Benefits of Differentiation in a Science Lesson for Young Learners in Primary School

Background and Purpose: This study addresses the challenge of engaging diverse learners in primary education settings, focusing on a class of 20 learners aged 8-10 at an international school in Malaysia. These learners came from varied backgrounds, including those with learning disabilities, different levels of English proficiency, and varying prior knowledge in science.

Aims: The aim was to explore the impact of a range of differentiation strategies on student engagement in a science lesson about gravity, considering the diverse needs of the learners.

Design and Methods: The research utilized the Tomlinson model for differentiation, covering content, product, process, and environment. Techniques included differentiated instruction, mixed-ability grouping, and tailored activities. Data collected included lesson observations, a reflective journal, and feedback from a mentor and the learners themselves.

Findings: Differentiation significantly enhanced engagement and inclusivity, allowing learners of all abilities to achieve the lesson's objectives. Feedback indicated that establishing pre-defined roles in group activities, and providing differentiated tasks and instructions contribute to improved learners' understanding and participation.

Implications for Practice: The study suggests that differentiation, when effectively implemented, can cater to the diverse needs of learners, fostering an inclusive and engaging learning environment. This approach could be extended across various subjects and educational contexts to enhance learner engagement and achievement, and could be extended through the use of learning technologies. Peer observation also has the potential to support continuing reflection on practice.
Keywords (free text)
primary education , science , differentiation , engagement
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