Differentiated Instruction

The One Room School House

Differentiated instruction finds its roots in the one room schoolhouses common in the 1800s. Teachers were responsible for educating children of all ages and abilities. Preston Search in early 1889, made it possible for students to work at their own pace without the fear of retention or failure. Search pushed his teachers to build an environment where students could be successful, each at their individual pace. (Gundlach, 2012)

The Industrial Revolution and the Civil War

“In the early 1900s, the social efficiency movement grew out of the belief that science could be used to solve the problems of industrialization and urbanization. According to social efficiency theory, modern principles of scientific management, intended to maximize the efficiency of factories, could be applied with equal success to schools “(Sheperd, 2008) After the Civil War, real estate taxes were used to build schools and organize school districts. (S. Braun & Edwards, 1972). (Wright, 2008)

“In 1833, the government passed the Factory Act making two hours of education a day compulsory for children working in factories. The government also granted money to charities for schools for the first time. In 1844, the Ragged Schools Union was set up to give schooling to very poor children. The Public Schools Act (1868) reformed Britain’s public schools, such as Eton and Harrow. In 1870, Forster’s Act set up state-funded board schools for primary education. In 1880, the Education Act made school attendance compulsory for children up to the age of 10. The 1902 Education Act established a system of secondary schools.” (BBC, 2014)

Teacher Instructing Schoolboys in Small Classroom
More specific studies, in particular those centered on Conceptual Change in Learning Science (CCL), are desired based on the long-held belief and domain general research that metacognition leads to specific skill improvements (as opposed to overall student learning) including durability and transfer of coneceptions.

Grading Schools

“Around the turn of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was going full-bore. Piece-work payments were becoming increasingly popular, and many schools were beginning to pay teachers based on the number of students they had, as opposed to a flat salary. “ (Burelle, 2008) William Farish, a tutor at Cambridge University in England in 1792, came up with a method of teaching which would allow him to process more students in a shorter period of time and invented grades. (Burelle, 2008)

A Gap in Abilities

1912_20assessment_20test1
A general examination to test eighth grade students in Kentucky’s Bullitt County school system in 1912.

“With the introduction of achievement tests by 1912, there was the evidence that the gaps in children’s abilities were much greater than realized. As intelligence tests were also implemented, educators such as Frederic Burk and Mary Ward began a movement to make textbooks self-instructive so that students could progress at their own pace. In 1919 a member of Burk’s staff was hired as the superintendent in a Winnetka district, a Chicago suburb, and the teachers there worked diligently to fit a child’s education to their maturity and readiness. By the mid-twenties the “Winnetka Plan” and others like it spread and it began to look like schools would begin to fit their teaching to the students.” (Gundlach, 2008)

“William H. Kilpatrick’s Project Method derailed the “Winnetka Plan” and others like it; educators began to think the individual work in Winnetka “divorced the mechanics of learning from motivating social experience.” (Washburne, p 140) Schools went back to their former programs, widely ignoring the varying readiness levels of their students.” (Gundlach, 2008)

As argued by Sir Kenneth Robinson, educator and author, our educational model is outdated. It grew out of the Industrial Revolution era where it was effective for the teaching of the masses. Conformity was an effective means for the time. However, the current view of conformity as being the method for student success, accreditation and funding ceases to be effective in teaching and learning. (Robinson, K., 2012)

ken
Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms”

A Framework for Differentiated Instruction

In order for differentiated instruction to work, a framework must be used. This is so that when differentiation instruction is designed it adheres to standards and processes that insure its quality and promote its full effectiveness.

brain-research2
(Fisher, 2009)

 

Brain Research and Learning

Differentiation is most notably rooted in brain research. According to Schreiner et al (2013), in “Using Brain Research To Drive College Teaching: Innovations In Universal Course Design”, findings from neuroscience and research in areas such as the Brainstem, Limbic Area/Hippocampus, The Pre-Frontal Cortex and the Cerebellum and brain disorders contribute to identifying some of the factors for differentiation.

“Because students’ brains can be expected to function differently, appealing to an imaginary “average” student not only fails to inspire excellence in teaching, but, in fact, presents barriers to learning…” (Schreiner, 2013) Differentiated instruction allows for strategies to accommodate students based on these varying levels of brain functionality.

