Differentiating Instruction in the Forensics Classroom

Differentiating Instruction in the Forensics Classroom

Tracy L. Mulvaney, Kathryn L. Lubniewski
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9631-8.ch016
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This chapter will discuss differentiated instruction within the STEAM classroom. An example of a differentiated instruction case that was used in a Forensics Science class will be referenced. The case study focuses on fingerprint recovery, identification, and classification. After a series of lessons about the science of fingerprinting, a mock crime scene is set up to allow students the opportunity to become forensic scientists. Students use the forensic tools to recover them, and then identify and classify them using the process taught through direct and supplemental instruction. Some issues with differentiating instruction that arise are professional development around differentiated instruction, the time it takes to differentiate (amount of planning), lack of classroom time to complete projects, and lack of support or collaboration with key stakeholders are discussed.
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Literature Review

Students differ from one another socially, academically, physically, cognitively, and emotionally. They also learn differently (Gregory & Chapman, 2007). Teachers can no longer just “teach the lesson” and hope that everyone understands. It important to first take into consideration who each learner is, their readiness levels, interests, preferred learning styles, and strengths and needs (Tomlinson, 2005). This is the first step in differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction allows all students to access the same classroom curriculum by providing accommodations tailored to meet their individual needs (Tomlinson, 2005; Watts-Taffe, Laster, Broach, Marinak, Connor & Walker-Dalhouse, 2012). After teachers know, understand, and assess each learner, it is critical to use that information to design instruction. This can be done through curriculum compacting, grouping, and adjustments to students’ learning.

Curriculum compacting is a strategy that can be used if a student has already mastered the content; the teacher then designs the instruction to “dive in deeper” or “compacts it” and moves on to the next skill (Gregory & Chapman, 2007; Logan, 2011). If, for example, a first-grade lesson’s is to use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns, the student should be able to identify and discuss patterns like how the sun and moon rise in one part of the sky and move across the sky. To compact the curriculum, the teacher would design “deeper instruction” where the student collects data on specific times that the sun rises or data on the location of the sunrise and sunset. The other option for curriculum compacting would be for the teacher to move the student on to the next skill within the curriculum. For example, if they mastered that topic, then the teacher would move the student onto making observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year (since this is the next-generation science standard) or the next standard in the curriculum.

An important feature in differentiated instruction is the use of flexible grouping and different grouping strategies. The best instruction is when students have a balance of working alone, with a partner, and in small flexible groups. Flexible grouping means students are mixed with other students based on their ability and interest level. By incorporating flexible grouping, students “maximize their learning time based on their performance levels” (Gregory & Chapman, 2007). The critical components in flexible grouping are that students work with a variety of their peers, and the groups are not always the same. There are a variety of grouping strategies (see Figure 1: Differentiated Grouping Strategies), and based on content the teacher can determine if another grouping strategy would better meet the needs of the students.

Figure 1.

The final step in differentiated instruction is making adjustments to students’ learning. Teachers can accomplish this by making adjustments to the content, process, and product. Differentiating the content means identifying “what we teach or what we want students to learn” (Tomlinson, 2005). There are two ways to differentiate the content: one is adapting “what” is taught. For example, I’m teaching a sixth-grade science class about the solar system. I can differentiate the content because I may have some students first reviewing and relearning the characteristics about the earth while others are working on all of the planets together, in turn, differentiating “what” they learned. The second way to differentiate content is to adapt “how we give students access to what we want them to learn” (Tomlinson, 2005). For example, in the same science lesson, some students may be reading about the solar system on a sixth grade–level text; some are watching a movie; and others are reading on a fifth-grade level, and the access is adapted to how they are acquiring the information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Whorls: A friction ridge pattern of the fingerprint when some of the ridges make a turn through at least one circuit.

Arches: Ridges in a fingerprint that creates a wave-like pattern and runs from one side to the other, making no backward turn.

Curriculum Compacting: A strategy that can sometimes be used if a student has already mastered the content, the teacher then designs the instruction to “dive in deeper” or “compacts it” and moves on to the next skill.

Loops: Part of a fingerprint that recurves back on themselves to form a loop shape.

Accommodation: A change to the environment or curriculum without changing the objective.

Adaptation: A change in the environment or curriculum that allows the learner more appropriate access to learning based on his or her abilities and needs. An adaptation can be an accommodation or modification.

Anthropometry Method: Designed by Alphonse Bertillon, began in 1890 and lasted approximately 20 years before being replaced by fingerprint identification.

Bertillon Method: An anthropometric system of physical measurements of body parts, especially components of the head and face, to produce a detailed description of an individual.

Collaboration: When at least two individuals work together towards a common goal.

Differentiated Instruction: A proactive approach to meeting individual’s abilities and needs.

Scaffolding Instruction: A process where teachers model or demonstrate how to solve a problem, then step back, and offer support as needed.

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