Using menus as a differentiation technique in small multilevel life science and physical science classrooms
Martin, Diane Marie
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Differentiating instruction for classes that include a diverse group of learners can be challenging. In this research project, the use of menus as a differentiation method was studied with two classes at a small, rural school. The first class studied was a 7th-8th grade life science class of 11 students, the second was a 9th-grade physical science class of seven students. Each class was taught four separate units. In two of the units, students were given a list-style menu of activities from which they selected a certain number of their choice to demonstrate their mastery of the unit objectives. The other two were taught using a more traditional mixture of mini-lectures, labs, and written activities in which the entire class received the same assignment. Student mastery of unit objectives, student attitudes towards science in general and their class in particular, and the effects of this teaching method on the classroom teacher were investigated using a range of data collection methods including pre- and post-unit assessments, student written surveys, student oral interviews, and a teacher journal. Although no significant overall trends in student content mastery were observed during this research, the performances of some individual students in both classes were affected negatively by this technique, while others showed a slight improvement in mastery during the treatment units. The majority of students liked having the ability to choose activities and be responsible for their own learning. The researcher intends to use a modified form of the menu-style units in the future, perhaps with a more limited scope and shorter time frame.