Multiple Intelligences

multiple-intelligences
(Educators Technology, 2013)

 

Multiple intelligences was introduced by Howard Gardner. In his book, Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences /Howard Gardner (2011), he identified seven intelligences as Musical, Visual-spatial, Verbal–linguistic, Logical–mathematical, Bodily–kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal. Each of these various intelligences will exhibit differing abilities for which differentiated instruction can accommodate.

In Amy Brualdi’s (1996), “Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory”, “Accepting Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has several implications for teachers in terms of classroom instruction. The theory states that all seven intelligences are needed to productively function in society. Teachers, therefore, should think of all intelligences as equally important. This is in great contrast to traditional education systems which typically place a strong emphasis on the development and use of verbal and mathematical intelligences. Thus, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences implies that educators should recognize and teach to a broader range of talents and skills.”

The Concept Map of Differentiated Learning

di_20image
(Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

 

Differentiated instruction entails various forms of instruction based on various factors related to the learning preferences and needs of the students. It is most popularly attributed to Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. According to Tomlinson and McTighe (2006), “Differentiated instructions offers a framework for addressing learner variance as a critical component of instructional planning.” These variances or factors can stem from brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, and more.

For differentiated instruction to be successful, curriculum standards and outcomes must be set for all learners, but the avenues used to successfully reach those standards and outcomes can differ. Differentiated instruction according to Tomlinson must involve content, process and product. A standard curriculum must be set, but teachers can differentiated the content, process and product to help learners learn based on their learning preferences and needs. (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Content

“A teacher can differentiate content. Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and skills related to the subject, as well as materials that represent those elements. Content includes both what the teacher plans for students to learn and how the student gains access to the desired knowledge, understanding, and skills. In many instances in a differentiated classroom, essential facts, material to be understood, and skills remain constant for all learners” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Process

“A teacher can differentiate process. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of, understand, and “own” the key facts, concepts, generalizations, and skills of the subject. A familiar synonym for process is activity. An effective activity or task generally involves students in using an essential skill to come to understand an essential idea, and is clearly focused on a learning goal. A teacher can differentiate an activity or process by, for example, providing varied options at differing levels of difficulty or based on differing student interests. He can offer different amounts of teacher and student support for a task. A teacher can give students choices about how they express what they learn during a research exercise—providing options, for example, of creating a political cartoon, writing a letter to the editor, or making a diagram as a way of expressing what they understand about relations between the British and colonists at the onset of the American Revolution.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Product.

“A teacher can also differentiate products. We use the term products to refer to the items a student can use to demonstrate what he or she has come to know, understand, and be able to do as the result of an extended period of study. A product can be, for example, a portfolio of student work; an exhibition of solutions to real-world problems that draw on knowledge, understanding, and skill achieved over the course of a semester; an end-of-unit project; or a complex and challenging paper-and-pencil test. A good product causes students to rethink what they have learned, apply what they can do, extend their understanding and skill, and become involved in both critical and creative thinking. Among the ways to differentiate products are to:

  • Allow students to help design products around essential learning goals.
  • Encourage students to express what they have learned in varied ways.
  • Allow for varied working arrangements (for example, working alone or as part of a team to complete the product).
  • Provide or encourage use of varied types of resources in preparing products.
  • Provide product assignments at varying degrees of difficulty to match student readiness.
  • Use a wide variety of kinds of assessments.
  • Work with students to develop rubrics of quality that allow for demonstration of both whole-class and individual goals.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Tomlinson continues further to identify student characteristics where teachers can differentiate. They are categorized into readiness, interest and learning profiles. It is further reflected that, “Attending to learner variance and need historically has made common sense in a classroom. This approach also reflects decades of proliferating knowledge about the brain, learning styles and varieties of intelligence, the influence of gender and culture on how we learn, human motivation, and how individuals construct meaning. Teachers and school leaders who spend time in a classroom see the significant array of learner differences. People who study the scholarship of this field understand differences and the need to attend to them, if we are to serve properly the children and families who trust us.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Differentiated Instruction Realized

With the growing notice and responsiveness to the impact and value of differentiated instruction, there have been various studies and promotion for differentiated instruction based on factors such as culture, language, ability/disability, gender and learning styles. Some factors have been deemed important enough that it has been put into legislation.

