After attending a class on "differentiation and inclusive classrooms" this past Wednesday, I was left still struggling with a question that one might think would have been answered by the class itself: What really is differentiation? That question is really a big way of asking a lot of other, more specific questions that I have swimming in my head: what does differentiation look like, how can I do more of it, am I already doing it in ways I'm not conscious of, is differentiation about the teacher or the learner (or both!), what factors inhibit effective differentiation, and so on and so on.
One thing that I took away from the class was the idea that behavior is a factor in differentiation. I think I understand that to mean that, for example, student-teacher interactions should be unique to each student - which, of course, they are inherently - and that our cognizance of how those interactions affect students (academically, socially, psychologically) is crucial to making the most of our relationships with them. This means knowing students well is part of differentiating our own behavior towards them and helping them direct their own behavior in productive, successful ways.
Does this seem accurate? I know I can point to examples in my own class of ways that I have used to motivate certain students that didn't work to motivate others, so is this differentiation? And I can recall the point when I started putting more pictures on my handouts because one of my failing students told me he remembers images better than words (he can still remember the names of painters and paintings we discussed two months ago, but he can never recall what year World War II ended). Is this differentiation, even though it's now a strategy I use with all students and not just him?
I'm really eager to get the answers to these questions. I don't know how to point to my own practice and say, "Yes, that is differentiation," or "This project/lesson/assignment needs to be better differentiated," so it's difficult to replicate what works well and/or revise what needs help.