To meet the needs of every student, differentiation is the unifying focus of professional learning throughout the district. Coaches facilitate professional learning at the building and district level. With the support of their coaches, teachers practice differentiated instruction strategies based on their readiness and learning. Colleagues collaborate to address student learning needs. Teacher leaders emerge. Principals demonstrate their commitment to and expectations for differentiation by actively communicating with other administrators, coaches, students, parents, and teachers.
What Parents Need To Know About Differentiated Instruction?
What Is Differentiated Instruction?
· Differentiated instruction is proactive.
Teachers have a vision of success for our students and plan ahead providing a variety of assignments within units of instruction, realizing that students do not all learn in the same way. Additionally, the teacher in a differentiated classroom realizes that individual students have different needs. Because of this, the teacher proactively plans a variety of methods to get students to express learning. Where a traditional lesson changes reactively when learning is not occurring as planned, a differentiated lesson is proactively planned so that individual needs are addressed before the lesson occurs.
- Differentiated instruction is more qualitative than quantitative.
Differentiated instruction is not the amount of work given to students but rather putting students in a learning environment in which students can achieve learning. For example, a student who has already mastered a concept in math should not be given more problems, but should stop practicing that skill and more on to a subsequent skill. In addition, giving a student who is struggling less examples is less effective. This student may need more assistance or an alternative way to express knowledge.
- Differentiated instruction provides multiple approaches to content, process, and product.
During instruction, teachers are conscious of three elements, content (what students learn), process (how students make sense of content), and product (how students demonstrate what they have learned). When using the differentiated approach in the classroom, teachers can offer different approaches in what students learn how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they have learned.
· Differentiated instruction assesses often, in a variety of ways, and for a variety of reasons.
An assessment doesn’t mean a grade. A teacher who understands the needs of students sees assessment as an opportunity to learn more about student learning and how to modify instruction to meet those needs. Assessment no longer happens at the end to see “who got it” but happens throughout the unit to inform the teacher about students’ developing readiness, comprehension, and application. Pre-assessments are strategies to use before the instruction begins to determine prior knowledge. This step can help set the learning environment, peak interest about the content, and initiate activities that will address the learning styles of the students. As students are working, it is time for the teacher to provide assessment both informal and formal in order to provide feedback so improvement can be made. These are assessments for learning, not of learning, and can be as simple as observing students while they work. These assessments are not graded because they are given during the learning process to determine what learning should take place next and with whom. If the teacher waits to the end of instruction to check on the students’ learning, it might be too late for skill development and to make corrections to information that present incorrectly. By assessing the student during the learning situation, the teacher can alter his or her activities to reteach or enhance the content. Final assessments and authentic assessments are when the teacher makes both formal and informal assessment about the learning which has taken place. This can be done at the end of each activity, the end of the day as students write in their journals, or at the end of the unit. They can be reflections, tests, essays, projects, and post-tests.
- Differentiated instruction is student centered
A differentiated classroom is one that allows the student to think for his or her self. The teacher does not tell the students everything but rather allows the student to discover concepts independently growing at his or her pace. Lessons are designed to engage growth in all students. Lessons are neither too difficult nor too easy for the individual student, but challenging.
- Differentiated instruction is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction.
In a differentiated classroom, students receive types of instruction, whole - class, group, and individual instruction. When working together these types of instruction as a whole increase student learning. During whole class instruction students gain a feeling of community and common understanding. After whole - class instruction, students may move into group or individual instruction and conclude by sharing what they have learned in a whole - class setting.
What Differentiated Instruction Is Not?
- Differentiated instruction is NOT chaotic.
In a differentiated classroom students are engaged in meaningful movement and discussion. Students are not out of control, misbehaving. Teachers of a differentiated instruction classroom manage many activities simultaneously, correcting any misbehaviors.
- Differentiated instruction is NOT just another way to provide homogenous grouping.
In a tradition classroom setting students are in homogenous groups. For example, students may have been divided into the following reading groups, the bluebirds, cardinals, or buzzards. The problem with this grouping is that students are always interacting with the same students, working on similar skills. Student growth is hindered because of this. In a differentiated classroom students are grouped in a variety of ways: readiness, interest, and learning style. Over time, students get a chance to work in many groups with students of all abilities.
This page was adapted from How To Differentiate Instruction In Mixed - Ability Classrooms by Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson, 2001