Differentiated Instruction: Adapting the Learning Environment for Students

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  • 1:00 Instruction
  • 2:40 Content
  • 3:57 Process
  • 5:05 Product
  • 5:56 Learning Environment
  • 7:05 Lesson Sumamry
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell
Differentiated instruction is a great strategy that teachers use to accommodate a wide variety of learning needs. In this lesson, we discuss differentiated instruction and identify which aspects of the classroom can be differentiated.

Today's Diverse Class

Classrooms today are more diverse than they've ever been, from preschool all the way through college. You may be thinking of gender, race, culture, etc., but those aren't the only things that make the classroom diverse. Students also have diverse learning styles, abilities, preferences, and needs.

Imagine you're in a computer class and the instructor is trying to teach everyone the basics of using presentation software. Do you think you'd already know most of the material? Let's imagine you are a very advanced user and that you'd be bored during the lesson. Julie is sitting to your left, and she hasn't used a computer much, so she is completely lost and confused. Brad is sitting to your right and seems to be learning quite a bit from the instructor.

Definition of Differentiated Instruction

This scenario is an example of when a teacher would want to use differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is a teaching method in which teachers adapt their instruction to accommodate a variety of learning needs. It is more than simply helping students who need extra assistance after a lesson is presented. It is proactively developing a variety of teaching materials so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively regardless of differences in learning style or academic skill.

Rather than developing a lesson aimed at the 'average student,' teachers using differentiated instruction specifically tailor a lesson to incorporate a variety of learning needs. It's important to note that differentiated instruction does not mean that a separate lesson plan is developed for every single student. Instead, students are presented with several learning options or different paths to learning in order to help them take in and make sense of the information.

For example, think again about that computer class. If your instructor was using differentiated instruction, you would not have to wait for Julie and Bob to catch up to you. You and other advanced users in your class would have been provided with more advanced material so that you could enhance your skills. Likewise, Julie and other beginners would have been provided with less advanced material to help them gain a solid understanding of using the computer before moving on to the presentation software.

Setting up stations with different activities is an example of differentiating process
Differentiated Instruction Stations

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