Differentiation provides clear learning goals that are rich in meaning. It provides various avenues and support systems to maximize the chance of each student succeeding with those rich and important goals. It places the student at the center of the teaching and learning process rather than the teaching being driven by the “way” the teacher would explain the material.
Today’s students don’t learn the same way as one another. There are various learning styles such as Kinesthetic, Linguistic, and Auditory to name a few. When teachers differentiate, they tailor their instruction and adjust the curriculum to meet the students’ needs rather than expecting students to modify themselves to fit the curriculum.
Differentiated instruction is:
- Proactive, meaning that the teacher plans and uses a variety of ways to teach.
- A combination of whole group, small group, and individual instruction.
- Qualitative, meaning quality work over quantity work.
- Created through assessment.
- Uses multiple approaches to accommodate multiple intelligences.
- Student centered, meaning that lessons are engaging, relevant, interesting, and active.
- Organized and planned.
Differentiation is not teaching at a slow pace so that everyone can keep up. It is connecting curriculum in the classroom with life happenings outside of the classroom in order to make learning meaningful (Voltz, 2003). When students take ownership of their learning, they become involved, interactive, and take control by using their individual learning styles to access information, interpret material, and demonstrate what they have learned.