Students perform best under conditions that activate their preferred learning style. There is no greater predictor of success than a fantastic teacher. Effective teaching has long put the unique interests of the learner up front, allowing teachers to meet the needs of more students more of the time. Now, advocates of differentiated instruction have found a true partner in the form of flipped learning, the pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space. Call it “fliperentiated” instruction.
Differentiated instruction is noted for, among other features, flexible groupings, scaffolded content, diverse instruction, and student choice. It challenges teachers to be more responsive to each student’s readiness, learning style, and prior knowledge. A differentiated classroom resembles a chamber orchestra, with different students playing different notes at different times, as their teacher conducts their learning simultaneously.
The stubborn part about differentiation, of course, is trying to synchronize the learning of an entire class in which not every student learns or does the same thing at the same time. Here is where flipped learning can provide a lifeline. By moving some of the entry-level learning goals outside of the classroom — largely (but not exclusively) through self-paced, scored video instruction — teachers can mobilize their students in “right size” learning activities immediately upon arrival. These live classroom activities (ranging from small groups to partnerships to direct instruction) draw upon and build out the content studied in the individual learning space (perhaps the night before at home). In effect, students first explore their learning on a single, self-guided path, but then navigate, with others, a map of interlocking trails to discover their ultimate destination.
The payoff from fliperentiated instruction is significant. Teachers will recapture instructional time that can be used to deepen learning. Student engagement will likely rise due to more personalized contact with information. And a richer culture of collaboration will emerge among students who learn to work together. If differentiation is the engine, flipped learning is the grease. Used synchronously, they can power a learning experience that gets students moving faster and farther than ever before.
Read Hirsch's suggestions for implementing fliperentiated instruction in your classroom at YUeducate.