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Tips for Teaching: Differentiating Instruction to Include All Students

Bob Algozzine, Column Editor
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Differentiating Instruction to Include All
Kelly M. Anderson
IT IS THE FIRST DAY of school. Amanda is a very bright,
inquisitive fourth grader who loves science and math.
Amanda's parents travel extensively and often take her
along on trips. Sitting next to Amanda is Reno. Reno just
moved to America from Cuba and speaks limited English.
This is Reno's first year in an American school. He is appre-
hensive about going to school, his lack of English profi-
ciency, and how his peers will perceive him in his new class.
Seated across from Reno is Jacob, who is “high energy”
and rarely shifts into low gear. Jacob has not liked school
much since first grade. He has spent a lot of time from first
through third grade in the principal’s office because of his
“disruptive behaviors.” Needless to say, Jacob does not
look forward to the beginning of another school year where
his teacher’s expectations and his learning styles will clash.
In another pod of students across the classroom is Roger.
Roger’s mom is a single parent working two jobs so she
rarely has the opportunity to attend school functions.
Roger’s previous teachers concluded that he suffered from a
low self-concept and more than likely had an unidentified
learning disability.
It is August and Mr. Wright is ready and prepared to start
up another school year with his new group of fourth
graders. Mr. Wright loves teaching and has taught for five
years at the same school. He cares about his students and
expects “their best work at all times.” Because of increas-
ing accountability demands, Mr. Wright has relinquished
many of the creative teaching practices he once envisioned
implementing in his classroom. He cannot keep track of the
number of times he has heard his principal reiterate,
“Fourth grade is a testing grade so everything you teach
must be aligned to the test.” Because of the pressure from
the school’s administration, Mr. Wright uses a lot of work-
books and other material specifically designed to increase
students’ achievement on the statewide assessments. As a
result of the increasing demands and performance expecta-
tions, students typically work in fixed groups based on their
ability levels which Mr. Wright determines on the basis of
information obtained in their cumulative files prior to the
start of school. By the fourth week of school, Mr. Wright
knows he will be asked by his Curriculum Specialist to sub-
mit the names of those students who are not performing at
grade level. Mr. Wright starts another school year like those
before with introductions, a review of the rules and conse-
quences, and the classroom procedures, as well as passing
out and assigning student textbooks and materials.
The scenario above is neither uncommon nor unrealistic
in depicting some of the intricate student differences within
classrooms today, as well as the challenges K–12 teachers
face in responding to the differing needs of students in a
time of increased pressure of accountability and high-stakes
testing. Although teachers have yearned for decades for
more responsive and effective methods in addressing stu-
dents’ differences, many children perform daily on the
“margins” of their classrooms—never fully engaged and
rarely ever catching a glimpse of their brightest potential. Is
it too idealistic to think that the Amandas, Rogers, Jacobs,
and Renos in today’s classrooms can coexist, growing and
learning socially and academically despite their unique dif-
ferences and learning styles? Many argue that it is not at all
idealistic to think that K–12 teachers can differentiate
instruction to meet all children’s needs while also adhering
to standards and state performance testing (e.g., Baumgart-
ner, Lipowski, & Rush, 2003; Brighton, 2002; Brimijoin,
Marquissee, & Tomlinson, 2003; Lawrence-Brown, 2004;
Kelly M. Anderson is assistant professor at the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte, College of Education, Department of Spe-
cial Education and Child Development. Copyright © 2007 Heldref
Smutny, 2003; Sternberg, Torff, & Grigorenko, 1998; Tom-
linson, 1999; Tomlinson, 2000).
What Is Differentiated Instruction?
Differentiation is not at all a new concept. The one-room
schoolhouse is a prime example of teachers differentiating
to meet the needs of all students. Differentiated instruction
stems from beliefs about differences among learners, how
students learn, differences in learning preferences, and indi-
vidual interests. By its nature, differentiation implies that
the purpose of schools should be to maximize the capabili-
ties of all students. Differentiated instruction integrates
what we know about constructivist learning theory, learning
styles, and brain development with empirical research on
influencing factors of learner readiness, interest, and intelli-
gence preferences toward students’ motivation, engage-
ment, and academic growth within schools (Tomlinson &
Allan, 2000). Unlike Mr. Wright, teachers who differentiate
know they are incorporating best practices in moving all of
their students toward proficiency in the knowledge and
skills established in state and local standards.
