Differentiating Instruction Based on Patterns of Development

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  • 0:03 Instruction for All Learners
  • 0:54 Patterns of Development
  • 1:16 Physical Level of Development
  • 2:36 Social Level of Development
  • 3:29 Academic Levels of Development
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Effective teachers make sure each student in the classroom finds success. This lesson identifies patterns of development and shows how to use this information to differentiate instruction so all students master content.

Instruction for All Learners

Every day, teachers make decisions about their instructional design, or what, how, and who they'll teach. They understand that by being intentional in the planning process, they ensure each student will make progress. How are they able to make decisions about instructional design? Along with overarching guidelines, such as school or district objectives, they use data about individual students to create learning goals. Using these goals and objectives, they design lessons and learning experiences.

In other words, teachers differentiate their instruction based on what students need in order to succeed. Mr. Davis, a middle school teacher, looks at his students in many ways in order to get a full picture of who they are as learners. In addition to other factors, he considers their physical, social, and academic development. Let's take a closer look at these three patterns of development.

Patterns of Development

Mr. Davis wants to ensure all students in his classroom are successful. He designs instruction and learning experiences that differentiate according to student needs. He can narrow down the criteria he looks at by focusing on students' patterns of development, or the ways that contribute to their learning. We divide these into three categories: physical, social, and academic.

Physical Level of Development

Mr. Davis looks at his students' physical level of development in order to determine what they are able to physically accomplish in his classroom. Middle school students come in all shapes and sizes and have many strengths and struggles with their physical abilities. Some students have special physical needs and need accommodations, such as room for a wheelchair or a seat closer to the board. Other students not diagnosed with special needs will still have some physical aspects Mr. Davis considers, including:

  • Fine motor skills that impact handwriting or other skills
  • Hand-eye coordination that may affect a student's neatness
  • Minor hearing or vision impairments that require special seating
  • Students' size and shape

When Mr. Davis designs instruction to help all students learn, he makes sure to consider aspects of physical development such as a student's ability to write or complete paperwork neatly. He accommodates, or modifies the instruction, for these students by allowing them to use a laptop or partner with another student for writing purposes. Some students may need to sit nearer to the board or the speaker.

Finally, Mr. Davis thinks about his students' growing bodies as he imagines seating. While younger students fit neatly on the carpet, his students will need to gather in a larger space, like in the cafeteria or hallway. When planning group work, he thinks about how he will organize physical space in light of his students' physical needs.

Social Level of Development

There is a wide array of social development in Mr. Davis's class. When designing lessons, he considers the social level of development, or how students interact with one another. This aspect of development takes many forms, including a student's ability to interact with peers, respond to feedback, and mediate conflict.

Mr. Davis has some students who are socially mature and have an easy time in a variety of learning situations. Other students, though, have a less mature social level of development. They aren't yet as comfortable with peer interactions and prefer to work alone. When designing instruction, Mr. Davis sometimes allows students to make decisions about who they will work with and how many students can work together. Other times, however, he intentionally partners students so different levels of social development are present in groupings. This allows students to learn social skills from one another and find success in learning activities.

Academic Level of Development

Finally, Mr. Davis differentiates instruction based on students' different academic levels of development. This category refers to a student's current level of ability on a topic or skill. Students in Mr. Davis's class have a wide range of academic abilities. Some are above-level readers, yet struggle with math; others easily grasp scientific concepts, yet are unsuccessful in writing. In order to design instruction that helps students succeed no matter what academic level they are on, Mr. Davis relies on instructional data on each student.

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