Differentiation Defined

  • 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

Why Differentiation?

  • When learning tasks are consistently too hard, students become anxious and frustrated. When tasks are consistently too easy, boredom results. Both boredom and anxiety inhibit a student’s motivation to learn, and – eventually—harm achievement as well. Differentiated instruction helps teachers avoid student anxiety and boredom that can be evident in a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

    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 the curriculum by complexity, breadth, and rate.
    • Educational experiences which extend, replace, or supplement the standard curriculum.


    Differentiation Is Not...

    • Individual learning plans for each student.
    • 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

The Parents' Role

    • Asking teachers to specify ways in which differentiated instruction will be provided.
    • Understanding that teachers can not (and should not) differentiate all assignments and materials every day.
    • Encouraging students to let teachers know when assignments are a good fit and when they are not.
    • Encouraging students to compete against themselves rather than comparing themselves to peers.
    • Volunteering in the classroom.

Contact Us

  • If you have any questions, please contact Shari Ledahl, District Curriculum Coordinator, at 763-497-6536.