Government Legislation

idea

“In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals wih Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensuring that children with disabilities had equal access to public education. Educators used differentiated instruction strategies to reach this student population. The passage of No Child Left Behind in 2000 further encouraged differentiated and skill-based instruction.” (Wesebly, 2014)

Differentiated Instruction based on Culture and Language

scott
(Scott, 2014)

 

In an article by Michelle Trotman Scott, (2014), “Using the Blooms-Banks Matrix to Develop Multicultural Differentiated Lessons for Gifted Students”, focus was placed on differentiated instruction for gifted Black and Hispanic students. Scott maintains that “Differentiating instruction is an instructional strategy used in classrooms throughout the nation. However, the content being differentiated most likely focuses on the dominant culture. At this point in time, it should be common knowledge that Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in gifted education classes. Therefore, I argue that all students, more specifically, Black and Hispanic students would increase their academic performance if the curriculum peaked their interest. “

Scott further offers a color-coded matrix and quadrant guide with definitions of activities integrating the Bloom—Banks Matrix and the Ford—Harris Matrix maintaining that, “All of the quadrants support critical foundation work that aids all gifted students as they delve into deep, rigorous multicultural content. Differentiation, done the correct way, meaning the rigorous and culturally responsive way, will enable all students to increase their levels of knowledge and skills in their area(s) of strengths and they include advanced or accelerated multicultural educational options.” (Scott,2014)

A study done by Deniz Erguyan (2014), “Instructors’ Perceptions Towards The Use Of An Online Instructional Tool In An Academic English Setting In Kuwait”, sought responses from English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) faculty members on the benefits of differentiated instruction using Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) and Information and Computer Technologies (ICT).

“The questions have been designed to seek responses about faculty members’ perceptions of using the branded program in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) practice, perceptions related to the strengths and weaknesses of the program, opinions about the contribution to student learning, and student attitudes towards web-based instruction. The analysis of the data reveal that participants have positive views towards differentiated instruction and seem to think this is one of the major strengths of the ICT tool. In addition to this instructors think ICT motivates students, adds variety to class, but it makes them question their role in the classroom, and also aggravates the already existing plagiarism endemic among students.” (Erugyan, 2014)

Differentiated Instruction for the Exceptional Learner.

As Chrsity Keeler et al (2007) define, “The term exceptional learners is a generic one and means different things to different people. One population of exceptional learners is students with disabilities. As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)… In addition to students with disabilities, we use the term to refer to students with other special academic needs. This includes the 6.3% of the U.S. student population who are academically gifted, the increasingly large number of students with limited English proficiency and students who are struggling in school due to nontraditional learning styles or poor preparation for learning. Obviously, the needs of such diverse learners are different, whether receiving instruction in the classroom or through online courses.” (8) Through their study on students with disabilities, as well as, students that are academically gifted it was recommended that “To meet the needs of exceptional learners, online courses should be both accessible and supportive.”

Differentiated Instruction based on Disabilities

An Indivdualized Education Program is mandated by the IDEA. A student will be evaluated by an IEP team. The members of the IEP are depicted in the image below. The U.S. department of education offer a guide for this evaluation and program. (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.)

iep
Individualized Education Program (U.S. Department of Education, 2015))

 

Examples of differentiated instruction based on disabilities is illustrated by Alice Ann Darrow (2015), in, “Differentiated Instruction for Students with Disabilities: Using DI in the Music Classroom.” Some of these examples are “A musical example might be having a choir student who has autism and is nonverbal find information about the composer of the choral piece the choir is working on and then distribute the information to the class. A student with multiple disabilities might be learning to access vocal music on an iPad or a computer….It was recommended that “All students are better served when instruction is flexible and there are options for learning and responding.” (Darrow, 2015)

Differentiated Instruction based on Gender

As stated by Kim Goebel (2010), in, “Differentiated Instruction for Girls”, “The female learner has unique needs that can be addressed through differentiated instruction…The curriculum should incorporate activities that utilize female students’ natural proclivities. Classroom activities should integrate group discussions in order for female learners to make meaning of the content. The learning environment should be a safe place for self-expression. The female learner has a strong grasp of emotions. The students should be allowed to make meaning through rehearsing and applying what they have learned. The female learner should also be given positive feedback for accomplishments.”

