Differentiation strategy for online materials

Saqib Akram, a very proactive teacher from Derby High School who uses our online GCSE Applied Business course, emailed us today with some feedback from his students

The wording on all assignment questions eg. Module 1 portfolio A Cameron balloons. All pupils felt that the questions asked could be simplified as they found it difficult to understand. They also felt that question had too much text in them which put them off reading all of the question.

We’ve also had equal but opposite feedback from other teachers who fear that the work does not stretch their students enough to aim for an A*. All entirely normal stuff; students of that course cover the whole ability range and you can’t please everyone. Or can you?

Right from its inception, Paperless School was designed to invisibly manage differentiated material, applying the right level of a course to each student, without involving the teacher in a load of dreary admin. Challenge number one, which with Saqib’s impetus we’ll address over the Summer, is to produce parallel versions of the core course modules.

Challenge number two is more vexing. How do we know each student’s level? To begin with, it’s easy. We simply ask the teacher to predict that student’s grade. But what if the student improves? Or backslides?

We could use each student’s current marks to determine a level, perhaps. But then one fluke good grade could bunk the student up into a level where they flounder, or vice-versa. Perhaps an average over the last three assignments would be enough to demonstrate a level that was both current and sustainable. We’re going to have to experiment widely with this before we get it right, I think. Until then, it will still be down to Saqib and his colleagues to periodically update the system’s knowledge of his students’ abilities.

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