Differentiation in the Classroom

Differentiation in the classroom creates an environment where teachers respond to the diverse interests, backgrounds, and learning styles of the students. The goal of differentiation is to teach to the individual in a learning environment that fosters critical thinking for the future. There are four areas that we, as teachers, can differentiate. These include: content, assessment tools, performance tasks, and instructional strategies.

  • Content: differentiated content is implemented through choice and has a clear goal. I believe an example of this would be allowing students to choose a book from a selected list for a novel study. This not only allows for choice, but also reflects individual student interest.
  • Assessment Tools: it is equally important to assess before the learning takes place, as it is to assess after the learning has happened. Pre-assessment informs a teacher where the students are at and how to plan upcoming lessons to accommodate all of the students. An example, would be pre-assessment before a lesson could be something as simple as having students write down three things they know about a given topic, or it could be something as creative as playing a game of Jeopardy as the introduction to a new unit. This helps you differentiate between students and their previous knowledge.
  • Performance Tasks: deals with the ways students represent their understanding of a given topic. For example, instead of giving a summative test after every science unit, give students the opportunity to create a poster or PowerPoint presentation, make a video, or simply host a talking circle or fish bowl.
  • Instructional Strategies: Gardner’s seven multiple intelligences illustrate that student’s have different aptitudes for learning. An example of differentiated instruction is inquiry learning. This gives students the opportunity to learn through different resources, materials, and methods.

I believe that differentiation is important, but also presents some challenges. How do you differentiate based on individual need, while ensuring all students meet the outcome? I also think it would be very time consuming creating multiple instructional strategies. If a teacher were to teach to each learning style, would there be enough time to get through the curriculum? I am looking forward to finding the answers to these questions throughout the semester.


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