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12.1: Introduction

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    Thumbnail for the embedded element "Differentiating Instruction: It’s Not as Hard as You Think"

    [Education Week]. (2018, Sept. 11). Differentiating Instruction: It’s Not As Hard as You Think. [Video File].


    Differentiation refers to a wide variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or learning environment. Differentiation is commonly used in “heterogeneous grouping”—an educational strategy in which students of different abilities, learning needs, and levels of academic achievement are grouped together.

    In heterogeneously grouped classrooms, for example, teachers vary instructional strategies and use more flexibly designed lessons to engage student interests and address distinct learning needs—all of which may vary from student to student. The basic idea is that the primary educational objectives—making sure all students master essential knowledge, concepts, and skills—remain the same for every student, but teachers may use different instructional methods to help students meet those expectations.

    Teachers who employ differentiated instructional strategies will usually adjust the elements of a lesson from one group of students to another, so that those who may need more time or a different teaching approach to grasp a concept get the specialized assistance they need, while those students who have already mastered a concept can be assigned a different learning activity or move on to a new concept or lesson.

    In more diverse classrooms, teachers will tailor lessons to address the unique needs of special-education students, high-achieving students, and English-language learners, for example. Teachers also use strategies such as formative assessment—periodic, in-process evaluations of what students are learning or not learning—to determine the best instructional approaches or modifications needed for each student.

    Key Takeaways

    Also called “differentiated instruction,” differentiation typically entails modifications to:

    • practice (how teachers deliver instruction to students),
    • process (how the lesson is designed for students),
    • products (the kinds of work products students will be asked to complete),
    • content (the specific readings, research, or materials, students will study),
    • assessment (how teachers measure what students have learned), and
    • grouping (how students are arranged in the classroom or paired up with other students).

    Differentiation techniques may also be based on specific student attributes, including interest (what subjects inspire students to learn), readiness (what students have learned and still need to learn), or learning style (the ways in which students tend to learn the material best).

    12.1: Introduction is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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