Differentiated Instruction: Everything You Need to Know
This is a teaching strategy involving the development of a curriculum that follows a student’s progress rather than a standard curriculum that all students are meant to fit into. This requires teachers to be proactive in their teaching activities, taking careful note of the wants and needs of their students and designing their teaching curriculum and methods to fit them. This approach emphasizes the inclusion of the student in decision-making activities related to their education.
Based on their students’ interests, readiness, or learning profile, teachers can differentiate four classroom elements, namely:
1. Content: A classroom’s basic lesson content should cover the learning standards set by the school district or match the state educational standards. But in a class, some students may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some others may have limited mastery, and a handful may already be familiar with the content before the teacher starts the lesson. Teachers can differentiate the content by devising activities for groups of students that cover diverse intellectual levels. They can do it based on the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, where the six levels of behavior are classified from lower-order to higher-order thinking skills. Students with high levels of mastery could be asked to finish tasks related to creating and evaluating, which are two of the highest-order thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students with partial mastery could be asked to complete tasks that need them to apply and analyze the content. Students unfamiliar with the content could be required to complete tasks on the lower levels that include remembering and understanding.
2. Process: Every student has a favorite learning style, which could be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. Successful differentiation includes delivering the class content to suit each style. Since all students won’t need the same level of support from the teacher, they can be encouraged to work in small groups, pairs, or alone. Based on the individual student’s learning needs, teachers can provide them with the necessary support.
3. Product: This is what the students make at the end of the lesson to show their mastery of the educational concept. This can be projects, tests, reports, or other activities. Teachers could assign students different activities based on their preferred learning style (say, oral report for auditory learners or creating a story’s graphic organizer for visual learners), which they should complete, displaying their mastery.
4. Learning environment: This refers to creating conditions for optimal learning, which include both psychological and physical elements.