Teachers who differentiate believe that every child is
unique, with differing learning styles and preferences. They
may differentiate based on students’ readiness by varying
the levels of difficulty of the material covered in class.
Teachers may opt to differentiate key skills and material to
be understood by aligning them with particular students’
affinities and topics of interest (i.e., geography, music,
foods, wildlife, and architecture). Differentiation may be
made by the teachers based on what they know about stu-
dents’ learning preferences (i.e., intelligences, talents,
learning styles), allowing students’ choices in working inde-
pendently, with partners, or as a team; or providing varied
work spaces that are conducive to various learning prefer-
ences (i.e., quiet work spaces, work spaces with tables
instead of desks). Of the utmost importance to the teacher
who differentiates is providing a learning environment and
opportunities that exclude no child.
Critical Elements of Differentiated Instruction
Most important to differentiated instruction are the ele-
ments of choice, flexibility, on-going assessment, and cre-
ativity resulting in differentiating the content being taught,
or how students are processing and developing understand-
ing of concepts and skills, or the ways in which students
demonstrate what they have learned and their level of
knowledge through varied products. Teachers determine at
the onset of their planning what their students should know
and what each child should be able to do at the conclusion
of the lesson or unit (Tomlinson, 2000).
When differentiating the content aspect of a lesson,
teachers may adapt what they plan for the students to learn
or how the students’ will gain access to the desired knowl-
edge, understanding, and skills (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000).
Instead of varying the learner objectives and lowering per-
formance expectations for some students, teachers may dif-
ferentiate the content by using texts, novels, or short stories
at varying reading levels. The teachers may choose to dif-
ferentiate the content by using flexible grouping, affording
students to work in alike groups using books on tape or the
Internet as a means for developing understanding and
knowledge of the topic or concept. Some students may
choose to work in pairs, small groups, or independently, but
all are working toward proficiency on the same perfor-
mance standards or curriculum objectives.
Differentiating the process within a lesson refers to how
the learners come to understand and assimilate facts, con-
cepts, or skills. In traditional lesson planning, the process
is the guided and independent practice within a lesson.
Despite differences in abilities, learning styles, and stu-
dents’ prior knowledge, this component of a lesson is typ-
ically a stable constant in most instructional lessons,
meaning that all students complete the same type and
amount of practice.
In the opening vignette of Mr. Wright’s class, Amanda,
Reno, Jacob, and Roger might all practice identifying parts
of a story using the same workbook page with completion
expected at the end of the day’s literacy block. Instead, the
teacher may have chosen to differentiate based on students’
readiness resulting in clustering the children in “alike” lit-
eracy circles; giving each group leveled questions based on
their readiness skills related to the objective of the lesson.
For example, because of his limited English proficiency,
Reno may work with a group of peers who have less devel-
oped skills and need more direct instruction by a teacher,
assistant, or parent volunteer. The questions for his group
may be more concrete and less multi-leveled (e.g., Who are
the characters within the story? Where does the story begin?
What is the plot of the story?). In contrast, Amanda may
work in a group that is also expected to know and under-
stand the parts of the story, but because her reading and
vocabulary skills are more developed, Amanda's group
responds to more abstract and multi-leveled questions (e.g.,
Who is the main character in the story? Can you name at
least two other fictional characters from other novels that
have similar characteristics? Who are the supporting char-
acters and why are they important to the story? What is the
main problem of the story? Describe a time when you, or
someone you know, had a similar problem.). Other ways to
differentiate the process aspect of a lesson include tiering
the independent work activities, learning centers, and indi-
vidualized homework enrichment projects (e.g., Baumgart-
ner, Lipowski, & Rush, 2003; Brimijoin, Marquissee, Tom-
linson, 2003; George, 2005; Lawrence-Brown, 2004;
Madea, 1994; Tomlinson & Allan, 2000; Wehrmann, 2000;
Winebrenner, 1996).
