This statement by one of the teachers participating in our research sums up the essence of this project, which was based on the idea that teaching must be differentiated, i.e., rooted in an understanding of students’ specific characteristics and needs.
In collaboration with six teachers and an educational advisor, we co-constructed tools for understanding students and their writing needs, which the participants then tested with their students. More specifically, their relationship to writing served as a starting point for this process, and guided the teachers in adapting projects they were already working on by integrating differentiated practices or building new ones.
Based on the perceptions of the teachers and students interviewed for this research, the differentiated practices they tried out contributed to a marked improvement in motivation and task engagement, as well as an increase in academic performance. Greater concentration during writing tasks, longer texts, greater ease in finding interesting ideas, greater respect for the writing intention and a more adequate text structure were the most important effects observed by teachers, in addition to improvements in spelling and syntax. Teachers also perceived a more systematic and effective use of work strategies such as finding information on a given topic, managing available resources, managing the task as a whole, and managing emotions while completing the task.
These encouraging results allow us to recommend that the implementation of differentiated practices be supported by professional development mechanisms that benefit from the potential of partnerships between the practice and research environments.
Mirela Moldoveanu, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: July 2020