I am frequently critical of the prevailing model of American schooling in part because it fails to adequately differentiate for individual student learning needs and interests. Practicing educators know this. The challenge of differentation is huge: how do you take a diverse group of 20-30 kids who share little but the same chronical age and design a learning experience that meets them at the level of their readiness and also responds to their unique learning style, personality, and personal interests?
The truth is, we can do a lot better at this, even within the confines of traditional schooling structures. It's not easy, but the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson makes it clear that better differentiation is within the reach of most teachers and schools.
But even the best teachers will struggle to provide meaningful differentation in classrooms that are structured as they are in the vast majority of schools. That's why I think, if we want to get beyond the rigid, uninspiring, one-size-fits-all structure of schools, we have to imagine a totally different kind of learning environment, with a different kind of teacher-student and student-student relationship, and a different kind of approach to curriculum and assessment. I think this could happen in three different ways:
Ultimately, rethinking the whole notion of "school" is fundamental to offering meaningful differentation.