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Aimee Eberhard



Definitions of Differentiation and Inclusion
Differentiation occurs when teachers consider individual learning needs and assist students to tailor the content,
process, product and/or learning environment, so that all students may reach common learning objectives or goals
(Lecture 1). Teachers need to be able to identify that students are diverse learners and therefore there is a need for
differentiation. It is important that teachers are able to implement differentiation with a purpose for individual learner
needs. To be able to differentiate effectively in the classroom there are many different elements to consider. The most
important element is the students themselves and who the students are as people, ultimately imagining oneself in
their shoes, to help understand how they can be assisted (Jarvis, 2017A). As Tomlinson and Jarvis (2009) communicate
differentiation comes from a teachers response to learner differences, guided by key principals, applied to classroom
elements, through the use of strategies for teaching/classroom practice. It is all of these elements being addressed in
the classroom which leads to effective differentiation.

The basis for all of these concepts and strategies comes back to the three underlying pillars of differentiation;
philosophy, principle and practice (Jarvis, 2017A). Philosophy is the mindset and approach. A strong philosophy should
accept diversity as normal, believe that every learner has the potential to be successful and achieve, and work towards
removing barriers to encourage inclusion. Principles act as the foundation for practice. They can be imagined as the
theory of how differentiation can work, such as respectful tasks or clear learning objectives, and can be applied to any
differentiated classroom. Practices are the creative strategies implemented in the classroom, such as using flexible
grouping, allowing choice of seating options or addressing student readiness or interest (Jarvis, 2017A).

Inclusion is something that every student deserves no matter their diversity. Inclusion means that all students have a
sense of belonging and Ainscow and Miles (2009) also suggest it is about presence, participation and learning progress.
Ultimately inclusion is about the teacher being on the same side as students, and being there to support them. Ainscow
and Miles (2009) suggestions for inclusion need to all be addressed in the classroom for successful inclusion. This
means students actively participating, being both physically and mentally present, having the opportunity
predominantly through ongoing assessment to track their individual learning progress, and having ownership of their
learning environment to create a sense of belonging (Frances, 2017). Recognising and removing or addressing barriers
are also important for an inclusive environment. This means that a student shouldnt be excluded or judged in any way
due to barriers such as disabilities, home life, mental barriers, cultural backgrounds, English as a second language or
any others. It is the role of an educator to ensure that all students are provided with the opportunity to feel included,
and differentiation is one strategy that can be implemented to ensure this.

I believe differentiation and inclusion need to always work together to be successful, and I imagine it represented like
image 1 below. The first scene can be related to a blanket classroom where everybody is given the same tasks and
support and expected to succeed, however some students may struggle in this situation to reach the learning
objective. The second scene can be related to multiple entry points allowed by differentiation so that all students can
achieve the same learning objective. Support is given in different ways as each individual is diverse. The third and final
scene can be related to differentiation and inclusion working together. Barriers have been removed so that all students
have a sense of belonging and may access respectful tasks and achieve the same learning objective at a readiness level
catered to their needs. The final scene is what differentiation should look like, however there still needs to be support
from the teacher, which is what the fence is representing for me.
Aimee Eberhard

Image 1 (Imgarcade, 2017)

Differentiation and inclusion are important concepts to consider in the professional role as a teacher of diverse
learners. It is clear that a blanket or one-size-fits-all approach does not equate to effective teaching. Applying the
concepts of differentiation and inclusion in a classroom would mean that there is ongoing assessment occurring to
monitor student progress, and show students their personal growth. Along with this a growth mindset would be
instilled in the classroom environment as a focus on the learning journey is important and appropriate challenge is
necessary, along with teaching students the power of yet (Jarvis, 2017B). It will be important to use assessment
strategies as well as strong student teacher relationships to differentiate for student readiness, interest and learner
profile. Providing resources and opportunities for student choice within these will allow for students to take ownership
of their learning. Many practical, respectful tasks will also encourage student engagement.

School Diversity and Inclusion Profile

Student Differences Addressed in the Classroom:
I completed my placement in two year 6/7 classrooms in a school located in a low socio-economic area. Across both
classes was a very diverse student cohort, and some commonly addressed student differences were:
Students with diagnosed learning difficulties
Students with suspected learning difficulties
A student with a hearing impairment
Students with English as a second language
A student working academically above his year level
Students with difficult home lives (which quite often affected their behaviour or academic performance)
Students with diagnosed behavioural difficulties
Students also had many different social differences
Student fixed mindset

These types of differences were identified through observation and professional discussions with my mentor teachers.

Student Differences Impact on the Learning Environment:

In this classroom setting differences impacted on the whole learning environment, for example negative behaviour
would disrupt learning, struggling students would occupy teacher time or there was a struggle to always engage all
students. It is always advertised that differences and diversity should be celebrated and this should apply to the
classroom environment, so all students feel included. However in this classroom setting many differences started to
have a negative effect on the learning environment, so the struggle is how can they all be turned to a positive light?
To overcome a negative spiral, student diversity should inform the way content is tailored and planned for in individual
classes. The Australian Curriculum caters for flexibility to address student diversity through personalised learning
Aimee Eberhard
(ACARA, 2017), which shows support for teachers. Teacher planning for personalised learning will help to support
student diversity, which comes back to inclusion, which could impact positively on the classroom environment.