50 Preventing School Failure Vol. 51, No. 3
Differentiating the performance measure or product com-
ponent of a lesson means affording students various ways of
demonstrating what they have learned from the lesson or
unit of study. Differentiation of assessments or products
may be constructed in various ways by the teacher such as
using choice boards (with predetermined options), or the
use of open-ended lists of potential product options from
which students’ select or contract for their final product.
The purpose of the product (regardless of its format) is for
students to recall what they have learned in the lesson or
unit. Differentiated products challenge students at all levels
to make decisions, be responsible for their own learning, as
well as affording them opportunities to demonstrate what
they know through products that are representative of their
unique learning preferences, interests, and strengths.
In Mr. Wright’s classroom, products differentiated on the
basis of students’ interests may mean that Amanda and
Roger work together on demonstrating what they have
learned about their state’s geography, whereas Jacob, Reno,
and others may work as a small team to present on the main
industry of the region. All students can work toward demon-
strating what they have learned through varying representa-
tions on the basis of their unique interests. Each individual
is assessed using established criteria (typically, a rubric) by
the teacher assessing students’ mastery of the knowledge
and skills outlined within the lesson or unit. This approach
to assessing students’ knowledge not only yields reliable
assessment of their knowledge and skills but also provides
evidence of each individual’s value to the learning process
within the classroom.
Getting Started
For Mr. Wright, starting differentiation may begin with
the creation of learning profiles; simple profiles of each stu-
dent containing pertinent information specific to learning
preferences, family structure, favorite hobbies and interests,
and other aspects of interest. Each profile may also contain
specific grade-level information for each child such as state
assessment scores, Lexile reading scores, and fluency
recordings. These individual student profiles are central to a
teacher’s inspiration in planning engaging, student-centered
differentiated lessons and instructional activities. Mr.
Wright will use individual student profiles to plan flexible
groupings and build tiered lessons that address the unique
talents and abilities of Reno, Amanda, Jacob, and Roger
without sacrificing rigorous curriculum standards and per-
formance expectations.
Mr. Wright may choose to start off by introducing his stu-
dents to differentiated instruction by modifying the process
of a few lessons. For example, he may create a “choice
board” from which his students can select activities he has
carefully constructed on the basis of his knowledge of their
readiness levels in reading (see Appendix A). By develop-
ing a choice board, Mr. Wright has provided his students
with important options, flexibility in how they demonstrate
the knowledge and skills they have learned after direct
instruction has occurred, as well as affording them the
opportunity to make decisions and actively participate in
their own learning. Every child has a choice board with only
Mr. Wright knowing the differing levels of the activities
from which the students have to choose. Every student will
complete two out of the six activity options and each indi-
vidual will have demonstrated skill toward the objective of
the lesson; only they will have taken varying paths of “how”
they demonstrated their performance.
Next, Mr. Wright may decide to introduce differentiated
projects to his students. For example, at the conclusion of a
social studies unit on regions of the state of North Carolina,
Mr. Wright may provide his students with a list of possible
projects from which students must decide how to best
demonstrate their newfound knowledge and skills (see
Appendix B). Students may choose to work in pairs, small
groups, or individually. Mr. Wright’s responsibility in plan-
ning the differentiated product selections is to include pos-
sible project options that afford every student an opportuni-
ty to be successful in demonstrating knowledge and skills.
Some of the options created by Mr. Wright will require stu-
dents to receive some guidance and direct instruction from
him, whereas other selections may release the student(s) to
work independently only requiring teacher assistance when
needed or requested. Some students may create their own
timeline for completion of their projects depending on their
abilities to do so, whereas others may require direction and
more frequent monitoring by Mr. Wright. What is important
is that Mr. Wright’s students are not only achieving the cur-
ricular performance benchmarks, but they are exploring,
creating, making decisions, and playing an important role in
their own learning process.
Taking the First Step
Mr. Wright surrendered his ideals toward teaching to the
needs and talents of all of his students (much like many
teachers) because of increased pressures in meeting bench-
mark proficiency standards and student performance expec-
tations. Can he justify using differentiated approaches to
learning within the framework of accountability? Some
individuals in the field of education continue to question
whether differentiated instruction can withstand rigorous
accountability standards and high-stakes testing. More and
more research is beginning to emerge within the field of
education supporting the potential for differentiated instruc-
tion as a vital means of assisting diverse learners in their
acquisition of knowledge and skills while also breaking
down the barriers that inhibit their unique abilities to suc-
cessfully demonstrate their maximum potential as learners
(cf. Baumgartner, Lipowski, & Rush, 2003).
