What is differentiated instruction?
Differentiated instruction is how teachers’ approach their instructional and management strategies in multiple ways to meet the needs of diverse learners (Smith, 2009). In other words, differentiated instruction (DI) is how a teacher anticipates and responds to a variation of student needs in the classroom (Carlson, 2003).
“Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, the teacher is differentiating instruction,” (Tomlinson, 2000). In the article, “What is Differentiated Instruction,” Tomlinson describes how teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements: content, process, products, and learning environment,” (2000). The content element refers to what the student needs to learn, or how they’ll get access to the information. The processing element refers to what activities the student(s) engage in, in order to master the content. The products element is what the students will showcase to establish what they have learned. Finally, the learning environment element, which is the way the classroom feels, and the rules and procedures.
One of the things that I strongly agree with Tomlinson (2001) on is what DI is not. It is not giving the more advanced learners more complex questions, it is not grading students flexibly based on their abilities, and it is not having students skip or answer more questions on a test (page 3). Allowing students to skip questions on a test because they never learned the content is, ineffective.
Another thing I strongly agreed with was Smith’s statement (page 30), about how DI is not only about modifying your teaching strategies for struggling students, but for the gifted and traditional students as well. “DI encourages the modification of instruction to address student diversity and to meet curricular objectives.” If a teacher has gifted students, stay proactive; plan your lessons to address a range of learner needs (Tomlinson, 4). DI is adjusting the quality of the assignment to match the students’ needs.
Carlson, A. (2003). What Is Differentiated Instruction? Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-differentiated-instruction-examples-definition-activities.html
Smith, G. E., & Throne, S. (2009). Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Tomlinson, C. (2000, August 1). What Is Differentiated Instruction? Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction