Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2014
15 Pages, Grade: 1,3
1 Definition of heterogeneity
1.1 Types of heterogeneity in school
2 Heterogeneity in the classroom
3 Blending of TBLT and heterogeneous classes
3.1 Definition of TBLT
3.2 Advantages of TBLT
3.3 TBLT in heterogeneous classroom
5 Works cited
The essay deals with the aspects of human diversity and the ensuing expectations of schools and their teaching. The origin of this discussion is often seen in the criticism of the “ Verschiedenheit der Köpfe1 ” by Johann Friedrich Herbart (*1776 - †1841). As a result, his contemporary Ernst Christian Trapp (*1745 - †1810) claimed the alignment of teaching to the “ Mittelköpfe2 ” . On the basis of these quotes the traditional calibration of teaching towards the average student can be understood; however, the wishful thinking that the standard student reflects the pace of learning and the performance of the entire class is anachronistic and slightly progressive. The divergence of the students has also increased due to age, cognitive performance, motivation and ethnic, cultural and social background. Consequently, in education which is aligned to the hypothetical "Mittelkopf ” , advanced students would be under- challenged while students whose performance level is low, dispute with excessive demands.
The entire German school system is traditionally designed to homogeneity. By avoiding various class alliances, the school policy hopes to achieve an appropriate increase of performance. Mental under- and overload should be avoided by the prevention of heterogeneous learning communities; however, the usefulness of such homogeneous classes is controversial (cf. Herbart In: Tillmann 2004: 6).
The results of national and international comparisons of school systems, as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), led to a rethink in the German school system. The individual support for pupils, including their requirements for teachers, were dedicated much attention to. Most of the secondary classes are heterogeneous classes. All Students bring a variety of skills and abilities to school. In fact, it is not easy to find an appropriate methodical approach to deal with such a constellation.
Learners were divided according to their abilities. The generic term for this is "streaming" (Kelly 1981: 14). Now students with different abilities attend the same class (cf. Rose 1997: 3). In order to meet each student individually and to respond to their needs, new methodological approaches (such as the TBLT approach) must be introduced. The students should be picked up where they stand, so that every student can say at the end of the school day, that he has learned something new (Rose 1997: 3).
“The biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all children as if they were variants of the same individual, and thus to feel justified in teaching them the same subjects in the same ways” (Gardner In: Tomlinson 1999: 9).
On the basis of the statement from Howard Gardner we want to ask: Is differential responsiveness to individual learners helpful to improve learning processes crucially? To answer this question, the paper is organized as follows:
The first chapter provides a definition of heterogeneity and information on different factors which lead to heterogeneity in school. The second chapter reveals the attitude of a teacher in a mixed ability classroom and how he needs to accomplish teaching in a heterogeneous class. The next chapter outlines a possible approach which can be implemented in school to make a classroom a good fit for each learner. First a definition of TBLT (Task-based-language-teaching) is given, then the advantages of this approach are highlighted. Finally, the use of TBLT in heterogeneous classes is made clear. Chapter four sums up all the important points and displays possible renewals of heterogeneity in schools.
The origin of the concept of heterogeneity is found in Greek and means "different birth". In the German Dictionary the meaning is clarified as ungleichartig, anders geartet or fremdförmig (Wenning 2007: 23). These definitions describe the concept of heterogeneity from a general perspective and therefore, are too imprecise for educational science. Only the integration of education allows a pedagogical definition of heterogeneity. Heterogeneity, which is also known as diversity or inequality, is discussed in the current globalized world mainly in the context of school. In school, diversity describes the different learning levels of the students within a learning group (2007: 24). Learners will be described as diversity with respect to differentiated characteristics; such as, intelligence, learning speed and style, motivation and language knowledge (Harmer 2007: 127), which are considered to be relevant for a learning process (Wenning 2007: 24).
Heterogeneity can occur, specifically in the field of education, in various ways. Heterogeneity manifests itself in different motivations, interests, intelligence, learning speed and highly differentiated performance-related results. In the following, a selection of different categories of heterogeneity is presented (Wenning 2007: 24).
- Socio-cultural heterogeneity
Is due to the respective catchment area of the school. In this category, the social skill plays an important role, as well as the personality traits. Those characteristics include, for example, the shyness of a student.
- Migration related heterogeneity
Results from the fact that Germany is an immigration country. Children with immigration background might have linguistic disadvantages because of their non-speaking-German education at home.
- Linguistic heterogeneity
Is caused by the socio-cultural aspects, as well as by the migration-related deviations. Through the different language qualifications students are underor over-qualified in performing a task.
- Age related heterogeneity
Occurs because of children with an immigration background. They are often enrolled later, so teachers have not only to teach classes with a linguistic heterogeneity but also with age-heterogeneity. Another phenomenon which leads to age heterogeneity is great retention in school.
“A different way to learn is what the kids are calling for…All of them are talking about how our one-size-fits all delivery system - which mandates that everyone learn the same thing at the same time, no matter what their individual needs - has failed them” (Sarason In: Tomlinson 1999: 1).
In a heterogeneous classroom, teachers begin where students are. They accept them as individuals and build up on the premise of all students in which they differ in significant ways. Thus, it is necessary that teachers accept and act on the premise; they must be prepared to respond to various interests by using different learning modalities along with several rates of instruction and varied degrees of complexity.
In a mixed ability classroom, teachers ensure that a learner just sees himself as permanent competitors and not other classmates. Students should not feel pressurized by more proficient learners. Teachers in differentiated classes do not assume one right path of learning for all students; they rather provide specific ways for each individual to reach their personal learning goal as quickly as possible without being over- or under challenged. However, these teachers believe that their students still need to be taught to high standards. To implement this, they work ambitiously to guarantee that students think and work harder than they meant to in order to achieve more than they thought they could (Tomlinson 1999: 1-8).
1 Johann Friedrich Herbart (*1776-†1841) in response to the question, which the main problem of teaching is (Quirbach 2009: 4).
2 Ernst Christian Trapp (*1745-†1810) describes the alignment of schooling on the average student (2009: 4).
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