Spring 2007 Anderson 51
Specifically, Baumgartner, Lipowski, & Rush used dif-
ferentiated instruction to improve reading achievement of
primary and middle school students across two Midwestern
communities. In their study, Baumgartner et al. used differ-
entiated instructional strategies as a purposeful intervention
to students' deficits in basic phonemic awareness and com-
prehension skills, coupled with their difficulty in selecting
appropriate books and overall lack of interest in reading.
The specific differentiated strategies implemented in this
study included flexible grouping, student choice on a vari-
ety of tasks, increased self-selected reading time, and access
to a variety of reading materials. On the basis of analysis of
student achievement data and attitudes toward reading,
Baumgartner et al. concluded that the implementation of
differentiated instructional strategies had been an effective
approach toward successfully increasing reading achieve-
ment. Specifically, the targeted students increased their
reading levels, were more effective in their application of
comprehension strategies, and demonstrated mastery of
phonemic and decoding skills.
Although studies like that of Baumgartner et al. give valu-
able insight into the potential impact of differentiated
instruction on achievement of diverse learners, by no means
does it fill the apparent gap in research on this important and
timely topic. Most certainly, more and more teachers need to
investigate their applications of “differentiated thinking”
toward instructional planning and implementation of lessons
through action research projects, professional conference
presentations, and other projects. A plethora of differentiat-
ed lessons currently exists and can easily be accessed via the
Internet. However, more illustrations and examples of
research methodologies used for examining its effectiveness
when implemented with diverse students is critical in deter-
mining whether or not this instructional approach to teach-
ing students with diverse backgrounds, abilities, and learn-
ing styles is indeed, a viable approach to teaching all types
of learners and a long awaited response to the ever-present
demand for accountability in educating P–12 students.
Perspective on Differentiating Instruction
In differentiated classrooms, all students are engaged in
instruction and participating in their own learning. Students
know that learning is a process and they know their own
strengths and areas in need of improvement. In a classroom
with differentiation of the curriculum, learning process, or
performance outcomes, all students assume responsibility
for their learning through the decisions they make in their
selections of activities and products, in their abilities to self-
assess their work, and by the manner in which their teach-
ers (hopefully even Mr. Wright) are flexible and creative in
responding to their unique and individual learner character-
istics. Differentiated thinking empowers teachers to be
responsive rather than reactive to the unique and individual
personalities, backgrounds, and abilities found within stu-
dents. Clearly what we need to know about this approach is
more evidence of its effectiveness with diverse P–12 student
populations. Undoubtedly, teachers are best and most likely
to discover its potential impact by the increased quality of
students’ products and growing abilities to evaluate their
own progress.
Can differentiated instruction be the answer to meeting
accountability and performance standards for at risk and
marginal students within our schools? Alone, probably not,
but combined with continuous assessment, responsive edu-
cational programs that provide necessary interventions and
remediation for our most struggling students, as well as
positive school, home, and community supports for stu-
dents, it may indeed be the closest alternative we currently
have in our schools enabling professionals to truly be atten-
tive and effectively responsive to all learners.
Baumgartner, T., Lipowski, T., & Rush, C. (2003). Increasing
reading achievement of primary and middle school students
through differentiated instruction. Unpublished doctoral disser-
tation, Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL.
Brighton, C. M. (2002). Straddling the fence: Implementing best
practices in an age of accountability. Gifted Child Today Maga-
zine, 25(3), 30–33.
Brimijoin, K., Marquissee, E., & Tomlinson, C. (2003). Using data
to differentiate instruction. Educational Leadership, 60(5),
George, P. S. (2005). A rationale for differentiating instruction in
the regular classroom. Theory into Practice, 44(3), 185–193.
Smutny, J. F. (2003). Differentiated instruction: Fastback. Bloom-
ington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation
Sternberg, R. J., Torff, B., & Grigorenko, E. L. (1998). Teaching
triarchically improves student achievement. Journal of Educa-
tional Psychology, 90(3), 374–384.
