2 What Primary Sources Teach DIFFERENTIATION: HOW WE GOT HERE The importance of differentiation within an instructional context is illus- trated by understanding the changing philosophies regarding teaching. In his seminal Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire critiques the deeply rooted banking method of education. Freire identifies a “banking” classroom dynamic in which the educator is seen as an all-knowing, dominant holder of information who intends to fill students with that information (Freire 2017, 45). The banking method distinctly defines teacher/student roles and is robotic in its implementation. The premise that the educator knows every- thing while the students know nothing is hugely problematic, as it strips agency from the latter. In this context, the educator holds all responsibility for learning choices, including curriculum and content the students’ respon- sibility is to comply and adapt (Freire 2017, 46). This relationship, in which the educator holds all the power and the students are compliant, is flawed and unbalanced and can produce harmful learning outcomes. By contrast, Freire proposes the concepts of praxis and conscientization that are particularly relevant to discussion of differentiation. Praxis suggests that individuals learn not only by talking (or being talked at), but also through continual processes of putting what they have learned into practice, critically reflecting on this practice, and then adapting as necessary. This process leads to conscientization, which is the development of a critical awareness of the space one inhabits through deconstruction of dominant social narra- tives that may obscure true realities and needs (“Concepts Used By Paulo Freire”). This is often referred to in educational contexts today as critical consciousness. Differentiation, as a way of teaching, asks us to overcome banking’s educa- tional paradigm by disrupting the myth that students absorb information by merely showing up. Carol Tomlinson, a key figure in the movement for differ- entiated education, writes with Marcia Imbeau that differentiation requires us to try things, reflect on whether they worked, and adapt this falls in line with Freire’s process of praxis (Tomlinson and Imbeau 2011, 13). Differentia- tion does not ask us to change the content we teach, but to provide multiple ways for students to access, interact with, make sense of, and demonstrate mastery of content (Tomlinson and Imbeau 2011, 16). Teaching with archival sources provides a natural opening for differentiated instruction thanks to the assortment of archival sources available and their ability to supply vari- ous entry points for accessing and interacting with concepts. The term scaffolding is frequently used within the context of differentia- tion. It occurs when educators add various supports (a vocabulary list, for example) to help their students understand and master a task. These sup- ports are temporary and adjustable. The end goal is for students to under- stand the task without the added supports (“What is instructional scaffolding” 2021). The line between differentiation and scaffolding is often blurred and many educators have trouble articulating which of these concepts they are utilizing. It is helpful to think of scaffolding as a tool for differentiation not all differentiation is scaffolding, but all scaffolding serves the purpose of differentiation.
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