“Children seem to accept a world in which we are not alike. They do not quest for sameness, but they search for the sense of triumph that comes when they are respected, valued, nurtured, and even cajoled into accomplishing things they believed beyond their grasp.” (Carol Ann Tomlinson)
The goal of differentiating instruction is to enable each student in our classrooms to continually progress and to stretch. The basic steps of differentiating instruction include the following:
Teachers are clear about the essential facts, concepts, principles, and skills that frame their subject -- “What do you want each student to come away with as a result of this activity?”
Teachers continually seek information to help them understand each student’s point of entry and progress in learning.
Teachers attempt to match curriculum and instruction to the learner’s readiness, interest, or learning profile.
EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTION STARTS FROM CLEAR LEARNING TARGETS
If we don’t know where we’re going, we can’t know when we get there. Everything starts from clear targets.
THE BASIS FOR DIFFERENTIATION
“Teachers provide specific ways for each individual to learn as deeply as possible and as quickly as possible without assuming one student’s roadmap for learning is identical to anyone else’s.” We differentiate based on:
LEARNING PROFILES: Students have preferred modes for inputs and outputs. Students might have options for showing their understanding of one topic.
INTERESTS: Different topics will engage different students, so sometimes we have them choose the topic.
READINESS: We work to develop different levels of structure for different readiness groups. What is a student’s ability to tackle a task at that moment?
WHAT GETS DIFFERENTIATED
CONTENT: This includes the facts, concepts, principles, and skills that students learn through our teaching. Most often, we do not differentiate the content, though we do differentiate the materials and experiences through which they learn it.
PROCESS: This is how students come to make sense of content. There can be many paths to the same destination.
PRODUCTS: Our goal is to have students work toward high quality products while differentiating how they get there. Skills and content needed remain consistent.
FLEXIBLE GROUPS: Groups change throughout a learning experience so no student is locked into place. Groups change because readiness, interests, and learning profiles differ for different tasks.
ONGOING ASSESSMENT AND ADJUSTMENT: Teachers begin where the students are. Pre-assessments help show what students already know and what they most need. Teachers match their instruction to those needs. Every student needs to stretch and make progress.
RESPECTFUL TASKS: Teachers show respect for their students by tying to give them what they need to learn most effectively. Tasks are differentiated for readiness and levels of challenge escalate for each student.