Microsoft word - why differentiate instruction.doc

Why Differentiate Instruction?
A single seventh grade English language class at your College is likely to
include students who can read and comprehend as well as most college
learners; students who can barely decode words, comprehend meaning, or
apply basic information; and students who fall somewhere between these
extremes. There are students whose primary interests lie in science, sports,
music, or a dozen other fields. There are students who learn best by working
alone and those who are most successful working in groups. Further, the
learning profiles of young adolescents often change rapidly as they develop.
There simply is no single learning template for the general school class.
If our school students differ in readiness, interest, and learning profiles, a one
– size – fits - all model of instruction makes little sense. Rather, differentiated
instruction seems a better solution for meeting the academic diversity that
typifies the students of our multicultural school.
The absence of differentiation in a Christian school class shows that the
teacher is assuming that all students’ needs are the same, and all students
learn in the same way at the same rate.

What does a differentiated lesson look like?
A differentiated classroom offers a variety of learning options designed to tap
into different readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. In a
differentiated class, the teacher uses
(1 )a variety of ways for students to explore curriculum content,
(2) a variety of sense - making activities or processes through which students
can come to understand and "own" information and ideas
(3) a variety of options through which students can demonstrate or exhibit
what they have learned.
It is not appropriate to have more advanced learners do extra maths
problems, extra book reports, or after completing their "regular" work be given
extension assignments.
Asking them to do "the regular work, plus" inevitably seems punitive to them.
Did the master teacher Jesus teach all in the same formula way?
When we teach the same things to all students at the
same time 1/3 already know it, 1/3 get it and 1/3 don’t so
2/3 of them are wasting their time.
Scott Willis
Some characteristics shape teaching and learning in an effective differentiated
classroom (Tomlinson, 1995)
The differentiated classroom

1. Instruction is concept focused and principle driven. All students have the
opportunity to explore and apply the key concepts of the subject being
All students come to understand the key principles on which the study is
Such instruction enables struggling learners to grasp and use powerful ideas
and, at the same time, encourages advanced learners to expand their
understanding and application of the key concepts and principles. Such
instruction stresses understanding or sense-making rather than retention and
regurgitation of fragmented bits of information
2. On - going assessment of student readiness and growth are built into the
curriculum. Teachers do not assume that all students need a given task or
segment of study, but continuously assess student readiness, providing
support when students need additional instruction and guidance, and
extending student exploration when indications are that a student or group of
students is ready to move ahead.
3. Flexible grouping is consistently used. In a differentiated class, students
work in many patterns. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes in pairs,
sometimes in groups. Sometimes tasks are readiness - based, sometimes
interest - based, sometimes constructed to match learning style, and
sometimes a combination of readiness, interest, and learning style. In a
differentiated classroom, whole -
group instruction may also be used for introducing new ideas, when planning,
and for sharing learning outcomes.
Strategies for Managing a Differentiated Classroom
Among instructional strategies that can help teachers manage differentiation
and help students find a good learning "fit" are the following:
• use of multiple texts and supplementary materials; • use of computer programs; • interest centres that are built on the understanding that students learn differently •learning contracts; •compacting (pre test screens out those who already know/are skilled) •tasks and products designed with a multiple intelligence orientation •independent learning contracts with a variety of assessment options to demonstrate that the key learning /skill mastery is achieved •group investigation, individual learning and flexible grouping •product criteria negotiated jointly by student and teacher; •all students participate in “respectful” work so that no special needs student is just doing busy work •assessment is an ongoing diagnostic activity that guides instruction “ NORMAL” IS ONLY A SETTING ON A WASHING MACHINE From the writings of Carol Tomlinson


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