The following is a blog post by Elyse Haber, a graduate of the Online Certiifcate Program in Differentiated Instruction, reflecting on her experience:
I just completed the online YU certificate program on Differentiated Instruction and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience. I have been an English and math teacher at Hebrew Academy Elementary in Montreal since I graduated university in 1992. What I have learned after being in the classroom for twenty years is that I still have a lot to learn! I was asked by my principal if I would be interested in taking the DI courses and I was very happy to have the opportunity. Having never taken a course online, I was a little apprehensive about it, but it was very simple and the instructors were all very helpful if I had a tech question.
As teachers, we are all told that we are suppose to differentiate our lessons to reach different learners, but the truth is, very few of us know how to do that properly. These courses have made me look at my teaching practices and helped me see how to make them better, how to reach different learners. The first course gave us the theory behind why we should differentiate and then HOW to differentiate. For me, this was the key part. I understood why I should differentiate but I finally had the tools that I needed to be able to differentiate in a meaningful way. We learned different differentiating techniques and then how to apply them to what we are currently doing in the classroom. It didn’t matter if you were teaching grade 11 mishna or grade one English and math, everything was relevant to what we were doing. We had to really think about what we do in our classes, what we want our classes to look like and how we want our classes to evolve. I think that the forums were my favorite part of the experience. Teachers from all different schools, teaching all different grade levels and subjects, coming together to discuss ideas, give each other advice and encouragement and have wonderful, frank discussions about the difficulties and triumphs in their classrooms.
The second course took the theory that we learned from the first course and applied it to one specific project that we were working on. We used the DI techniques to reach all of our students in new, creative and stimulating ways. I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment about what I was seeing happening in my class. By setting a goal, and making learning accessible to all my students, I saw a huge difference in the motivation level of all the different learners that I had.
The last part of the course was very interesting. We were put in groups of four and we worked together looking at different case studies, seeing what wasn’t working in those classes, and coming up with lessons using DI tools to improve the quality of the lessons. It was a great experience to work with different teachers who all had different strengths and contributed different ideas for each project. We learned a lot from each other.
One of the biggest things that I got out of this year, was understanding the different learning styles of my students. The DI courses made me look closely at my teaching, and at my students’ needs. It made me realize that I had to challenge my advanced students and help my weaker ones achieve our goals. It showed me how important differentiating instruction is, and that it’s not as hard as it seems. Most importantly, it taught me HOW to differentiate in a way that’s meaningful and effective.
Thank you to the wonderful, helpful instructors and administrators of this certificate program. I hope to be able to take another one of your courses soon.
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