Goebel goes on to make recommendations that differentiated instruction for females should contain the following: “Interpersonal connections when presenting material; Consider their ideas and encourage them to verbally expand upon their thoughts; Assign project based coursework; Present curriculum with relevant connections to the real world and relationships; Provide positive feedback whenever possible.” (Goebel, 2010)

New Learning and Differentiated Instruction

New Learning is a concept coined by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (2008), in “New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education”. They define New Learning as that which “sets out to rethink the enterprise of education, starting with the fundamentals of learning.” (Kalantzis & Cope, 2008) Based on this definition and being that instruction is a fundamental to learning, differentiated instruction can then be seen as an extension and example of instruction and New Learning.

Pedagogy and Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction can be implemented in any of the three pedagogies – didactic, authentic or transformative. How the information is presented and how the student interacts with it offers illustrations of differentiated instruction.

According to Natalie Milman (2014) in “Differentiating Instruction in Online Environments” “there are many diverse ways in which one might differentiate the content, process, and product of instruction in an online environment.”(9) For the online classroom, the didactic can be represented in the online lectures, reading resources and glossaries. The authentic pedagogy can be represented in the discussion boards and question and answer forums. The transformative pedagogy can be represented by the discussion forums, chat, social media networks, and group projects.

learning_20styles
Learning Styles (Mind Tools, 2015)

 

Landrum and McDuffie (2010) in, “Learning Styles In The Age Of Differentiated Instruction“, argue that instruction should indeed be individualized and differentiated” (6) In regards to learning styles in the online classroom, material can be presented via textbooks, articles and transcripts for the verbal learner, visual diagrams and media for the visual learner, presentation recording and podcasts for the audio learner, interactive activities for the kinesthetic learner in the in didactic approach.

While differentiated Instruction can be expressed in the didactic, authentic and transformative pedagogies, factors such as brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, also should be considered in the determination, type and implementation of the differentiated instruction and may be more notably the defining measures for the differentiated instruction.

Conclusion

Based on the evolution of education in conjunction with the research made on the differing factors of students, differentiated instruction can serve well as an effective and positive teaching strategy. Following the model as proposed by Tomlinson with the integration of abilities based on factors related to the learning preferences and needs of the students stemming from brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, and more can produce an educational model yielding a more effective educational outcome.

References

BBC (2014). The Industrial Revolution: Education, KS3 Bitwise. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks3/history/industrial_era/the_industrial_revolution/revision/5/

Brualdi, A. C., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, W. D. (1996). Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory. ERIC Digest.

Burell, C. (2008) TAKING BACK TEACHING: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY.

Darrow, A. (2015). Differentiated Instruction for Students With Disabilities: Using DI in the Music Classroom. General Music Today,28(2), 29. doi:10.1177/1048371314554279

Erguvan, D. (2014). Instructor's Perceptions towards the Use of an Online Instructional Tool in an Academic English Setting in Kuwait. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational Technology – TOJET, 13(1), 115-130.

Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind : the theory of multiple intelligences / Howard Gardner. New York : Basic Books, c2011.

Goebel, K. (2010). Differentiated Instruction for Girls. Online Submission,

Gundlack, M. (2008). The Roots of Differentiated Instruction in Teaching, Teaching Methods, Bright Hub Education Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/106939-history-of-differentiated-instruction/

Histroiann, (2011). Retrieved from

Landrum, T. &McDuffie, K.A.(2010). Learning Styles In The Age Of Differentiated Instruction. Exceptionality 18.1 (2010): 6-17. ERIC..

Kalantzis, M. & Cope, W. (2008), New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education. Cambridge, Port Melbourne, Victoria, 252 pages. ISBN 9780521691246

Keeler, C.G., et al. (2007) “CHAPTER 8: Exceptional Learners: Differentiated Instruction Online.” What Works in K-12 Online Learning. 125-141. n.p.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2007.

