Guru Drona’s Differentiated Classroom
When one speaks of differentiated instruction, the first name that pops into my mind is Carol Ann Tomlinson. Known as the guru of differentiated instruction, it is said she was the first one who actually talked about DI almost two decades ago. Teachers were urged to differentiate instruction in three areas namely content (What is taught), process (How it is taught), and product (How it will be assessed) keeping in mind the student’s readiness, interest and learning profile. It’s all given in much detail in Tomlinson’s classic book The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. She has very simply described differentiation as “Simply a teacher attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small groups of students, rather than teaching a class as though all individuals in it were basically alike.” I think of it more as a jigsaw puzzle where the varying needs of the students are the pieces. It’s hard work to fit the pieces together but once you’re are done, it makes for a beautiful picture.
What I have noticed is that differentiated instruction has become quite the buzzword these days. It’s been discussed in conferences and workshops, and teachers are being urged to incorporate DI strategies into daily instruction. However, I don’t think it is a novel idea that has popped in this century. In fact, it dates back to the days when Dronacharya was in charge of educating the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Guru Drona recognized the strengths of each of the Pandavas and was astute enough to tutor them accordingly. He worked meticulously to build up Arjun’s gift for archery and Bheem’s mace-wielding skills. He encouraged Yudhishthira in his pursuit of spiritual knowledge and Nakul and Sahadev to become great swordsmen. All the Pandavas were taught all the subjects but the wise Guru Drona understood the power of differentiation and did precisely what Carol Tomlinson advocates. He tailored instruction to meet their individual needs and fuel motivation. Differentiation calls for a teacher to have a clear understanding of not only the learning goals but also one’s students so that the teaching-learning process can be crafted to ensure student engagement and understanding. I believe, Dronacharya did exactly that!
It’s Teachers’ Day and it’s only natural that I should dedicate my blog to this ancient sage who understood the fundamentals of learning all those centuries ago.