What is Differentiated Instruction?
Differentiated Instruction (DI) is, a classroom initially set up for success for all students through a complex instructional approach that is differentiated based on students’ needs while managing to address the curricular requirements. According to Tomlinson (2001), “In a differentiated classroom, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs” (p.7). The complex idea of DI can be a bit fascinating and overwhelming, because it challenges educators to rely on research based strategies for learning among a diverse group of students.
There is an increasing need for DI as current educational trends indicate the homogeneity of the past has been replaced with widespread diversity in the student population (Subban, 2006). Because of the diversity within the classroom, it calls into recognition that what is fair does not always mean the same for each student, a concept within itself, that is hard to get across to young adolescents’ minds. In order to successfully incorporate DI into the classroom a teacher has to acknowledge and accommodate the different learning speeds and styles assuming that all students have different learning needs.
In the past, the traditional method of teaching had been to apply a single approach to the homogenous group and reactively responding when the lesson failed. It is important to note, that DI is the exact opposite, it is proactive, a classroom set up for success from the start!
One way, to help with daunting task of meeting curricular goals is to realize that DI emphasizes qualitative over quantity. With that being said, more time can be carefully planned so that instructional time is better spent. In order to accomplish this, the educator must be avid about assessments. By using the assessments to guide their curricular instruction, the curriculum is now designed with the students’ needs and curricular goals in mind. DI also requires the educator to have multiple approaches to content, process, product, and learning environment. According to Tomlinson (2001) by differentiating what students learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate what they have learned encourages substantial growth in all students. Weselby (2017) reports that research has been conducted and reported that the DI approach benefits a wide range of students, from the advance learners to those with disabilities. Weselby (2017) further states a pro of using DI is that when, “Students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.” Therefore, DI allows for multiple approaches in learning while accommodating a range of students in order to get the greatest individual gains in education.
(Tomlinson, 2001, p.6)
In order to meet this complexity of instructional methods, the student-centered instruction is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction that is carefully monitored by the teacher so that adjustments can me made when necessary. In this sense, a teacher is never fully prepared for the next lesson as the instructional methods change with each lesson. It’s is always about making the classroom a better match for its learners with the greatest educational achievement in mind from the starting line.
Subban, P. (2006). International education journal. [Differentiated instruction: A research basis] Issn 1443-1475, 7(7), 935-947.
Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms.
Alexandria, VA: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Weselby, C. (2017). What is differentiated instruction? examples of how to differentiate instruction in the classroom. Retrieved 2017, February/02, 2017, from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/