Differentiated Instruction

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David Spencer's Education Paragon is a free educational resource portal helping David Spencer's secondary school students, their parents and teaching colleagues with understanding, designing, applying and delivering assessment, curriculum, educational resources, evaluation and literacy skills accurately and effectively. This wiki features educational resources for Indigenous Aboriginal education, field trips for educators, Davids Music Jam, law and justice education, music education and outdoor, environmental and experiential education. Since our web site launch 10.5 years ago on September 27, 2006, online site statistics and web rankings indicate there are currently 1,868 pages and 11,682,604 page views using 7.85 Gig of bandwidth per month. Pages are written, edited, published and hosted by Brampton, Ontario, Canada based educator David Spencer. On social media, you may find David as @DavidSpencerEdu on Twitter, as DavidSpencerdotca on Linkedin.com and DavidSpencer on Prezi. Please send your accolades, feedback and resource suggestions to David Spencer. Share on social media with the hashtag #EducationParagon


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What is Differentiated Instruction ?

Differentiated Instruction or "DI" is "a form of instruction that seeks to "maximize each student's growth by meeting each student where she is and helping the student to progress. In practice, it involves offering several different learning experiences in response to students' varied needs. Learning activities and materials may be varied by difficulty to challenge students at different readiness levels, by topic in response to students' interests, and by students' preferred ways of learning or expressing themselves." (L. Kiernan )

Equal education is not all students getting the same, but all students getting what they need. Approaching all learners the same academically doesn't work. We have to start where each child is in his learning process in order to authentically meet his academic needs and help him grow. (Rebecca Alber)

Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom

"Effective instruction in a differentiated classroom: • is concept focused and principle driven; • is based on ongoing assessment; • allows for flexible groupings of students; • involves students in making choices and setting goals for their learning." - Carol Tomlinson


Good differentiation is:

  • Establishing routines that support differentiation
  • Using flexible grouping, curriculum, instruction, and formative assessment in a differentiated classroom

"Differentiated instruction is responsive instruction — that is, instruction that responds to students' needs." - Cindy Strickland


  • " Differentiated instruction requires quality curriculum, respectful activities, and flexible grouping in quality differentiation; identifing ways to assess for student readiness, interest, and learning profile; applying a range of instructional strategies that support differentiation for readiness, interest, and learning profile." - Cindy Strickland
  • "Differentiated Instruction focuses on whom we teach, where we teach, and how we teach. Its primary goal is ensuring that teachers focus on processes and procedures that ensure effective learning for varied individuals. Defensible models of differentiation will necessarily address the imperative of differentiating quality curriculum. Nonetheless, differentiation is predominantly (although not solely) an instructional design model.
    If we had at our grasp the most elegant curriculum in the world and it missed the mark for students with learning disabilities, highly advanced learners, students with limited English proficiency, young people who lack economic support, kids who struggle to read, and a whole host of others, the curriculum would fall short of its promise.
    On the other hand, if we were the most effective disciples of flexible grouping, interest-based instruction, responsive environments, and a host of instructional strategies that allow us to attend to learner variance but used those approaches in the absence of powerful curriculum, our classrooms would fail to equip students with the ideas and skills necessary to make their way in the world.
    Simply put, quality classrooms evolve around powerful knowledge that works for each student. That is, they require quality curriculum and quality instruction. In tandem, UbD and DI provide structures, tools, and guidance for developing curriculum and instruction based on our current best understandings of teaching and learning."
    "Simultaneously, teachers find it increasingly difficult to ignore the diversity of learners who populate their classrooms. Culture, race, language, economics, gender, experience, motivation to achieve, disability, advanced ability, personal interests, learning preferences, and presence or absence of an adult support system are just some of the factors that students bring to school with them in almost stunning variety. Few teachers find their work effective or satisfying when they simply “serve up” a curriculum—even an elegant one—to their students with no regard for their varied learning needs. For many educators, Differentiated Instruction offers a framework for addressing learner variance as a critical component of instructional planning." - Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe




Differentiation and the Middle Grades

It can be argued that the middle-grade years constitute the greatest learner variability of any segment in school. Dissimilar rates of growth are a defining element of middle school. Students of the same age vary tremendously in intellectual development, as they do in physical, emotional, and moral development. Schools that aspire to be successful in educating young adolescents must vigorously attend to their varying needs, interests, and readiness levels (National Middle School Association, 1995). Such schools will begin where learners are, understanding and addressing their individual needs, interests, and modes of learning." Differentiation in Practice by by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Caroline Cunningham Eidson



Creating a Differentiated Mathematics Classroom

by Richard Strong, Ed Thomas, Matthew Perini and Harvey Silver

"Drawing on the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson and Robert J. Marzano, the authors propose a third alternative to differentiation in the mathematics classroom, a hybrid approach that incorporates both standards and differentiation. Students possess different mathematical learning styles. Teachers can facilitate student learning—and differentiate instruction in the mathematics classroom—by using a variety of research-based teaching strategies. The authors also suggest a new format that will make tests more thoughtful and fair." Buy the article from ASCD



Resources for Differentiated Instruction