What is Differentiated Instruction?
Differentiated instruction is an educational philosophy which offers a variety of learning options based on students readiness, interests, and learning styles. In a differentiated classroom teachers provide different way for students to learn the curriculum(content), give students choice in the ways they choose to make sense of the content(process), and allow many options for student to showcase what they have learned(product).
Differentiated instruction is based on student centered best practices that make it possible for teachers to create different pathways that respond to meet the diverse needs of each student. How a teacher responds to a learner’s needs is guided by four principles of differentiation.
- Learning Styles: all students are given the opportunity to access the key concepts of the subject being studied. This type of instruction allows for all students to learn at their appropriate level of difficulty and in turn keeps them engaged in the content of the lesson. This allows students to explore the curriculum through different approaches.
- Readiness: on-going assessment of student readiness allows teachers to provide support to students in areas of need by providing different instruction or guidance as well as extending students learning if they are ready to move on.
- Flexible Grouping: in a differentiated classroom there is evidence of flexible grouping. Some will work alone, in pairs, or in groups. Activities may be interest based, readiness based or based on a student’s learning style (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). Sometimes teachers use a combination of these in order to best form groups in the classroom.
: in a differentiated classroom the students are explorers and the teachers are the facilitators of their learning. Students must be responsible and held accountable for their work. This type of student centered teaching gives the students’ ownership of their learning and allows for students to become independent in their thinking. In order for this type of instruction to take place their needs to be goal setting created by the student with the teacher and on going assessment to determine next steps for the student. Independence
Differentiation is planned proactively- the teacher anticipates differences in student learning profiles which might make the content, objectives, instruction, materials, or assessment in appropriate for some students.
Differentiation is provided reactively, in response to learners’ differences, to increase the opportunities for all students to be successful with the curriculum.
Teachers employ a wide variety of instructional and management strategies in order to successfully accomplish differentiation. Examples of what you might see in a classroom would be small guided reading groups, use of varied texts, writer’s workshop, varied questioning strategies, grouping students according to need, independent study, and interest based learning centers.
What can a teacher differentiate?
A teacher can differentiate three different elements; the content, the process, or the product.
-Content: what students should know, understand, and be able to do following a unit of study.
-Process: how students understand essential skills related to a topic
-Product: how students demonstrate what they have learned.
One or more elements may be differentiated at the same time.
How can you tell if differentiation is occurring?
The use of differentiation strategies in the classroom is almost imperceptible. It’s not something you can always see right away. Students in a differentiated classroom might be working on different activities at different levels or based on different interests. If you have questions about differentiation in your child’s class, it is best to ask your child’s teacher.
Teachers are committed to ensuring that children learn as close to their abilities as possible. Each teacher integrates elements of differentiation into their classroom practice where it will benefit the child along with being a practical and reasonable instructional option. It is not realistic to think that instruction can or will be differentiated 100% of the time. Teachers incorporate differentiation as often as possible and when it is most appropriate. Differentiation applies to all students as all students have unique strengths and needs. Teachers are working hard to best meet the needs and maximize learning for all students.
(adapted from SF)