Differentiated education – all there is to it; processes, list of differentiated strategies and examples. Find out all you need to know about this form of education.
What is Differentiated Education?
Differentiated instruction and assessment, also referred to as differentiated learning or, simply, differentiated education, is a framework or philosophy for effective teaching that entails offering all students in their diverse classroom community of learners a variety of different avenues for understanding new information (often in the same classroom). These avenues include acquiring content; processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and developing teaching materials.
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Various tools, content, and procedures are used in differentiated education in order to successfully reach every learner. The process of “making sure 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,” as defined by Carol Ann Tomlinson, is known as differentiated instruction.
Four ways to differentiate instruction
Tomlinson asserts that educators can differentiate instruction in four ways; 1) content, 2) process, 3) product, and 4) learning environment.
As you are already aware, the core subject matter of lessons should address the learning standards established by the school district or the state’s educational standards. However, some pupils in your class might be only somewhat proficient in the concepts covered in a lesson, while others might already be aware of the material before the lesson even starts.
By creating exercises for groups of students that cover various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, you could distinguish the content (a classification of levels of intellectual behavior going from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills). The six stages include creation, remembering, applying, understanding, analyzing, and evaluation.
It is possible to assign activities that involve memorizing and understanding at the lower levels to students who are not familiar with a lesson. Pupils with a certain amount of competence might be requested to apply and evaluate the material, whereas students with a high level of mastery might be given tasks involving evaluating and developing.
Examples of differentiating activities;
- Match vocabulary words to definitions.
- Read a passage of text and answer related questions.
- Think of a situation that happened to a character in the story and a different outcome.
- Differentiate fact from opinion in the story.
- Identify an author’s position and provide evidence to support this viewpoint.
- Create a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the lesson.
Each student has a particular learning style, and effective differentiation entails presenting the subject in words, images, and other kinesthetic, auditory, and tactile formats. This process-based approach takes into account the fact that not every student needs the same level of assistance from the teacher and that some students prefer to work alone while others prefer to work in pairs or small groups. And although some kids might gain from one-on-one time with you or the classroom assistant, other children might be able to advance on their own. By providing support depending on each student’s requirements, teachers can improve learning for their students.
Examples of differentiating the process;
- Provide textbooks for visual and word learners.
- Allow auditory learners to listen to audio books.
- Give kinesthetic learners the opportunity to complete an interactive assignment online.
The end-of-lesson product is what the student produces to show that they have mastered the material. This may take the shape of assignments like tests, projects, reports, or other tasks. Based on learning styles, you could assign students to complete tasks that demonstrate mastery of a theoretical subject in a manner they find appealing.
Examples of differentiating the end product;
- Read and write learners write a book report.
- Visual learners create a graphic organizer of the story.
- Auditory learners give an oral report.
- Kinesthetic learners build a diorama illustrating the story.
4. Learning environment
Physical and psychological factors are equally necessary for the best learning environments. It’s important to have a flexible classroom layout with different furniture and seating arrangements to accommodate both individual and group work. Teachers should employ classroom management strategies that promote a secure and encouraging learning environment from a psychological perspective.
Examples of differentiating the environment;
- Break some students into reading groups to discuss the assignment.
- Allow students to read individually if preferred.
- Create quiet spaces where there are no distractions.
Pros and cons of differentiated instruction
The disadvantage of an ever-growing workload frequently coexists with the advantages of differentiation in the classroom. These are some things to remember;
- According to research, both high-ability kids and those with mild to severe disabilities benefit from tailored instruction.
- Students take on more responsibility for their own learning when they are given more options for how to learn the material.
- In classes where teachers deliver diversified teachings, there are allegedly less discipline issues and a higher level of student engagement.
- Lesson planning for differentiated instruction demands more effort, and many teachers struggle to find the additional time in their schedules.
- The learning curve can be challenging, and some institutions are short on resources for professional development.
- According to critics, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that the advantages of tailored education exceed the additional preparation time.
Differentiated education strategies for math
Give the class a choice board. Students could choose to study probability by reading the textbook, watching a video, playing a game with a peer, or doing problems on a worksheet.
Students who didn’t understand the concept you were presenting during the large group class should receive individual or group mini-lessons. For individuals who have mastered the subject, this gives them more time for compacting tasks.
Employ manipulatives, particularly with children who struggle to understand a subject.
Ask students who have mastered the material to write notes for those who are still learning.
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Although without being too strict about the procedure with students who are still learning the fundamentals of a concept, ask students who have mastered the lesson being taught to give detailed, step-by-step explanations of their solution approach.
Impact of Differentiated Education
According to Shane Lockhart, regional manager for Professional Learning Communities (PLC), individualized instruction can assist students’ continual improvement by integrating well with the FISO improvement cycle.
Differentiation is a crucial high impact teaching strategy (HITS) that teachers employ to design classes that offer the ideal balance of support and challenge for each student.
