Effective teaching and learning are complex activities. This is challenging to teachers, who have to ensure they use a variety of strategies to maximise each pupil’s potential. The complexity arises as pupils are all individuals with different backgrounds, differing personal experiences and different interests and needs. As mentioned by Capel et al (1995: 157) “The teacher musttake account of personal interest, ability and motivation to design learning which challenges and interests pupils but, at the same time, ensures for each a large measure of success”. For Honey and Mumford, people have preferred styles of learning and it is in understanding those preferred styles that teachers can “help students to feel comfortable with learning and have opportunities to achievesome measure of success relatively easily” (Harkin, 2000: 42). Enabling pupils to maximise their potential and develop the 3 skills of the Programme of Study (PoS) within the Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Curriculum requires teachers to have to use “a variety of strategies giving pupils different opportunities” (MFL NC, 2008: 12).
The assignment requires that we plan a sequence of four lessonsfrom a topic taken from one of the National Curriculum Areas of Experience. To do this we chose a year 8 group of mixed ability as “mixed ability teaching forces teachers to recognise the problems of having to stretch the brightest students and having to cater for the less able students” (Cohen et al, 1996: 202) and year 8 are known to the school, with some assessment having already taken place.Using this group we shall firstly discuss differentiation and its implementation in the classroom and then use the sequence of lessons to explain the importance of progression in pupils’ learning and outline how this can be achieved.
Teachers have “to provide an effective learning environment” (Convery & Coyle, 1999: 4) and therefore have to get to know their pupils andtheir different backgrounds. According to Morgan & Neil (2001: 49) “differentiation is the provision of different levels of activities for students of varying ability and interest levels”. Teachers need not only to concentrate on pupils abilities, but also on their various needs and learning styles, as mentioned by Convery & Coyle (1999: 4) who posit that “each learner is an individual” and so“learning is an individual process”.
In order to measure learning, teachers have to rely on assessments, throughout the curriculum, which will be differentiated from easy tasks, accessible to all pupils, to tasks with an increasing degree of difficulty that progressively challenge those with greater understanding. Sensitively applied, such assessment allows each pupil a measure of success and ofappropriate challenge and allows the teacher to differentiate current abilities, achievements and progress.
The formal assessment of the end of key stage 4, the GCSE, provides opportunities for differentiated papers at two or three levels. Even though it is impossible to offer a differentiated curriculum for every individual in a class, the educator can apply differentiation by planning his/herteaching at three levels. (S)he will teach the core objectives for the entire class, provide some reinforcement objectives which will enable intensive practice to some pupils and supply extension objectives which will enable some students to acquire a deeper knowledge of the topic in the Target Language.
There are several approaches or strategies to differentiate learning that can be presentedthrough different forms. Differentiation can be by text, offering a variety of types of reading and listening materials; by task in the activity that pupils are asked to complete; by outcome through evaluating pupils’ responses to texts and tasks; by support; by interest; by ability; or by timing.
Differentiation by task involves having the same activity for the class but with varied tasks...