Milman, N. B. (2014). Differentiating Instruction in Online Environments. Distance Learning, 11(4), 21-23.

Mind Tools (2015), Learning Styles: Understanding Learning Preferences, Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/mnemlsty.html

Robinson, K., (2012). “Changing Education Paradigms”, TED talks. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.

Schreiner, M. B., Rothenberger, C. D., & Sholtz, A. J. (2013). Using Brain Research to Drive College Teaching: Innovations in Universal Course Design. Journal on Excellence In College Teaching, 24(3), 29-50.

Scott, M. T. (2014). Using the Blooms–Banks Matrix to Develop Multicultural Differentiated Lessons for Gifted Students. Gifted Child Today, 37(3), 162-168. doi:10.1177/1076217514532275

Shepard, L. A. (2008). The Role of Assessment in a Learning Culture. Journal of Education, 189(1/2), 95-106.

Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. A., & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design : Connecting Content and Kids. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

U.S. Department of Education, (n.d.) Guide to the Indivualized Education Program Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html

Weselby, C. (2014). What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom. Teaching Strategies Concordia University Online. Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/

Wikipedia (2015), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individuals_with_Disabilities_Education_Act

Wright, R. J., (2010) Multifaceted Assessment for Early Childhood Education, California: Sage Publications inc., c2010.

Differentiated Instruction: A History

Differentiated Instruction: A History

October 7, 1921. “School in Session. Sunset School, Marey, West Virginia. Pocahontas County.” Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine.

The One Room School House

Differentiated instruction finds its roots in the one room schoolhouses common in the 1800s. Teachers were responsible for educating children of all ages and abilities. Preston Search in early 1889, made it possible for students to work at their own pace without the fear of retention or failure. Search pushed his teachers to build an environment where students could be successful, each at their individual pace. (Gundlach, 2012)

The Industrial Revolution and the Civil War

“In the early 1900s, the social efficiency movement grew out of the belief that science could be used to solve the problems of industrialization and urbanization. According to social efficiency theory, modern principles of scientific management, intended to maximize the efficiency of factories, could be applied with equal success to schools “(Sheperd, 2008) After the Civil War, real estate taxes were used to build schools and organize school districts. (S. Braun & Edwards, 1972). (Wright, 2008)

“In 1833, the government passed the Factory Act making two hours of education a day compulsory for children working in factories. The government also granted money to charities for schools for the first time. In 1844, the Ragged Schools Union was set up to give schooling to very poor children. The Public Schools Act (1868) reformed Britain’s public schools, such as Eton and Harrow. In 1870, Forster’s Act set up state-funded board schools for primary education. In 1880, the Education Act made school attendance compulsory for children up to the age of 10. The 1902 Education Act established a system of secondary schools.” (BBC, 2014)

More specific studies, in particular those centered on Conceptual Change in Learning Science (CCL), are desired based on the long-held belief and domain general research that metacognition leads to specific skill improvements (as opposed to overall student learning) including durability and transfer of coneceptions.

Grading Schools

“Around the turn of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was going full-bore. Piece-work payments were becoming increasingly popular, and many schools were beginning to pay teachers based on the number of students they had, as opposed to a flat salary. “ (Burelle, 2008) William Farish, a tutor at Cambridge University in England in 1792, came up with a method of teaching which would allow him to process more students in a shorter period of time and invented grades. (Burelle, 2008)

A Gap in Abilities

“With the introduction of achievement tests by 1912, there was the evidence that the gaps in children’s abilities were much greater than realized. As intelligence tests were also implemented, educators such as Frederic Burk and Mary Ward began a movement to make textbooks self-instructive so that students could progress at their own pace. In 1919 a member of Burk’s staff was hired as the superintendent in a Winnetka district, a Chicago suburb, and the teachers there worked diligently to fit a child’s education to their maturity and readiness. By the mid-twenties the “Winnetka Plan” and others like it spread and it began to look like schools would begin to fit their teaching to the students.” (Gundlach, 2008)

“William H. Kilpatrick’s Project Method derailed the “Winnetka Plan” and others like it; educators began to think the individual work in Winnetka “divorced the mechanics of learning from motivating social experience.” (Washburne, p 140) Schools went back to their former programs, widely ignoring the varying readiness levels of their students.” (Gundlach, 2008)

