Differentiated Instruction in Classrooms

What is Differentiated Instruction?

With differentiated instruction, teachers proactively create options to accommodate a diverse range of learners while keeping the whole class on track. Teachers observe students carefully in order to design experiences that match the learning styles of the class and as well the differing levels of ability and understanding.

Being a teacher is challenging for many reasons, including the fact that each student has a different learning style and learns at a different pace. On top of covering certain content to satisfy district and state standards, teachers want to effectively tailor and pace their lessons to each student's needs and learning styles.

As many teachers experience, fulfilling the needs of each student in class can be a struggle, and rightfully so. Thankfully, differentiated instruction can be the solution. Differentiated instruction is a strategy to ensure that every student masters any given concept, no matter his learning style.

The Benefits of Differentiated Instruction

Each student learns differently at various paces. Differentiated instruction can help you teach to students' preferences and speeds while also building real-world skills. Differentiation generally involves collaborating in small groups, which teaches cooperation, critical thinking, and respect. Instead of sitting in a class where a teacher lectures for most of the time and students barely interact, with differentiating instruction, the students are more involved in their learning, which encourages long-term retention.

Critiques of Differentiated Instruction

Like any other teaching style, there are downsides to differentiated instruction. Teachers already spend about eight hours of teaching each day at school, not to mention multiple hours spent on lesson planning, grading, school district meetings, parent-teacher conferences, emails, and so much more. By differentiating instruction, teachers will have to spend even more time on lesson planning due to the differences in the learning styles of each student.

Key principles of differentiated instruction
Content

Simply put, content is the concepts that students need to learn from lessons, and each lesson should align with the requirements from the school district and state educational standards. To deliver the content according to student's needs, teachers can use Bloom's Taxonomy to determine the level of student thinking. The six levels of Bloom's Taxonomy are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. By understanding the level of each student, teachers are more equipped to accurately differentiate lesson content.

Process

After students are introduced to the concepts, they move on to mastering the content through various activities. Depending on the student's learning style, these activities can be visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, or solitary. Some students prefer to process information by working by themselves whereas others like to collaborate with another student or in a group. The activities included as part of a differentiated lesson plan should align with the student's preferred way of learning.

Product

To assess how well students have understood the lesson, teachers can use various products of learning, including tests, projects, presentations, reports, and many more. By varying assessment methods, you allow students of all learning types to demonstrate mastery, express their creativity, and further their knowledge.

Learning Environment

When first starting out with differentiated instruction, it can be challenging to set the dynamic or the tone of the classroom. The concept is unfamiliar and can easily become chaotic. Because students will be working in small groups around the classroom, it is important to provide students with a clear understanding of the layout and structure. They should know where to go and when to move. Creating an organized, welcoming space fosters a smooth transition to differentiated instruction.

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