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ED583 Assignment 1 Reflective blog entry

Li-Jean Tsai

First, I have to apology my lateness of assignment one. I gave myself too high
expectation to complete the assignment that I never got the chance to start. I was
allowing myself to put it behind one day after the other. Our Prof was very patient to
encourage me to write before I went back to Taiwan and now even worry about the
second assignment coming up soon which I would face more difficulties to complete
the following assignments.
I appreciate the kindness of the teacher toward his student who should be able to
complete the assignment on time, by oneself, especially at the graduate level. I
behaved like a teenager who faced the difficulties of the assignment and just stuck
there. Finally, I took the courage to write down whatever is in my mind and not to
worry what I wrote may be not good enough to share with others.
Students will explore their own beliefs, positions and experiences with
regards to Differentiation, Personalized Learning or Individualized
Learning.
My experience as a student in Taiwan regards to Differentiation was blur.
Individualized learning was not a common concept in However, I could recall most
students in junior high schools were divided into academic and non-academic
streams based on their past academic performance. About 25-30% of each grade
population selected into academic stream and expected to do well and go beyond in
their academic work unless they were in academic stream. I was fortune enough to
stay in the academic stream during my secondary school years. It helped me
continue my post secondary education successfully. Students with disability would

study in a separated class in order to receive individual education plans or even


attend special education schools depending the severity of the disability.
My role as a guidance teacher for at-risk dropout students regards to personalized
learning was powerless and frustrated. In junior high school level, students and
teachers were under much pressure of National Entrance Examination which would
decide their future high school. Most school teaching was led by the preparation of
the most important final examination at the end of grade ninth which was also one
turning point of student life. Some students decided to spend an extra year of
studying for the entrance examination again just to get a better performance in
order to apply a better high school. Those who were not good at school work
became the marginalized group of the competitive education system. Even though
there was a separated dropout prevention program in regular school particularly
designed for those high risk of dropout students, it still could not reach its goal of
individualized learning for each student due to the cultural expectation and the
value of group instruction approach in school system. I felt something missing in my
teaching and our education system for this group of students. I should do something
different for them. I decided to go to study aboard in USA and look for the missing
puzzle after eight years teaching in junior high school in Taiwan.
I first experienced personalized learning which was valued by teachers when I was a
graduate ESL student in Texas. Individualized learning was not only an educational
concept but also practiced in daily teaching. Teachers made every effort to support
students in class and students were valued individually. Group participation
provided more opportunities for students to succeed at school. Students did not
have to compete each other constantly for proving their own success. That was the
first time that school experience could be relaxed not stressful. I believe the cultural

differences between the East and the West play an important role in the concept of
differentiation.
My belief of differentiation is based on the concern of the best interest of the
individual student. I believe each student has his/her own strengths which is
teachers responsibility to work with students and identify their own strengths. It
allows students build their confidence and self-esteem within themselves which also
allow them to overcome their barriers in learning.
In my teaching, I have more experience with junior high school level both in Taiwan
and PEI. In Taiwan, I was a science teacher first and became a guidance teacher
who worked with at-risk dropouts in a dropout prevention program. In PEI, I worked
as a substitute teacher and educational assistant for past six years which two
groups of students were mainly children with disabilities and ESL learners. Most
students received individual education plan for personal goals, including students
with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, ADHD and Autism. For ESL learners,
they received personalized learning plan particularly for their language acquisition.
From the position of guidance teacher to educational assistant, I do find my passion
to support students to meet their individual needs through teaching. The value of
individualism in the western culture provides me a strong foundation to believe the
human right of each individual to succeed at school. And, I would like to be one of
the advocators for these two particular groups of students, students with disabilities
and ESL learners.