What Is Differentiated Instruction?
- Differentiated instruction is an instructional approach to teach students of different backgrounds and abilities. Instead of assuming that all students in a certain class are on the same level, differentiated instruction meets each student on his or her individual level. Differentiated instruction works to assure that above grade level learners are challenged and below grade level learners receive adequate support. Also, this instructional approach works with learning style preferences so all students maximize their potential.
What Does the Research Say?
- Research for differentiated instruction is growing. Tracy A. Heubner's 2010 report states that a three year study in Canada found that differentiated instruction positively affects all student groups, especially students with learning disabilities. Heubner also found a study that confirmed that differentiated instruction encourages higher-level students in a mixed ability classroom. A 2005 article from "Focus on Effectiveness" summarized a variety of research on differentiated instruction. These studies found that students learn best when presented with moderate challenges.
How Does It Work?
- In a classroom implementing differentiated instruction, teachers must discover each individual students' differences in learning, engagement and work habits. Students should be flexibly grouped in order to meet these different needs. Assessments, formal and informal, are performed continually in a differentiated classroom so students are always placed in the appropriate group. In 2000, Carol Ann Tomlinson's report for "Reading Rockets" suggests that teachers should assign work that is appropriate for all students. She states, "Each student's work should be equally interesting, equally appealing, and equally focused on essential understandings and skills."
What Can Students Do?
- Students should be aware of their individual learning goals and styles. Even primary students can work at setting their own individual learning goals. This could take the form of a daily contract or a set of goals for each subject area. When students are aware of their challenges and successes, they are more likely to be introspective about their learning and realize what helps them accomplish their goals. Students should also be given opportunities for choice. Students learn best when given the ability to choose subjects that engage their interest.