or ask questions at any time. 

Some things that stuck with me that I'd love to share are:

The idea that the connection between the student and the teacher has been proven over and over again to be a leading contributor to student growth.

We looked at some of the research done by John Hattie (a meta-analyses that involved 200+ million students!) that showed that in over 50,000 research studies that ability grouping actually led to less growth than would have happened in a classroom without it.

The same study showed that a good teacher student relationship often doubled growth. Giving effective feedback could also double or even triple growth!

I think one of the great things Dr. Tomlinson said was, "Give yourself permission to start (and grow slowly.)" She's referring to introducing differentiation practices. We all know that it can take time to put together and gather those resources. Sometimes we have to accept the fact that it will take us a few years to become experts. There will be some trial and error. I know personally I can drive myself crazy trying to implement everything all at once because I know it is what's best and I want what's best...but sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to take it slow!

The afternoon of each day is spent in break out sessions. I first went to a session about how to give effective feedback on students' writing in math. It was great to get a checklist of ideas for giving feedback that actually benefits the kids, especially those that are getting it. Sometimes, "Great Job!" just doesn't cut it! Asking them to explain their reasoning, provide alternate solutions, explain who they might do it next time, etc. will get them thinking about how to take the math to the next level. 

The second session was all about building community and classroom management. I have to admit...I feel like both of these areas are strengths of I didn't get as much new information out of this session as I hoped. But I did have a principal try to recruit me to her school! So I'll take that as a compliment! Haha.

I was already looking forward to the conference, but after today I'm extra excited for the rest of the week!


  1. I'm so jealous! I had the pleasure of hearing her "talk" at the ASCD conference in Chicago a few years ago. Thanks so much for sharing the tidbits on ability grouping and relationships. That's a powerful piece that is extremely relevant for me to share at my school this year. Have fun!

  2. The thought that relationships help student growth really hits home! Have fun!


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