What Is Differentiated Instruction? - Strategies & Examples

Instructor: Esther Bouchillon

Esther has taught middle school and has a master's degree in gifted education.

In this lesson, we will explore the importance of differentiation and what differentiation is. We will also uncover main types of differentiation and some examples of differentiation in the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction

Imagine a group of unrelated people in a park ranger station seeking to go on a hike. Some people in the group love exploring the wildlife in nature, while others are terrified of bugs. A few people in the group are extremely athletic, but others are couch potatoes. The trail guide tells the group that they must all hike the same trail and stay together at all times. It would probably not be a very pleasant hike for anyone! The athletic people would be bored by the slow group pace while the couch potatoes would struggle to keep up. The wildlife enthusiasts would be annoyed by the constant screeches of the bug haters. Allowing the hikers to progress at their own pace on trails that fit their abilities and interests would make the experience much more enjoyable.

Students in a classroom are much like the hiking group. They have different interests and ability levels. If all students are required to complete the same assignments in the same amount of time, then some students will struggle while others may be bored. Differentiated instruction means all students are learning about the same topic, but the way they learn the information is different. Differentiating the curriculum allows all students to learn at the appropriate level.

Strategies for Differentiation

There are many different strategies that can be used when differentiating instruction, but they all usually require the teacher to pick a topic for a unit or lesson and then choose several different ways students could learn about the topic. The two main types of differentiation are ability-based differentiation and interest-based differentiation.

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