Tomlinson, C. (2000). Reconcilable differences? Standards-Based
teaching and differentiation. Educational Leadership, 58(1),
Tomlinson, C. (1999). Mapping a route toward differentiated
instruction. Educational Leadership, 57(1), 12–16.
Tomlinson, C. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding
to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association of
Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Tomlinson, C., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership in differentiat-
ing schools and classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association of
Supervision and Curriculum Development. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED469218)
Wehrmann, K. S. (2000). Baby steps: A beginner’s guide. Educa-
tional Leadership, 58(1), 20–23.
Winebrenner, S. (1996). Teaching kids with learning differences in
the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
52 Preventing School Failure Vol. 51, No. 3
Spring 2007 Anderson 53
Choice Board—Fourth Grade Literacy
1. Write yourself into the
story as a main character.
What is your primary role
in the story? Describe
your interactions with the
other main characters of
the story.
4. Research and find a
location that resembles the
main setting of the story.
List similar characteristics
from the story and the
real-life location. Point
out any differences that
you find. Tell what might
have changed in the story
if the main characters
lived in your location,
instead of the setting
found in the story.
2. Choose a main charac-
ter in the story. Pretend
you are meeting him or
her 10 years later (after
the story was written).
What is he or she doing
now? How has the charac-
ter changed from when he
or she were featured in the
story? What does he or
she want the public to
know about him or her
5. Develop a timeline for
the story you have read.
Include all main events
and characters in your
timeline. Timeline may be
written or drawn in a
flowchart format. Include
in your timeline keywords
linked to the main events
as they occurred in the
3. Draw or create a map of
the settings found within
the story. Depict the most
important locations found
in the story where main
events occurred. Make sure
to include important natur-
al and manmade land-
marks. If possible, include
main source of transporta-
tion, income, and
resources (i.e. food, water).
6. You are a profiler for
the local detective agency.
Write a detailed, descrip-
tive profile of one of the
main characters in the
story. Give as much detail
as possible in your
description. You may also
choose to include pictures
of the character you have
chosen. Make sure to tell
as much as you can about
the character including
why you find him/her
54 Preventing School Failure Vol. 51, No. 3
Product Options
Fourth Grade Social Studies Unit
Choose one of the following options as your final project for our study of North Carolina
1. Write and perform a skit illustrating a main region of North Carolina.
2. Draw a map illustrating the primary landforms and businesses of a region in North
3. Research another state and identify a similar region to one of the primary North
Carolina regions.
4. Create a Jeopardy game using three of the main regions of North Carolina. Include all
questions that address all important facts about each region you have chosen.
5. Research and create a primary region and create a travel brochure for that location.
Include in your brochure primary recreation points of interest, food, lodging, historical
features, and/or fun things to do.
You may choose to work alone, with a partner, or in small groups to complete one of the
above projects. All projects have to be pre-approved by Mr. Wright before you can begin
your work. On the contract below list who (if anyone) you will be working with, which
project you plan to complete, any help you think you may need from Mr. Wright, and your
estimated timeline for completing the task.
Product Option Contract
Student’s Name: Product Option #
I will be working:(a) Alone
(b) With a partner
Partner’s Name
(c) With a small group:
I (we) will have the work completed on this project by
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Alternative Education for Children and Youth
... The product is what students show after they have learned something. Teachers distinguish the product by giving students various ways to express what they have studied from the lesson or unit (Anderson, 2007). The environment is the place and the atmosphere of learning and teaching, and it is the physical and emotional context in which learning occurs. ...
... Differentiated instruction is not a new term or a modern philosophy (Anderson, 2007;Kauchak, 2013;Valiandes & Neophytou, 2018). Anderson (2007) states that it goes back to the one house schoolroom, where all students with different levels used to sit all together, and teachers used to teach and differentiate instruction based on their needs. ...
... Differentiated instruction is not a new term or a modern philosophy (Anderson, 2007;Kauchak, 2013;Valiandes & Neophytou, 2018). Anderson (2007) states that it goes back to the one house schoolroom, where all students with different levels used to sit all together, and teachers used to teach and differentiate instruction based on their needs. Distinguished learning is constructed on many theories like Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), Bloom's Taxonomy, and Gardner' Multiple Intelligences (Dendup & Onthanee, 2020). ...
