Delightful Differentiation

March Edition

Let's Define...

At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. 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, that teacher is differentiating instruction.


Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:


  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and
  • Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.

What do the experts say?

"Differentiation can be defined as a way of teaching in which teachers proactively modify curriculum, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products. The needs of individual students and/or small groups of students are addressed to maximize the learning opportunity for each student in the classroom."
Tomlinson, et al.



"Differentiation is changing the pace, level or kind of instruction you provide in response to individual learner needs, styles, or interest."
Heacox

Differentiation is...

  • Having high expectations for all students
  • Adjustment of the core content
  • Assigning activities geared to different learning styles, interests, and levels of thinking
  • Providing students with choices about what and how they learn
  • Flexible because teachers move students in and out of groups based upon students' instructional needs
  • Acknowledgment of individual needs
  • Articulated, high level goals reflecting continuous progress
  • Assessment to determine student growth and new needs
  • Adjustment of curriculum by complexity, breadth, and rate
  • Educational experiences which extend, replace, or supplement standard curriculum

Differentiation is not...


  • More problems, questions, or assignments
  • Get it on your own
  • Recreational reading
  • Independent reading without curriculum connections
  • Free time to draw or practice your talent
  • Cooperative learning groups where the gifted kid gets to be the leader
  • Activities that all students will be able to do
  • Interest centers unless linked to core content and at a complex level
Differentiation and The Brain: A discussion with Carol-Ann Tomlinson