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
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.
- 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.