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... One of the approaches to alternative assessment, namely differentiated assessment, is the approach put forth in this research to address mixed-ability and diverse learning styles. Differentiation stems from beliefs about differences among learners (Algozzine & Anderson, 2007;Lawrence-Brown, 2004;Tomlinson, 2001), like background, characteristics, learning style, needs, preferences, interests, and abilities. The role of instructor, therefore, has amplified in a multitude of forms to address these diversities. ...
... Differentiation in assessment is an approach to alternative assessment which attempts to address differences among learners. Time and again, studies have shown that learners are different not only in terms of characteristics and background, but also in learning abilities, styles, preferences, needs, adult support, experience, and interests (Algozzine & Anderson, 2007;Kaur et al., 2018;Lawrence-Brown, 2004;Moon et al., 2020;Tomlinson, 2001). Differentiated assessment, therefore, provides these learners with flexibility in skills development, levels of knowledge acquisition, and types of assessments assumed by them (Varsavsky & Rayner, 2013). ...
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... Evidence suggests that learners should be allowed more agency in their decisions and selections of activities and in their abilities to assess their work (Algozzine & Anderson, 2007). This notion holds greater importance for children with disabilities because students achieve better when the instructional strategies match their learning preferences (Tomlinson et al., 2003). ...
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The public school curriculum is designed primarily for visual learners, thereby causing insurmountable access barriers for students with visual impairments (SVIs) in education. The inherently visual nature of mathematics, in particular, poses multiple challenges to these students because many essential mathematical concepts are abstract, and they are taught primarily from a visual perspective. This puts SVIs at a definite disadvantage because they have to rely on other senses of attaining knowledge compared to their sighted peers who are privileged in perceiving and processing information through vision. Family members and educators are thus required to provide alternative means for these students to access mathematical content. It is important to investigate how educators adapt to serve the needs of SVIs in the field of mathematics, as well as understanding how these students perceive this support and its impact on their ability to learn mathematics. Current literature about the teaching and learning experiences of mathematics within this population is minimal. Hardly any qualitative investigations have been conducted that simultaneously collect and analyze the perceptions and experiences of the key stakeholders in mathematics education, such as SVIs, families, and educators. The overarching aim of this study is to explore the mathematics learning experiences of students with visual impairments. The study documents both the perspectives of their family members and the teaching experiences of educators regarding their mathematics education across general education school settings in the state of Ohio. The study seeks to better understand how family members and educators address SVIs in mathematics education. The study further attempts to gain insight into students' ii perceptions, beliefs, and views concerning the types of academic and personal support that they may or may not receive from their educators and family members in this field of study. This study is situated in a qualitative paradigm. Data was collected from ten participants, including three SVIs, two family members, and five educators through a three-interview structured approach, reflective notes, and document analysis. I utilized the combined framework of the social model of disability, disability studies (DS), and disability studies in education (DSE) that counters the deficit perspective to collect and analyze data. Findings suggest that although a network of support in the form of families, educators, and schools is in place for SVIs in the study of mathematics, their learning may still be compromised by a multitude of constraints. These include disability stigma, mathematics access, inappropriate pedagogy, lack of assistive tools, low expectations, and misconceptions from both families and educators about mathematics education. Findings also indicate that visual impairment may not necessarily be the impediment to math accessibility for SVIs. However, they can succeed in this subject if the relevant stakeholders anticipate the aforementioned potential barriers and resolve them proactively.
... The effective application of differentiated instruction requires meeting the needs of all students, regardless of their cultural or linguistic backgrounds (Cannon, 2017;Santamaria, 2009). Research indicates that differentiated instruction benefits a wide range of students with different levels of learning abilities (Algozzine & Anderson, 2007;Brevik et al., 2018;Celik, 2019;Heacox, 2017;Kotob & Abadi, 2019;Scigliano & Hipsky, 2010). In real classroom environments, teachers can achieve differentiation by tailoring lessons to individual learning styles or by grouping students according to common interests, topics, or abilities. ...
