EDU649: Week 6 Reflection, Differentiation

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EDU649 Week 6 Reflection, Differentiation

I have been doing something similar to the STEM SOS model in my class. In the STEM SOS model there are tiers of projects that define their scope, sequence, duration, and degree of student agency within the project. From class to class I definitely have different tiers of projects that range from long term independent projects that are fully student guided to shorter task or brief based projects that I prompt students with. The biggest challenge that I have had so far is addressing differentiation within my 9th grade technology foundations class where we don’t have tired projects as outlined in STEM SOS.

Within my Technology and Engineering Foundations course we have 3 project based units and 1 initial drawing skills and communication unit. The latter is typically the first unit of the year and helps me understand how my classified students needs are to be met past just aligning with their paperwork. It also helps me determine what other students in my classes who need support, but may not be classified. Throughout the year we do a lot of designing and making within our shops, the initial unit focused on simple drawing, drafting, and model making quickly help me identify students who I need to support as well as help us create ways of working and asking for help. So far this year we are just moving away from the first unit and I have established ways of working that meet the needs of most of my students.

The challenges typically begin around our first big project, the catapult project. As we shift from graphical communication to research, designing, and building every student requires a varied amount of support. As the first big project is also a group project it is hard at first to see where or when students are struggling. There are two ways I attempt to help my students: one via daily work logs or exit tickets, and two independent research that has clearly outlined objectives. I keep on top of the exit tickets to help guide what I need to cover or reinforce, and I am as explicit as possible in my independent tasks so students stay focused on one segment of the project at a time. Thankfully as I am also going over shop tools and shop safety there is enough time for me to process all of this data and respond.

This year I am also establishing the norm that it is 100% okay to follow tried and true plans for catapults from primary sources. My school is heavily investing in Universal Design for Learning and I have come to the conclusion that making two or three tiers [unrelated to STEM SOS] within a project is ideal. Tier 1 allows students to research and build a siege machine of their choice, using plans they have sourced from a primary source [that I have procured or verified]. Tier 2 allows students to research and design their own siege machine which is a variant of plans they have found. Tier 3 allows students to research and design their own siege machine.

While I do not restrict students to one of the tiers, I am brutally honest in the research phase that all students should be willing to start the project in Tier 1. Tier 2 is a logical next step for those that begin to research and create their own objectives or constraints. While finally Tier 3 is attainable for some driven students, but is essentially a category for students who have experienced building a catapult before. This year in order to make Tier 2 or Tier 3 more accessible to students I have introduced CAD modeling earlier in the year. My goal in this is to allow students to “build” their machines on the computer before fabricating them physically. This will help scaffold some student groups from Tier 1 to Tier 2, and quickly help me identify students in Tier 3 who need support or should maybe focus on Tier 2. So, we’ll see how well this all works this year!