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Differentiated Instruction in a pandemic takes on a new meaning

Education at the core works to meet the individual needs of each student, both in a one-on-one setting and in a group setting; however, in the global crisis of COVID-19, the term “differentiated instruction” takes on a whole new meaning.

Now, not only do educators have to be sure that they meet the individualized needs of students, but they also have to work through the differences of modality present in the student’s virtual world.

For some students, virtual learning has been relatively seamless. They have access to stable high-speed internet. Computers are present in the home and parents are ready and available for support and guidance.

There are others, however, that find at home instruction to be a struggle. Technology isn’t readily available. Parents are working and have little time to oversee the educational process. And of course, there are some students who fall somewhere in the middle. These wide range of “starting points” have made it especially challenging for educators, parents, and most importantly, the children. Some parents want the instruction to have more rigor, wanting their child to maximize the time at home learning new material. On the other hand, other parents find the at home learning process very stressful and seemingly prefer that the school year wrap up sooner rather than later and be done until the Fall. Both points are valid and understandable, and that’s where the challenge lies for schools: how to find that middle ground.

That challenge will become even more difficult as we face the uncertainty of how to operate schools in the Fall, assuming the pandemic is still the threat that it is today. Some parents are likely going to resist sending their children back to a regular classroom setting until they believe it is 100% safe. Others, feeling the pressure from jobs, will need a place for their child to be learning. Again, both sides are valid points, creating that need to find the “perfect middle” that likely doesn’t exist. One thing is clear: educators and decision-makers are going to have to collaborate with all of the stakeholders and experts going forward to come up with the best possible plan. It also will be vital that parents and the community be informed of the plan and how that plan was derived. Effective communication and collaboration will be the cornerstones of the Fall 2020 school plan.

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