Teacher Standards

TS1b & TS5a – Is ‘mastery’ the new differentiation?

TS1b – set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions 

TS5a – know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively 

Teachers from Shangai have a focus on “mastery” as opposed to differentiation
What is the basis? 

  • Pupils are in awe of the teacher’s knowledge and are encouraged to wonder how the teacher worked something out
  • The idea is that their interest will be maintained and they will want to match the level of skill/knowledge
  • Allows teachers to really challenge pupils – with differentiation, teachers can have lower expectations for lower abilities and the potential for deeper learning is often removed due to oversimplifying tasks

My reflections

I agree to a certain extent that children, especially those of lower ability, can often have lower expectations placed on them which would be ineffective in helping them progress. I question however, the idea that children respond better to strict feedback as they just want to get the question right next time. From professional practice I am aware that some children find it difficult to accept when they have made a mistake and I worry that a strict “wrong” would negatively impact their self esteem. Furthermore, whilst I would not advocate ‘false praise’ I deem it necessary to respond empathetic ally and considerately to children so as to create positive relationships.

It is also necessary to consider that this article seems to perceive “differentiation” purely as changing the difficulty of a task, ‘The completion of the task at a lower level is the learner’s modest prize.’ (Blatchford, 2015). I am becoming aware however that this is not the case and teachers can also differentiate by outcome, support and grouping amongst other ways which can benefit lower ability children whilst maintaining high expectations.

BLATCHFORD, R., 2015. Differentiation is out. Mastery is the new classroom buzzword. The Guardian [online]. 1 October. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/oct/01/mastery-differentiation-new-classroom-buzzword


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