Response to Student Differences:

Student differences are approached and considered respectfully and thoroughly by teachers and other staff. Within
the primary school, staff cohort groups worked really well to support each other through planning and sharing
resources. Student diversity is typically responded to on a whole class scale, where strategies with a specific student
in mind is used to support the routine of the classroom. For example one student was having a rough time at home
and not getting much sleep, so Smiling Minds was introduced to the students where they could use the time to practice
mindfulness and relax or catch up on some sleep.

The school has many programs that support a wide variety of diverse students with the strongest being culture around
sport, music and performing arts, which is also supported by the high school staff. Students have abundant
opportunities to participate in and practice acting, various sports and musical instruments. The school also has a long-
running exchange program through their various offered languages and hosts international students who come to the
school to complete part of their education. Showing support on a whole school scale to a wide variety of programs
encourages diversity.

There is a lot of support offered to students through SSOs and other programs, such as social skills, and also student
counselling. The school uses strong restorative approaches to student conflict, which during my time on placement I
saw it have a positive effect on student interaction after conflict.

Approach to Student Diversity and Inclusion:

My placement schools mission statement is Inspiring Success, and they also expand upon this to list their core beliefs
about learning (appendix 1). As a school they acknowledge that all students can learn (REC, 2016) and that students
learn best in a positive learning environment with strong student-teacher relationships. They believe that engagement
can lead to success and know that it is important to understand individual student needs to cater learning experiences
for them. These points from their core beliefs about learning can be related to the pillars of differentiation. The overall
tone of these beliefs show a positive mindset towards differentiation and that students are considered as individuals
that can succeed and the learning environment is important to the process. From these recorded beliefs there seems
to be a lack around the pillars of inclusion. There is no recognition of the diversity of students or the importance to
create a sense of belonging.

Observations and Impressions:

One aspect to strive for inclusion which really impressed me was the use of SSO support one of my mentor teachers
implemented. One of the year six boys did not respond well to being taken out of the classroom for his wave 3
support. The students spelling writing skills are extremely low for his age and it was evident he needed this focused
support to improve. My mentor teacher created opportunities so that the SSO could work within the classroom and
created respectful tasks so that this student was able to work on his spelling and writing skills, and was still engaged
with tasks as he was not being singled out, he was having fun and learning with his peers. This to me shows
consideration for the students learning profile and creating a learning environment that he is going to succeed in.
Other students in the class still had learning objective, however through differentiation goals were able to be met for
all students readiness level.

I felt that my ten week placement gave me a wonderful insight and snapshot into how the school functions. Whilst
observing how the school practiced their philosophy embodied in their mission statement it was evident there was a
strong focus on achieving success in learning. Within classrooms learning journeys were focused on, however
aesthetically there was the tendency to show the successes, which I believe sends a contradictory message, as
mistakes are okay, and the journey as well as the outcome must be celebrated. When it comes to the pillars of
differentiation I felt just the surface was being touched. Speaking for the 6/7 learning team I worked within it seemed
that differentiation was considered providing opportunities for different levels to engage. I felt there wasnt a clear or
coherent approach towards differentiation and it was left to individual teachers to do what they felt was right. As a
soon to graduate teacher I would feel more comfortable to approach differentiation in my classroom with further
Aimee Eberhard
support from experienced colleges, however with a scrambled approach I feel like it could over complicated the

I felt that there were many strategies in place to support inclusion, however they were not reflected in their mission
or vision statements. The first two weeks of school at the beginning of the year were spent getting to know students
and allowing students to create their classroom environment. This time really allowed for students to create their
sense of belonging, which has continued throughout the year. There is a strong emphasis on student voice at the
school and a growth mindset focus is evident in most classrooms. Within my two placement classes students were
always encouraged to participate and student well-being was always checked upon to ensure that students were also
mentally present within the classroom. There is a strong emphasis on learning progress, which shows a strong
connection to differentiation pillars. Ongoing assessment is used and evaluated so that students can evaluate their
learning journey. There is open communication between parents and teachers to assist students and 3-way interviews
were run by students to ensure ownership of the process and focus could be given to student goals.

Professional Reflections
Differentiated Strategies and Successful Factors:
Taking on feedback from assignment 1 and 2 I was able to have a go at implementing them within one of my classes.
I felt my choice board activity for my novel study was very successful. I used pre-activities to assess readiness level and
tier students from this. Each tier was given a choice board, and all tasks were respectful. Students were engaged
throughout completing it and having choice over their learning provided a wonderful foundation for the engagement.

Throughout my placement I used ongoing assessment, and this was particularly strong throughout my narrative unit.
Students completed a pre-assessment and I used exit cards and other methods to track their progress throughout
learning activities. Students were excited to complete a self-assessment at the end of their summative assessment
task to reflect on what they had learnt and how their writing had improved since their pre-assessment.

