Thinking about differentiation

The Guardian online has published a story about the founders of Maths Pathway, Richard Wilson and Justin Matthys.
I missed it when it appeared in January but my wife Sue shared the link with me from her network of contacts.
The article includes these points:

  • The insight behind Maths Pathway came when Justin Matthys, a physicist who worked on the team that discovered the Higgs boson, realised individual students all learn maths at very different rates.
  • Richard Wilson says what they have done is “enable teachers to do fundamentally what they always wanted to do, which is to teach the right things to the right kids at the right time”.
  • The Maths Pathway program of online video learning and activities starts with very precisely evaluating students to work out their competencies and identify any gaps. This data gathering continues through the learning stages and lets teachers pinpoint which students are at the same level as each other to offer more effectively targeted face-to-face “mini-lessons” in class.
  • “We are impact first at all times in everything we do. The reason we built this is to get student outcomes; to turn a country that by and large doesn’t know maths into one that does. That remains the goal and we think we’ve got a really good vehicle for doing that.”

News of the Maths Pathway approach to teaching reminded me of discussions about dynamic evaluation and differentiation.
They have helped me to think more about personalised approaches to teaching and personal learning. I take the role of teachers to be meddlers in each student’s personal learning environments and to do so by using dynamic ways of understanding where each student might be with their learning and finding ways to support that learning.
Stephen Downes clarifies the distinction in this way:

It may be preferably to embrace an alternative to personalized learning, which might be called personal learning. In the case of personal learning, the role of the educational system is not to provide learning, it is to support learning. Meanwhile, the decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and where to learn are made outside the educational system, and principally, by the individual learners themselves.

Photo Credit
Frame Grab Maths Pathway website


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