As a teacher in practice you will see there is individual learner differences. So as a teacher you have to be aware of this and understand to accommodate differences in learners. As teachers we teach based on the learner ability called the learner-centered approach. We have to be able to identify differences that are not apparent immediately like:
- Intelligence or overall cognitive ability
- Cognitive development in younger learners are hard to spot as they are still so young
- Students language proficiency levels
- Students motivation for language study
- Students personality traits
- Students learning strengths, styles and preferences
Because of the wide of individual learner differences, we as teacher must have a variety of teaching approaches and techniques. As teachers we can:
- Change the language input along with the content and delivering the medium
- Change the learner task
- Teach different learning strategies
- Make the student responsible for their learning
- Make use of group work when needed
An example of teaching to individual learning differences is to use a popular English song (context: mass media) to learn the language. The class would be divided into groups based on their individual learner differences by the teacher. The groups will then accordingly to told to perform different tasks based on their strengths and weakness in language to improve their language skill. For example one group would create a music video and act it out, another group wrote a personal story behind the theme of the song, another group drew a picture about the song and gave an explanation of it and another group changed the words of the song. Depending on the group’s strengths and weaknesses, each group performed a task that helped them understand the song in English and helped the other groups by performing/presenting it. A number of language skills were used, listening, speaking, writing, music, drawing and drama.
Another way to accommodate individual learning differences is to use the SEAR approach which stands for Student English Access Room. As teacher using the learner-centered approach, we can allow the student to learn at their own pace by giving them access to choices to do a variety of tasks using many available resources in a designated room or area of a room. Students can go by themselves or work in groups to these rooms while the teacher can can work on other students or groups. These rooms/areas have clear instructions that student can follow and understand alone. If a task is too difficult, the student has other easier options to master before moving forward.
As a teacher, the SEAR approach will maximize student development as each student can will be accounted for in his or her ability and goals as it is centered around their learning. A schedule should be set up by the teacher to where each student or group of student should go to these rooms/areas so each student has access to these rooms and also individualized teacher teachings when appropriate.
Workstations is another approach to individual learning differences. Workstation practices group teamwork language skills through manipulation of a puzzle; another way of learning. This allows teacher to give attention to other students or groups while a group in a workstation tackles a group problem. For example, at a workstation the student can put together a human brain by manipulating understanding the functioning parts of the brain or another body part, another example is to understand magnetism through the use of magnets, or put sentences together to form a paragraph.
Though the above approaches help to aid in individual learning differences, a class project to unite the student learning together would ask students to count the number of different animals they see during the weekend and prepare a graph to represent what they saw. Counting and labelling is a good activity for whole classroom learning involvement; good vocabulary task. Students can be asked to see how many and types of animals, plants and trees, types of sport they play or watch, TV shows they enjoy, during trips or while they are not in school to count and graph.
It is the responsibility of the teacher to accommodate individual learning differences by using a variety of approaches mentioned above. As teachers we have to teach to the learner’s ability in a learner-centered approach and provide different tasks that the student is able to do alone or within groups while giving special attention to individuals as needed. In addition, to include every student in a simple to do “Count the number of X” task so each student is accounted for and takes responsibility.