the four ways for differentiating
instruction there are embedded several
which are used in conjunction with each other.
Missouri Department of Education
new to differentiating instruction may initially choose to use
individual strategies and begin by differentiating either
process or product .
also important to recognize that there is a
considerable overlap between the strategies listed below. As teachers
become comfortable with these strategies several may be very effectively
For example: students may be
interest but may also
have activities set at different levels of
complexity (questioning levels/abstract thinking processes) resulting in varying products that
employ students' preferred
learning modality (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). Thus the content is
being differentiated by interest, the process is being differentiated by
readiness (complexity of thinking skills required) and the product is being
differentiated by student learning modality preferences. This multiple differentiation
has the added advantage of making presentations much more interesting than
it would be if all groups do everything in the same way and each
presentation was simply a repetition of the former one.
differentiation of learning begins with student assessment http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/assessing.html
differentiating requires a considerable degree of self direction and
intrinsic motivation, it is necessary to focus on developing
intrinsic motivation skills.
necessary to clarify the concept of fairness.
Students often get hung up on the idea that it isn't fair for the
teacher to have different expectations for different students. They
often feel that all students should be doing the same thing or "it isn't
fair." It is important for the teacher to establish the fact that
each student is a unique individual and has different learning needs.
Consequently they will be working at different tasks much of the time.
can use a variety of assessments to determine a student's ability or readiness.
to learn new concepts students may be generally working below or above grade level or
they may simply be missing necessary prerequisite skills.
However, readiness is constantly changing and as readiness changes
it is important that students be permitted to move between different groups
(see flexible grouping). Activities for each group are often differentiated by complexity. Students whose
understanding is below grade level will work at tasks inherently less
complex than those attempted by more advanced students. Those students
whose reading level is below grade level will benefit by reading with a
buddy or listening to stories/instructions using a tape recorder so that
they receive information verbally.
the level of questioning (and consequent thinking skills) and compacting the
curriculum and are useful strategies for accommodating differences in ability or readiness.
large group discussion activities, teachers direct the higher level
questions to the students who can handle them and adjust questions
accordingly for student with greater needs. All students are answering
important questions that require them to think but the questions are
targeted towards the studentís ability or readiness level.
easy tool for accomplishing this is to put posters on the classroom walls
with key words that identify the varying levels of thinking. For example I
used to put 6 posters on my walls (based on Bloom's taxonomy) one for
Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.
These were useful cues for me when conducting class discussions and useful
for my students when they were required to develop their own research
questions. Different students may be referred to different posters at
certain times depending on ability, readiness or assignment requirements.
written quizzes the teacher may assign specific questions for each group
of students. They all answer the same number of questions but the
complexity required varies from group to group. However, the option to go
beyond minimal requirements can be available for any or all students who
demonstrate that they require an
additional challenge for their level.
the curriculum means assessing a students knowledge, skills and attitudes
and providing alternative activities for the student who has already
mastered curriculum content. This can be achieved by pre-testing
basic concepts or using performance assessment methods. Students who
demonstrate that they do not require instruction move on to tiered problem
solving activities while others receive instruction.
activities are a series of related tasks of varying complexity. All of
these activities relate to essential understanding and key skills
that students need to acquire. Teachers assign the activities as
alternative ways of reaching the same goals taking into account individual
pace that students move through curriculum is another method of
differentiating instruction. Students demonstrating a high level of
competence can work through the curriculum at a faster pace. Students
experiencing difficulties may need adjusted activities that allow for a
slower pace in order to experience success.
student performance will vary it is important to permit movement between
groups. Studentís readiness varies depending on personal talents
and interests, so we must remain open to the concept that
a student may be below grade level in one subject
at the same time as being above grade level in another subject.
grouping allows students to be appropriately challenged and avoids
labeling a student's readiness as static. Students should not be be kept
in a static group for any particular subjects as their learning will
from time to time.
