What is Differentiated Instruction?

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation refers to a wide variety of teaching techniques and adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students in the same learning environment (face-to-face or virtual) in order to support students’ diverse learning needs, interests, and preferences.

Differentiating Instruction: It's Not as Hard as You Think
  • Differentiated instruction is based on the modification of four elements: content, process, product, and affect/learning environment.

  • This modification is guided by the teacher’s understanding of student needs, such as student readiness, interest, and learning profile.

Differentiation Elements: Key Elements of Differentiated Instruction

  1. Content: What are you teaching?

  2. Product: How will students demonstrate learning?

  3. Process: How will you teach it?

  4. Environment: Face-to-Face? Virtual? Whole group? Small group? On the carpet? Outdoors?

How Differentiation Can be Used in a Coteaching Placement

Using differentiation in a coteaching placement allows one teacher to work with students at their expected grade level while the other teacher works with those students who need the information and/or materials re-taught, extended, or remediated. This strategy also allows for content to be delivered in multiple ways in order to appeal to different learning preferences and interests. Here are some ways you can use differentiation in your coteaching placement:

  • One teacher may work with students who need re-teaching of a concept while the other teacher works with the rest of the students on enrichment.

  • Based on previous assessments, the coteachers will decide which students have not yet met the standard. One teacher works with the students who would benefit from reteaching/further exploration, using an appropriately modified curriculum while the other teacher works with or monitors the rest of the class.

  • One teacher works with three students who were absent in order to catch them up on the prior day's learning while also providing instruction on the current day's lesson.

  • The coteachers plan a lesson in which two different approaches to teaching the same information is employed. For example, one teacher may lead a group in predicting prior to reading by looking at the cover of the book and the illustrations. The other instructor accomplishes the same outcome but with their group, the students predict by connecting the items pulled out of a bag with the story. This allows the coteachers to differentiate based on students’ learning preferences.

Additional Resources

Web resources:

  1. Key Elements of Differentiated Instruction: Professional development document highlighting key features of differentiating instruction across four classroom elements.
  2. Toolkit of Differentiated Instruction: This document provides strategies for differentiating by content, product, and process.