As argued by Sir Kenneth Robinson, educator and author, our educational model is outdated. It grew out of the Industrial Revolution era where it was effective for the teaching of the masses. Conformity was an effective means for the time. However, the current view of conformity as being the method for student success, accreditation and funding ceases to be effective in teaching and learning. (Robinson, K., 2012)

A Frame Work for Differentiated Instruction

A Framework for Differentiated Instruction

In order for differentiated instruction to work, a framework must be used. This is so that when differentiation instruction is designed it adheres to standards and processes that insure its quality and promote its full effectiveness.

(Fisher, 2009)

Brain Research and Learning

Differentiation is most notably rooted in brain research. According to Schreiner et al (2013), in “Using Brain Research To Drive College Teaching: Innovations In Universal Course Design”, findings from neuroscience and research in areas such as the Brainstem, Limbic Area/Hippocampus, The Pre-Frontal Cortex and the Cerebellum and brain disorders contribute to identifying some of the factors for differentiation.

“Because students’ brains can be expected to function differently, appealing to an imaginary “average” student not only fails to inspire excellence in teaching, but, in fact, presents barriers to learning…” (Schreiner, 2013) Differentiated instruction allows for strategies to accommodate students based on these varying levels of brain functionality.

Multiple Intelligences

(Educators Technology, 2013)

Multiple intelligences was introduced by Howard Gardner. In his book, Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences /Howard Gardner (2011), he identified seven intelligences as Musical, Visual-spatial, Verbal–linguistic, Logical–mathematical, Bodily–kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal. Each of these various intelligences will exhibit differing abilities for which differentiated instruction can accommodate.

In Amy Brualdi’s (1996), “Multiple Intelligences: Gardner’s Theory”, “Accepting Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has several implications for teachers in terms of classroom instruction. The theory states that all seven intelligences are needed to productively function in society. Teachers, therefore, should think of all intelligences as equally important. This is in great contrast to traditional education systems which typically place a strong emphasis on the development and use of verbal and mathematical intelligences. Thus, the Theory of Multiple Intelligences implies that educators should recognize and teach to a broader range of talents and skills.”

The Concept Map of Differentiated Learning

(Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Differentiated instruction entails various forms of instruction based on various factors related to the learning preferences and needs of the students. It is most popularly attributed to Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. According to Tomlinson and McTighe (2006), “Differentiated instructions offers a framework for addressing learner variance as a critical component of instructional planning.” These variances or factors can stem from brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, and more.

For differentiated instruction to be successful, curriculum standards and outcomes must be set for all learners, but the avenues used to successfully reach those standards and outcomes can differ. Differentiated instruction according to Tomlinson must involve content, process and product. A standard curriculum must be set, but teachers can differentiated the content, process and product to help learners learn based on their learning preferences and needs. (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Content

“A teacher can differentiate content. Content consists of facts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and skills related to the subject, as well as materials that represent those elements. Content includes both what the teacher plans for students to learn and how the student gains access to the desired knowledge, understanding, and skills. In many instances in a differentiated classroom, essential facts, material to be understood, and skills remain constant for all learners” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Process

“A teacher can differentiate process. Process is how the learner comes to make sense of, understand, and “own” the key facts, concepts, generalizations, and skills of the subject. A familiar synonym for process is activity. An effective activity or task generally involves students in using an essential skill to come to understand an essential idea, and is clearly focused on a learning goal. A teacher can differentiate an activity or process by, for example, providing varied options at differing levels of difficulty or based on differing student interests. He can offer different amounts of teacher and student support for a task. A teacher can give students choices about how they express what they learn during a research exercise—providing options, for example, of creating a political cartoon, writing a letter to the editor, or making a diagram as a way of expressing what they understand about relations between the British and colonists at the onset of the American Revolution.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Product.

