Differentiated instruction
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Differentiated instruction and assessment (also known as differentiated learning or, in education, simply, differentiation) is a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that involves providing students with different avenues to acquiring content; to processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and to developing teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.[1] Students vary in culture, socioeconomic status, language, gender, motivation, ability/disability, personal interests and more, and teachers need to be aware of these varieties as they are planning their curriculum. By considering varied learning needs, teachers can develop personalized instruction so that all children in the classroom can learn effectively.[2] Differentiated classrooms have also been described as ones that are responsive to student variety in readiness levels, interests and learning profiles. It is a classroom where all students are included and can be successful. To do this a teacher sets different expectations for task completion for students based upon their individual needs.[3]
Differentiated instruction, according to Carol Ann Tomlinson (as cited by Ellis, Gable, Greg, & Rock, 2008, p. 32), is the process of “ensuring that what a student learns, how he or she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he or she has learned is a match for that student’s readiness level, interests, and preferred mode of learning.” Teachers can differentiate through four ways: 1) through content, 2) process, 3) product, and 4) learning environment based on the individual learner.[4] Differentiation stems from beliefs about differences among learners, how they learn, learning preferences and individual interests (Anderson, 2007). Therefore, differentiation is an organized, yet flexible way of proactively adjusting teaching and learning methods to accommodate each child's learning needs and preferences in order to achieve his or her maximum growth as a learner.[5] In order to understand how our students learn and what they know, pre-assessment and ongoing assessment are essential. This provides feedback for both the teacher and the student with the ultimate goal of improving student learning.[4] Delivery of instruction in the past often followed a "one size fits all" approach. In contrast, differentiation is individually student centered, with a focus on utilizing appropriate instructional and assessment tools that are fair, flexible, challenging, and engage students in the curriculum in meaningful ways.