The workshop model only works well if the teacher fully understands and meets the needs of every student. In traditional educational models, students are assessed at the end of units and their overall score or grade indicates their “skill level.” This big picture approach does not help the student or teacher to improve student learning. Instead, Kavod Elementary uses ongoing assessments to identify precisely how our students are performing. Think of it this way. In the past, at the end of a math unit on addition, “Johnny” scores a 60% on the test, indicating that he mastered 60% of the unit. “Johnny” is behind, but all we can tell him is to “work harder.” At Kavod Elementary, teachers review student work daily to identify what the challenges are for students as they work to master skills and strategies. During a workshop, the teacher may observe that “Johnny” is able to count to 20 and add single digit numbers with great mastery but has trouble adding double-digit numbers. The teacher can focus Johnny’s work on mastering the double-digit addition instead of repeating work in the area he has already mastered.
We call this approach “differentiated instruction” because the teacher provides different—targeted—instruction to each student based on the student’s skills and needs.