Shane Lockhart, regional manager for PLC, shows how varied instruction may help all students achieve their unique goals and continue to advance, even if they don’t always start at the same level.
“What are we going to do to add depth, widen, extend, and improve upon the knowledge and the skill base of every student in the class, regardless of the starting point?” Shane asks after examining the relevant skill levels of the pupils.
“It’s relevant to their starting point,” the student said, “regardless of whether the student is at the top end of the academic spectrum or whether the student needs additional support, such as a PSD-funding.”
Differentiated education explained; Adjusting content, process and product
Teaching isn’t differentiated, according to Shane, when a teacher assigns the same assignment to every student, offers no variety, evaluates every student using a universal standard, uses differentiated teaching methods mainly for gifted children, and frequently creates rigid teaching groups.
When a teacher designs a lesson, they differentiate it so that students can receive the instruction they need to advance and succeed. This can be done by changing the subject matter being covered, the method of instruction, or the output required from the students.
A good differentiated teaching program is defined as having specific SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based) goals and providing high quality, evidence-based education that matches students’ requirements within their zone of proximal learning growth.
Differentiating a lesson by adjusting content
Depending on the student’s starting point and the lesson’s objectives, you can provide different curricular components to them by modifying the material.
In the real world, this can entail improving pupils’ core knowledge or encouraging others to delve further into the subject.
Differentiating a lesson by adjusting the process
The tactics you use to instruct and the manner in which you anticipate that students will learn are changed when you modify a lesson’s procedure. This adjustment could take the form of using modeling methodologies or multimedia, as well as collaborative learning with talented students and explicit instruction with others.
You can create a lesson that supports individual students in achieving their learning objectives in a way that is tailored to their unique requirements by modifying the procedure.
Differentiating a lesson by adjusting the product
When you alter a lesson’s end result, you are also altering the precise success criteria that students must meet in order to demonstrate their understanding of the material.
By asking some students to teach another student how to fulfill the lesson’s goal or to employ a specific learning outcome to perform an actual assignment, teachers can differentiate the lesson’s end result. This serves as comparable proof of accomplishment.
When using student grouping, it is important to carefully assess whether and how to employ mixed ability groups (to promote peer learning, peer teaching, modeling, etc.) and when to use similar ability groups (to hone in on an identified need).
Examples of how teachers and schools implement differentiation strategies in everyday teaching
As Shane mentioned, teachers can diversify education for pupils in a variety of ways. The evaluation of students’ past knowledge and skills and the establishment of personalized learning objectives serve as the foundation for differentiation. The objectives and corresponding achievement standards should be decided upon as closely as possible with the pupils. This encourages metacognition and self-regulation and gives kids the ability to keep track of their own development.
These are some examples of the most popular tactics;
Response to Intervention (RTI)
RTI is a very successful differentiation method that is typically done as a full school implementation plan. With this multi-tiered approach to instruction, teachers can assess the skills of each student individually and give supplemental instruction to those who can benefit from support in more specialized, smaller-group situations. See Example
Explicit Teaching (HITS #3)
One of the 10 HITS, explicit teaching, concentrates on giving students opportunity for group and independent practice as well as a solid and shared comprehension of the new knowledge and concepts.
The stages of the process, which are frequently condensed to “I do, We do, you do,” offer numerous chances for distinction.
Teachers can gauge the general level of understanding, offer feedback to the group, provide further help to the entire class, and arrange for focused interventions during the “we do” phase, when they model the application of the new knowledge.
Teachers can circulate the room and give individual feedback to students during the “you do” phase. They can also form small groups for further, targeted instruction or summon specific students for conferences. See Example
Differentiating the “product,” as Shane implies, is one of the most popular strategies to differentiate learning. Teachers provide pupils the chance to work on the same concepts and ideas at various levels of skill by putting up multiple exercises.
As a result, students can work in their zone of proximal development and, with the teacher’s encouragement and feedback, advance progressively to the more difficult tasks. See Example
Differentiation depends heavily on feedback. Students can determine the next measures necessary to advance in their learning when given timely and useful feedback. Group and individualized feedback can support self-regulation when used in conjunction with explicit learning aims and success criteria.
Peer feedback can help students seriously consider the success criteria and what they and their peers can do to improve their performance. See Example
Instead of homework, the direct instruction portion of learning takes place online and frequently at home in a flipped classroom. The educational material, which is typically supplied by the teachers as videos, is available to students at all times.
Due to the time that is freed up in the classroom so that the instructor may spend more time working with pupils, this model offers excellent potential for differentiation (e.g. providing feedback, addressing group or individual needs). Also, students can develop self-control and move forward, or they can use the recorded materials to clarify or modify any unclear subject. See Example
List of differentiation strategies – Process
- Use technology
- Offer choice for the order they complete tasks
- Use stations
- Cut and paste activities
- Use virtual or augmented reality
- Hands-on learning
- Inquiry-based learning and project-based learning
For more on list of differentiated strategies, follow this link.
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