Differentiated instruction is a way to tailor lessons to suit all students’ learning styles, needs, and interests. It has been shown to benefit students with disabilities, low-achieving students, and high-achieving students.
The effectiveness of differentiated instruction depends on how well teachers implement it. This can be challenging. Some teachers have reported that it takes a lot of planning and work to create differentiated lessons for every student in their classroom.
Differentiation in Content
Differentiation in content involves tailoring learning instructions to suit the needs of individual students with varying abilities. Teachers can differentiate content in various ways including the depth and breadth of learning, the complexity of the ideas and the use of different learning materials.
Educators may also choose to vary the process by which students make sense of the content. This means that students may respond to the learning in a variety of ways, such as using simulations or understanding the content through real-life applications.
A teacher may also differentiate instruction in content by allowing students to decide what they want to read or write, as opposed to being forced to complete a task that is designed for everyone.
In addition, teachers can differentiate instruction by ensuring that they provide feedback to each student individually and in a timely manner. This helps students to identify where they need further support and also allows them to self-regulate their learning so that they can meet their essential learning needs.
Differentiation in Assessment
Differentiated instruction is a teaching approach that allows teachers to provide different content, learning modalities, and instructional activities for students based on their individual learning profiles, basic learning progress, and learning readiness. It also allows teachers to adapt the level of complexity of content and lesson planning to meet individual needs and preferences.
In preparation for differentiated instruction, teachers make several decisions: the first is to decide how the material will be presented and whether or not it will be taught in multiple ways (Tomlinson and Allan 2000; Nunley, 2006). Depending on the level of complexity of the content, students may do activities that require less advanced learning on one hand, and more advanced learning on the other (Rogers 2007).
The second decision concerns how the learning process will be structured and if students will receive guidance and feedback. This is often done through sharing learning goals and success criteria. In this way, students can choose their own learning paths and are encouraged to work independently.
Differentiation in Learning Modalities
Differentiated instruction involves changing how the material is presented to students, how they learn it and what they produce as a result of their learning. Teachers may use a variety of methods to present content, including visuals, maps or graphic organizers, or they may change what is read by providing a text at an appropriate level for each student.
Another way to differentiate the learning process is to make changes based on students’ preferred learning modalities, whether it be visual, auditory or kinesthetic. For example, some students like to see written materials, while others enjoy listening to audiobooks or performing interactive assignments.
Regardless of their learning modalities, teachers must provide each student with quality work that is motivating and challenging. To achieve this, teachers must know their students’ readiness, language, interests and learning profiles.
Differentiation in Learning Environments
Differentiated instruction focuses on individual learning styles, preferences and needs. It aims to build confidence and encourage independent learning.
The content of a lesson may be differentiated by using various materials that reflect the curriculum, state or national standards and provide essential information and skills. This could include textbooks for visual learners, audio books for auditory learners and interactive assignments for kinesthetic students.
In addition, differentiated teachers use data to identify gaps in student knowledge and skills and plan well-scaffolded learning pathways that ensure all students are ready to move on from their starting point and master key concepts.
Teachers who differentiate recognize that their students have varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests. They then respond to these differences in a positive way and help all students develop the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to learn and grow.