“A teacher can also differentiate products. We use the term products to refer to the items a student can use to demonstrate what he or she has come to know, understand, and be able to do as the result of an extended period of study. A product can be, for example, a portfolio of student work; an exhibition of solutions to real-world problems that draw on knowledge, understanding, and skill achieved over the course of a semester; an end-of-unit project; or a complex and challenging paper-and-pencil test. A good product causes students to rethink what they have learned, apply what they can do, extend their understanding and skill, and become involved in both critical and creative thinking. Among the ways to differentiate products are to:

  • Allow students to help design products around essential learning goals.
  • Encourage students to express what they have learned in varied ways.
  • Allow for varied working arrangements (for example, working alone or as part of a team to complete the product).
  • Provide or encourage use of varied types of resources in preparing products.
  • Provide product assignments at varying degrees of difficulty to match student readiness.
  • Use a wide variety of kinds of assessments.
  • Work with students to develop rubrics of quality that allow for demonstration of both whole-class and individual goals.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Tomlinson continues further to identify student characteristics where teachers can differentiate. They are categorized into readiness, interest and learning profiles. It is further reflected that, “Attending to learner variance and need historically has made common sense in a classroom. This approach also reflects decades of proliferating knowledge about the brain, learning styles and varieties of intelligence, the influence of gender and culture on how we learn, human motivation, and how individuals construct meaning. Teachers and school leaders who spend time in a classroom see the significant array of learner differences. People who study the scholarship of this field understand differences and the need to attend to them, if we are to serve properly the children and families who trust us.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000)

Differentiated Instruction Realized

Differentiated Instruction Realized

With the growing notice and responsiveness to the impact and value of differentiated instruction, there have been various studies and promotion for differentiated instruction based on factors such as culture, language, ability/disability, gender and learning styles. Some factors have been deemed important enough that it has been put into legislation.

Government Legislation

US Seal (Wikipedia, 2015)

“In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals wih Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensuring that children with disabilities had equal access to public education. Educators used differentiated instruction strategies to reach this student population. The passage of No Child Left Behind in 2000 further encouraged differentiated and skill-based instruction.” (Wesebly, 2014)

Differentiated Instruction based on Culture and Language

(Scott, 2014)

In an article by Michelle Trotman Scott, (2014), “Using the Blooms-Banks Matrix to Develop Multicultural Differentiated Lessons for Gifted Students”, focus was placed on differentiated instruction for gifted Black and Hispanic students. Scott maintains that “Differentiating instruction is an instructional strategy used in classrooms throughout the nation. However, the content being differentiated most likely focuses on the dominant culture. At this point in time, it should be common knowledge that Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in gifted education classes. Therefore, I argue that all students, more specifically, Black and Hispanic students would increase their academic performance if the curriculum peaked their interest. “

Scott further offers a color-coded matrix and quadrant guide with definitions of activities integrating the Bloom—Banks Matrix and the Ford—Harris Matrix maintaining that, “All of the quadrants support critical foundation work that aids all gifted students as they delve into deep, rigorous multicultural content. Differentiation, done the correct way, meaning the rigorous and culturally responsive way, will enable all students to increase their levels of knowledge and skills in their area(s) of strengths and they include advanced or accelerated multicultural educational options.” (Scott,2014)

A study done by Deniz Erguyan (2014), “Instructors’ Perceptions Towards The Use Of An Online Instructional Tool In An Academic English Setting In Kuwait”, sought responses from English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) faculty members on the benefits of differentiated instruction using Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) and Information and Computer Technologies (ICT).

“The questions have been designed to seek responses about faculty members’ perceptions of using the branded program in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) practice, perceptions related to the strengths and weaknesses of the program, opinions about the contribution to student learning, and student attitudes towards web-based instruction. The analysis of the data reveal that participants have positive views towards differentiated instruction and seem to think this is one of the major strengths of the ICT tool. In addition to this instructors think ICT motivates students, adds variety to class, but it makes them question their role in the classroom, and also aggravates the already existing plagiarism endemic among students.” (Erugyan, 2014)

Differentiated Instruction for the Exceptional Learner.