This study examined self-reports and instructional videos provided by 25 preservice teachers to demonstrate differentiated instruction in meeting the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students (CLDS) in the United States. Self-reported journals were thematically analyzed and compared with corresponding instructional videos. The results revealed a mismatch between perceptions and practices of differentiation. Clearly, additional efforts must be taken to prepare preservice teachers to differentiate their instruction for CLDS in the areas of content, process, product, and environment. Teacher preparation programs must invest time and resources to adequately prepare preservice teachers for the challenge of differentiating instruction for CLDS.
... The use of digital technology for differentiation of teaching in early school years 173 for this article uses classroom observations and focus groups involving teachers in order to examine how digital technology is used as a didactic tool in order to differentiate teaching, focusing in particular on teaching children to read and write. "Differentiated" in this regard means that teaching identifies, observes and meets pupils' different requirements, experiences and needs in a manner that does not exclude anyone (Algozzine & Anderson, 2007). ...
... Despite the considerable literature that highlights the benefits of DI (e.g. Algozzine & Anderson, 2007;Gibbs & Colleague, 2021;Roy et al., 2013;Wormeli, 2005), some teachers find implementing DI in heterogenous classrooms challenging (Lavania & Nor, 2020;Shareefa et al., 2019). DI is likewise a concern for pre-service teachers, with many also experiencing difficulty with its implementation (Brevik et al., 2018;Scarparolo & Subban, 2021). ...
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This paper investigates the challenges experienced by some Australian school educators in implementing differentiated instruction (DI) at a large secondary school. A small-scale study was conducted using individual, semi-structured interviews with teachers and school leaders. Using thematic analysis, three major themes were identified, namely: teachers’ barriers to implementing DI, school leaders’ constraints to implementing DI, and pre-service to in-service exchanges and sharing about DI. Findings from teachers revealed limited school resources, student behaviour issues and inadequate time for planning and implementation. School leaders also identified time as an impeding factor but also reticence by experienced teachers to use DI. Teacher education courses are not clear about DI as a comprehensive teaching framework suitable for all students. Results highlight the need for further research at the teacher educator, teacher and school leader level to remove existing barriers, constraints, and misunderstandings about DI to ensure maximum learning opportunities for all students.
This study is the second in a planned series of qualitative inquiries to investigate how some Australian educators use differentiated instruction (DI) in a secondary school setting. A small-scale study was conducted using individual, semi-structured interviews with seven teachers and two school leaders via Teams, a video conferencing platform. Using thematic analysis, two major themes were identified in the data, namely: perceptions of DI and key guiding DI principles. Results indicated that teachers and school leaders have a good understanding of differentiation and are responsive to the needs of the diversity of student abilities in this educational setting. This includes pedagogies such as designing learning activities to maximise educative opportunities for all students, pre-planning lessons and collecting student data to inform teachers’ understanding and capacity to plan for student readiness differences, using scaffolded formative and summative assessment, arranging flexible learning groups, and employing adaptable teaching processes that support all learners. The findings are a starting point to further explore and expand on how Australian educators use DI strategies and approaches in their mainstream schools.
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This study sought to determine the significant relationship between student attributes (background knowledge, readiness, interests, and learning profiles) and the teachers’ use of DI elements (content, process, product, and learning environment differentiation) in primary and middle schools of Enjibara and Chagni town administrations of Awi zone, Ethiopia. A total of 364 randomly selected teachers were part of this study. The measurement scale has 27 items, and the Cronbach’s alpha (α) estimates for internal consistency reliability were ranging from .80 to .93. Convergent and discriminant validities of the constructs were established. Standardized factor loadings from CFA were ranging from .65 to .81. The study affirmed that variation in students’ attributes has a strong direct influence on content and learning environment differentiations. Differentiating content has a stronger direct influence on process differentiation. Likewise, process and learning environment differentiations have stronger direct influence on product differentiation. Moreover, mediation analyses showed that variation in students’ attributes has indirect effect on product differentiation via process and learning environment differentiations. Also, process differentiation has fully mediated the influence of content differentiation and partially mediated the influence of learning environment differentiation on product differentiation. In conclusion, this study provides strong evidence on the direct and indirect influence of variation in students’ attributes on differentiated instruction by applying more advanced approach of structural equation modeling. In order to address the student attributes, varying the contents and learning environments need to give priority than varying the process and the product.
