Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching and learning that provides challenging and engaging instructional experiences to all students. Educators in differentiated classrooms use student learning profiles or preferred learning modalities to present and assess curriculum through activities designed to meet individual student needs, interests, and preferences.
Cognition, school readiness, pace of learning and cultural dynamics are a few of many factors creating diversity in classrooms. DI specialists encourage instructors to differentiate what material is taught (content), how the material is taught (process), where the material is taught (environment), and the desired end result of the material taught (the product.)
The benefit of a differentiated classroom is the progression of a group of individuals with diverse leaning styles and backgrounds. Students in specialized programs including gifted and talented, English Language Learners, and students eligible for special education services also have experienced high levels of growth in a differentiated model where expectations remain high but methods of instructional delivery and assessment vary by student.
Students are highly motivated to learn, explore, and discover academic content presented in a manner capturing their personal interests.
Equally important to academic attainment, a differentiated classroom or school provides students opportunities for social and emotional growth through the delivery of instruction in a common setting. Peers learn how to communicate and conduct themselves in a manner appropriate for their age and grade level.
They also absorb each other’s learning styles and preferences gaining an understanding for the unique attributes of classmates. Students must take responsibility for their learning environment to support the multiple activities occurring during group and individual academic exercises. The classroom feel is that of a community in which students rely on classmates to perform assigned job tasks related to basic classroom upkeep.
Students become leaders and teachers are transformed into facilitators intentionally presenting materials in a manner that naturally engages students to perform at higher levels academically and socially.
Differentiation allows teachers to focus on core skills across content areas, be proactive in addressing individual differences, integrate assessment into instruction and provide students with multiple avenues to learning. Differentiated classrooms acknowledge individual differences in learning styles as the norm.
Differentiation enhances the community experience of classrooms, respects the individual worthiness of all students as learners and upholds high academic expectations. An intentionally differentiated classroom is a 21st Century classroom where all students will learn and grow.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.