highly talented students can benefit from flexible grouping. Often they
benefit from work with intellectual peers, while occasionally in another
group they can experience being a leader. In either case peer-teaching is
a valuable strategy for group-work.
a student may have personal needs that require one-on-one instruction that
go beyond the needs of his or her peers. After receiving this extra
instruction the student could be designated as the "resident
expert" for that concept or skill and can get valuable practice by
being given the opportunity to re-teach the concept to peers. In these circumstances
both students benefit.
filter for assigning students to tasks is by learning style,
such as adjusting preferred environment (quiet, lower lighting,
formal/casual seating etc.) or learning modality: auditory (learns best by
hearing information) visual (learns best through seeing information in
charts or pictures) or kinesthetic preferences (learns best by using
concrete examples, or may need to move around while learning) or through
personal interests. Since student motivation is also a unique element in
learning, understanding individual learning styles and interests will
permit teachers to apply appropriate strategies for developing
intrinsic motivational techniques.
surveys are often used for determining student interest. Brainstorming for
subtopics within a curriculum concept and using semantic webbing to
explore interesting facets of the concept is another effective tool. This
is also an effective way of teaching students how to focus on a manageable
subtopic. Mindmanager / (http://Mindjet.com)
are two very useful software applications that can facilitate the
teacher in guiding students through exploring a concept and focusing on
manageable and personally interesting subtopics.
strategy is particularly useful for younger students and/or students with
reading difficulties. Children get additional
practice and experience reading away from the teacher as they develop
fluency and comprehension. It is important that students read
with a specific purpose in mind and then have an opportunity to discuss
what was read. It is not necessary for reading buddies to always be at the
same reading level. Students with varying word recognition, word analysis
and comprehension skills can help each other be more successful. Adjusted
follow up tasks are also assigned based on readiness level.
Study is a research project where students learn how to develop the skills
for independent learning. The degree of help and structure will vary
between students and depend on their ability to manage ideas, time and
productivity. A modification of the independent study is the
buddy-study permits two or three students to work together on a project.
The expectation is that all may share the research and
analysis/organization of information but each student must complete an
individual product to demonstrate learning that has taken place and be
accountable for their own planning, time management and individual
learning contract is a written agreement between teacher and student that
will result in students working independently. The contract helps students
to set daily and weekly work goals and develop management skills. It also
helps the teacher to keep track of each studentís progress. The actual
assignments will vary according to specific student needs.
Centres have been used by teachers for a long time and may contain both
differentiated and compulsory activities. However a learning centre is not
necessarily differentiated unless the activities are varied by complexity
taking in to account different student ability and readiness. It is
important that students understand what is expected of them at the
learning centre and are encouraged to manage their use of time. The degree
of structure that is provided will vary according to student independent
work habits. At the end of each week students should be able to account
for their use of time.
Anne Tomlinsonís book The Differentiated Classroom
and ASCDís video tape kit Differentiating Instruction (VT 7600) list the
following additional strategy for differentiating learning in a mixed
may be a list of activities that a student can do to at any time when they
have completed present assignments or it can be assigned for a short
period at the beginning of each class as students organize themselves and
prepare for work. These activities may relate to specific needs or
enrichment opportunities, including problems to solve or journals to
write. They could also be part of a long-term project that a student is
working on. These activities may provide the teacher with time to provide
specific help and small group instruction to students requiring additional
help to get started. Students can work at different paces but always
have productive work they can do. Some time ago these activities may have
been called seat-work, and should not be confused with busy-work. These
activities must be worthy of a studentís time and appropriate to their
also recommends tiered activities, adjusting questions
centres, flexible grouping, independent study and curriculum
compacting as defined above.
teacher becomes a facilitator, assessor of students and planner of
activities rather than an instructor. This is what Roger Taylor
called the "Guide on the Side rather than the Sage on the
Stage" approach in the early 80s. It is less structured, more busy and
often less quiet than traditional teaching methods. However, differentiation
engages students more deeply in their learning, provides for constant
growth and development, and provides for a stimulating and