As Chrsity Keeler et al (2007) define, “The term exceptional learners is a generic one and means different things to different people. One population of exceptional learners is students with disabilities. As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)… In addition to students with disabilities, we use the term to refer to students with other special academic needs. This includes the 6.3% of the U.S. student population who are academically gifted, the increasingly large number of students with limited English proficiency and students who are struggling in school due to nontraditional learning styles or poor preparation for learning. Obviously, the needs of such diverse learners are different, whether receiving instruction in the classroom or through online courses.” (8) Through their study on students with disabilities, as well as, students that are academically gifted it was recommended that “To meet the needs of exceptional learners, online courses should be both accessible and supportive.”

Differentiated Instruction based on Disabilities

An Indivdualized Education Program is mandated by the IDEA. A student will be evaluated by an IEP team. The members of the IEP are depicted in the image below. The U.S. department of education offer a guide for this evaluation and program. (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.)

Individualized Education Program (U.S. Department of Education, 2015))

Examples of differentiated instruction based on disabilities is illustrated by Alice Ann Darrow (2015), in, “Differentiated Instruction for Students with Disabilities: Using DI in the Music Classroom.” Some of these examples are “A musical example might be having a choir student who has autism and is nonverbal find information about the composer of the choral piece the choir is working on and then distribute the information to the class. A student with multiple disabilities might be learning to access vocal music on an iPad or a computer….It was recommended that “All students are better served when instruction is flexible and there are options for learning and responding.” (Darrow, 2015)

Differentiated Instruction based on Gender

As stated by Kim Goebel (2010), in, “Differentiated Instruction for Girls”, “The female learner has unique needs that can be addressed through differentiated instruction…The curriculum should incorporate activities that utilize female students’ natural proclivities. Classroom activities should integrate group discussions in order for female learners to make meaning of the content. The learning environment should be a safe place for self-expression. The female learner has a strong grasp of emotions. The students should be allowed to make meaning through rehearsing and applying what they have learned. The female learner should also be given positive feedback for accomplishments.”

Goebel goes on to make recommendations that differentiated instruction for females should contain the following: “Interpersonal connections when presenting material; Consider their ideas and encourage them to verbally expand upon their thoughts; Assign project based coursework; Present curriculum with relevant connections to the real world and relationships; Provide positive feedback whenever possible.” (Goebel, 2010)

New Learning and Differentiated Instruction

New Learning is a concept coined by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (2008), in “New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education”. They define New Learning as that which “sets out to rethink the enterprise of education, starting with the fundamentals of learning.” (Kalantzis & Cope, 2008) Based on this definition and being that instruction is a fundamental to learning, differentiated instruction can then be seen as an extension and example of instruction and New Learning.

Pedagogy and Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction can be implemented in any of the three pedagogies – didactic, authentic or transformative. How the information is presented and how the student interacts with it offers illustrations of differentiated instruction.

According to Natalie Milman (2014) in “Differentiating Instruction in Online Environments” “there are many diverse ways in which one might differentiate the content, process, and product of instruction in an online environment.”(9) For the online classroom, the didactic can be represented in the online lectures, reading resources and glossaries. The authentic pedagogy can be represented in the discussion boards and question and answer forums. The transformative pedagogy can be represented by the discussion forums, chat, social media networks, and group projects.

Learning Styles (Mind Tools, 2015)

Landrum and McDuffie (2010) in, “Learning Styles In The Age Of Differentiated Instruction“, argue that instruction should indeed be individualized and differentiated” (6) In regards to learning styles in the online classroom, material can be presented via textbooks, articles and transcripts for the verbal learner, visual diagrams and media for the visual learner, presentation recording and podcasts for the audio learner, interactive activities for the kinesthetic learner in the in didactic approach.

While differentiated Instruction can be expressed in the didactic, authentic and transformative pedagogies, factors such as brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, also should be considered in the determination, type and implementation of the differentiated instruction and may be more notably the defining measures for the differentiated instruction.

Conclusion

Conclusion

Based on the evolution of education in conjunction with the research made on the differing factors of students, differentiated instruction can serve well as an effective and positive teaching strategy. Following the model as proposed by Tomlinson with the integration of abilities based on factors related to the learning preferences and needs of the students stemming from brain research, multiple intelligences, culture, language, ability/disability, gender, learning styles, and more can produce an educational model yielding a more effective educational outcome.


References

References

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Weselby, C. (2014). What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom. Teaching Strategies Concordia University Online. Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/

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