Today in my class we talked about differentiating lessons. Several students were concerned about labeling students and the "tyranny of low expectations". I don't think I did a very good job explaining the concept. I ended the lesson early, feeling defeated.
When I got home I decided to watch Dancing with the Stars. I am just going to admit that I LOVE THIS SHOW. The premise of the show for those who have been locked up writing in a library. Is that professional dancers are paired with "celebrities" and each week the professionals teach their partner a new dance. The couples then perform the dance for a panel of judges, a live studio audience, and the viewers at home. The judges rate the dances on a scale of 1 to 10 and the audience votes for their favorite. Each week one couple gets eliminated.
As I was watching, it occurred to me that this show is an excellent example of differentiating instruction. Here's why...
First, each week the celebrity must learn a new skill (a different dance). The second, it that the job of the professional to design and teach the dance to the celebrity. Each dance must include certain elements (kicks, steps, etc), the judges look for these elements and others which are marks of good dancing in general (style, grace, musicality, etc.). At the end of each dance, there is an evaluation of the performance and the judges use the criteria to assign a score.
Of course, the metaphor doesn't always Reality television and education are very different. Besides the budget and the costumes, the most major difference is that on the show each week one contestant is eliminated and at the end there can only be one winner. Which is ironic, since the whole goal of differentiation is to facilitate success for everyone.