The variety of students’ needs and backgrounds in classrooms include students with special needs, gifted, and typical students who have grown up in differing socio-economic levels and diverse cultures. Differentiated instruction is based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and should be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms (Tomlinson, 2001). When teachers engage in differentiated instruction, they address every student’s interests, ability levels, and learning profiles. The instructor plans both curriculum and instruction that honor the individual student’s strengths and needs in order to benefit the learning of all the students (Tomlinson, 1999; Tomlinson & Eidson, 2003). Teachers adapt their content (what will be taught), process (how it will be taught), and product (the assessment of the content through culminating projects) in order to differentiate instruction (Hipsky, 2006a). The reality of why instructors should be differentiating instruction goes beyond theory into the reality of today’s classrooms. Teacher Patricia Holliday expressed “Even though it takes a lot of time upfront to plan for a differentiated classroom, the benefits have been proven. Each year that I get better at planning for differentiation, I can see an improvement in the outcomes of my students” (Lewis & Batts, 2005, p. 32).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Style: Learning styles are the way that a student best processes and uses information. A variety of theories exist on types of learning styles, including multiple intelligences, emotional intelligences, brain-based learning, and VARK.
Learning Contracts: Learning contracts guide the student through the independent study of a specific topic. The foundation of the learning contract is the student’s strengths, needs, and interests. It clarifies the student’s responsibilities to learn the standards, the process, the timeframe, and how learning will be demonstrated (Hipky, 2006b AU1: The in-text citation "Hipky, 2006b" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Flexible Grouping: When creating groups, it is not necessary to pair homogenously based strictly on the ability level. Instead, vary the groupings according to similar and dissimilar interests, learning profile, and ability.
Differentiated Instruction: Differentiated instruction individualizes the content, product, and process for each student based on three main factors: learning profiles (how the student learns best), abilities (exceptionalities, gifted, English as Second Language students, and the typical student), and interests (what the student finds intriguing).
WebQuests: The student begins with a question or a topic and produces a research project using information that is found on the Internet. The final product can be a written report, PowerPoint presentation, three-dimensional project, dramatic interpretation, or any other technique that can demonstrate understanding.
Constructivism: This is the concept that students actively construct their learning based on prior knowledge.
Tiered Tasks: Groups that work toward learning of the same content, yet they utilize different processes, varying in depth and complexity to develop different products to demonstrate understanding. Groups are chosen by student choice or a pre-assessment.