One of the subjects I taught whilst on placement was science, with a focus on natural disasters. After some explicit
introductory teaching I set the students an individual assessment task where they would explore different questions
about natural disasters. I was egger to try and differentiate the assignment for interest so that students could engage
with the content, as they would have 6 weeks to complete the assignment. Students could choose the natural disaster
they would like to focus on for their assignment and how they would like to present their information

One of my mentor teachers used WALT (we are learning to) and WILF (what I am looking for) and I thought it was a
really explicit way to structure learning objectives for students. I believe it is really important to share learning
objectives with students, so they feel there is purpose to their learning and can track their learning journey. Using the
WALT and WILF language with students also created a familiar routine. I was sure to use strategies such as exit cards
and thumb indications so that both myself and students could evaluate learning, always bringing it back to the WALT.

Challenging Factors:
Time and environmental influences were challenging factors when it came to differentiation whilst on placement. I
found the planning and marking load extremely heavy being across two upper primary classes, which was a lot more
than I had previously been exposed to on placement. I found myself going I could have implement this type of
differentiated task here however I found myself blocked by my mentor teachers and schools differentiation
understanding. At my placement school differentiation doesnt seem as complex as I have discovered throughout this
topic. Within tasks, if different levels were provided to students either by choice, or a task 1 then a more challenging
task 2 approach it was praised by leadership as differentiation. This was very conflicting for me as students were
engaging and being challenged, however no strategies I had learnt about in this topic were being implemented.
Evaluating their approach against the philosophy, principles and practices communicated in this topic and readings to
me made it evident that although they were practicing differentiation, it was not a comprehensive approach.
However it was wonderful to be supported by my mentor teachers of the differentiation strategies I was able to try.

Personal Differentiation Goals:

Aimee Eberhard
Upon reflecting on my differentiation experiences on placement I cannot wait to get back into a classroom to continue
improving my teaching practice with diverse learners, as for me the more exposure and practice I can gain the better.
I would like to keep building my confidence with having a go at implementing differentiated tasks, and to only focus
on positive influences by colleagues on this journey. I would like to work more on identifying and removing barriers
within a classroom to encourage belonging and continue to provide opportunities for students to influence the
classroom environment. Flexible grouping was something I wish I was able to practice more on placement, so a goal I
would like to set for myself is to implement flexible grouping in my future classroom. Just as I would view my students
learning as a journey, I view my experiences with differentiation and inclusion a journey and look forward to finding
what practices I can successfully implement with my students and continuing to mould my overall teaching philosophy.

It is evident to me that differentiation is an extremely complex concept, with many different elements needing to work
together to make it effective for all students. It has been wonderful to jump into having a go with various
differentiation strategies whilst on placement, however, when I have my own classroom I would like to implement
differentiation on a larger scale. I love the concept of students taking ownership of their own learning, so I would hope
that I could work towards setting up differentiation in my classroom so that students can work in flexible groups that
create a supportive environment for students. I would hope that I would be able to put into practice more of the
classroom practice strategies shown to us throughout this topic as it has been helpful to gain practical examples. I can
see that implementing differentiation can be a big task in a classroom, but I hope to break it down to be able to
implement it with purpose. Putting in effort will help to achieve the intended results, and I hope nothing more than
to see all of my future diverse learning achieve in their own individual learning journeys.
Aimee Eberhard
Appendix 1: Placement School Core Beliefs About Learning

Our Core Beliefs about Learning 1. We know that all students can learn and that we have the responsibility of
assisting them to reach their full potential 2. We know that they learn best when there are strong, positive
relationships between staff and students and when they are in a safe, caring and respectful environment, and that it
is our responsibility to provide this. 3. We know that when students are engaged in the learning process they will be
successful and that it is our responsibility to understand each child so that we can construct appropriate learning
experiences with them. 4. We know that the curriculum we provide for our students must be rigorous for this will
enhance our students learning. 5. We also know that our students learning is enhanced by support from their
parents/caregivers and our community and that we have a responsibility to facilitate connections between our
school, their families and community. 6. We know that committed interactive teams across all levels of school
enhance student learning and achievement and we have a responsibility to establish an environment in our school
that supports teachers working together (REC, 2016).

Reference List
ACARA. (2017). Student Diversity. Retrieved 6 July 2017, from

Ainscow, M., & Miles, S. (2009). Developing inclusive education systems: How can we move policies forward?
Published at:
Education_Systems .pdf

Frances, J. (2017). Foundations of Inclusion and Differentiation. Workshop Presentation, Flinders University.

Imgarcade. (2017). Equality Vs Equity Cartoon Retrieved 6 July 2017, from

Jarvis, J. (2017). Differentiation for Diverse Learners. Lecture, Flinders University. (A)

Jarvis, J. (2017). Foundations of Inclusion and Differentiation. Lecture, Flinders University. (B)

REC. (2016). School Context Statement. Adelaide South. Retrieved from

Tomlinson, C. A., & Jarvis, J. M. (2009). Differentiation: Making curriculum work for all students through responsive
planning and teaching. In J. S. Renzulli, E. J. Gubbins, K. S. McMillen, R. D. Eckert & C. A. Little (Eds.), Systems and
models for developing programs for the gifted and talented (2nd ed., pp. 599- 628). Mansfield, CT: Creative Learning