Differentiated Instruction

As we are all in a community of shared values and culture, it is the differences within the individual that distinguishes a people from one another in the community. It is with this same notion within the classroom. Students have individual needs that should be addressed, as student share commonalities and differences. Differentiated instruction is not the: “individualized instructions” of the 1970s, chaotic, homogeneous grouping, nor tailoring to the same suit of clothes (Tomlinson, 3)”.
Differentiated instruction is proactive, more qualitative than quantitative, rooted in assessment, multiple approaches to content, process and product, student centered, organic, a blend of whole-class, group and individual instruction.
Education must not limit the individual from maximizing their capacity as individual learners. Instruction needs to tailor both group and individual goals. There is not one route for learning new material, as we are aware of kinetic, auditory and visual learners. Teaching without differentiation has many disadvantages. For one to design an action plan for such a diverse classroom, one must implement the best possible practices.

Teachers can differentiate teaching & learning of the:

1. Content - changing in the material being learned by a student (e.g., linguistic versus non linguistic representations, cooperative learning projects, etc.). For example, if the classroom objective is for all students to write persuasive paragraphs, some of the students may be learning to use a topic sentence and supporting details, while others may be learning to use outside sources to defend their viewpoint.

2. Process – allowing students to accesses material in different ways (e.g., learning center, web research, etc.). For example, one student may explore a learning center while another student collects information from the web.

3.  Product - enabling students to demonstrate what he/she learned (e.g., create a graphic organizer, discussions, projects, writing, power point presentations, diagrams, building models, etc.). For example, to demonstrate understanding of the plot of a story, one student may create a skit, while another student writes a book report. 

Teachers can differentiate instruction in response to students’ readiness, interest, and/or learning profile, as summarized in the following table:

Teachers Differentiate Instruction in Response to Each Student's Characteristics

Student’s Profile

Techniques to Identify a Student’s Characteristics

Student's Readiness

           The skill level and background knowledge of the child


Use Diagnostic Assessments 

These assessments can be formal or informal. Teachers can give pre-tests, question students about their background knowledge, or use KWL charts (charts that ask students to identify what they already Know, what they Want to know, and what they have Learned about a topic).

    Student's Interests

     Topics that the student may want to explore or that will motivate the student (e.g., relevant to the content area, outside interests of the student, etc.)


Interest Inventories

A student’s interest can be identified with interest inventories and/or including students in the planning process.

Student's Learning Profile  

Learning style - a visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic learner)

Grouping preferences -  individual, small group, or large group)

Environmental preferences - lots of space or a quiet area to work



Learning styles can be measured using learning style inventories, observe student’s learning, and ask students how they learn best.


Identifying environmental preferences includes determining whether students work best in large or small groups and what environmental factors might contribute to or inhibit student learning.


Here is a great link to show some examples of how to differentiate instruction.