Standards-based instruction and differentiated learning can be compatible approaches in today's classrooms.
Even though students may learn in many ways, the essential skills and content they learn can remain steady. That is, students can take different roads to the same destination.
A junior high school English teacher explains how she managed to teach gifted and talented students in a mixed-ability classroom. She discovered the importance of taking "baby steps" (allowing independent study), varying learning activities, raising the bar for everyone, and discovering her students' passions. (MLH)
This fastback presents the essentials for understanding how to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of all students in today's classrooms. It focuses on: "The Need for Differentiated Instruction" (determining learning needs, deciding what to differentiate, and principles of differentiated instruction); "Strategies for Differentiating Levels of Challenge and Complexity" (the learning environment, identifying curriculum essentials, working from student needs, stations, tiered activities, compacting, and flexible grouping); "Teaching to the Learning Styles" (understanding learning styles, using multiple intelligences to differentiate, creative teaching strategies, determining students' learning styles, and managing the process); and "Assessment Strategies for a Differentiated Classroom" (pre-assessment, observation, student portfolios, questioning and self-evaluation, and grading). The fastback concludes that a differentiated classroom can reach many more students in the education system by responding to their individual learning styles, abilities, disabilities, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. (Contains 12 references.) (SM)
Educators in contemporary public schools face tremendous challenges: implementing classroom practices aligned with their beliefs about effective teaching and learning while still balancing the need to prepare students for success on state-mandated, high-stakes tests. Teachers, attempting to straddle the fence between what they believe to be the most sound curricular and instructional practices and test-focused experiences for learners struggle to find a path that balances these seemingly contradictory demands. However, increased pressure to meet state testing goals appears to directly affect teachers' instructional and assessment behaviors, as they increasingly provide students with experiences that closely resemble, if not directly mimic state tests (McNeil, 2000; McNeil & Venezuela, 2000; Moon, 2001; Quality Counts, 1999; Shepard, 2000).
Asserts that collecting assessment data from students is key to shaping effective instruction. Both informal and formal data about student learning not only shape instruction but also determine its effectiveness. Contends that continuous assessment that drives curriculum is a means of enhancing student and teacher performance. (Contains seven references.) (WFA)
This study describes a program designed to improve reading achievement. The targeted population consisted of primary and middle school students in two communities in northern Illinois. Both communities were suburbs of a major metropolitan area and the status of family incomes ranged from low to middle levels. Evidence for the existence of the problem included San Diego Quick Assessment, Nonsense Word Test, a reading strategy checklist, and a student survey. Analysis of probable cause data revealed that students lacked basic phonemic awareness and comprehension skills. Many students had difficulty choosing appropriate books and were not interested in reading. One of the causes of low interest could be the limited access to a variety of reading materials. Unsuccessful attempts in previous years caused some students to avoid the task of reading. These earlier struggles may have resulted from inadequate time to practice reading at their own level. A review of solution strategies suggested by the professional literature, combined with an analysis of the setting of the problem, resulted in the selection of differentiated instructional strategies to improve reading achievement. Strategies included flexible grouping, student choice on a variety of tasks, increased self-selected reading time, and access to a variety of reading materials. Based on the presentation and analysis of the data on student reading achievement and attitudes towards reading, the targeted students showed improvement. There was a rise in the instructional reading levels of students in all three targeted classrooms. The number of comprehension strategies used by students increased. Students demonstrated greater mastery of phonemic and decoding skills after the implementation process was complete. Student attitudes towards reading improved along with student perceptions about their own reading abilities. Appendixes contain a reading strategies form, a reading strategies checklist, and a reading survey. (Contains 25 references and 6 tables of data.) (Author/RS)
This article articulates what might be called a value-based argument, a philosophical statement, one that emphasizes principles and perspectives that have remained precious to the author throughout 40 years in the field of education. It is the author's perspective on research and the school experience rather than a review of the research literature and, as such, strongly reflects a point of view. The author argues that heterogeneous classrooms and differentiated instruction must form the core of the classroom experience for students in a democracy that works.