Within the four ways for differentiating instruction there are embedded several other learning strategies which are used in conjunction with each other. (http://www.dese.state.mo.us/divinstr/gifted/pubref.htm#INSTRUCTIONAL%20STRATEGIES)
Missouri Department of Education
new to differentiating instruction may initially choose to use individual strategies and begin by differentiating either
content, process or product .
It is also important to recognize that there is
a considerable overlap between the strategies listed below. As teachers become comfortable with these strategies several may
be very effectively employed simultaneously.
For example: students may be grouped by interest but may also have activities set at different
levels of complexity (questioning levels/abstract thinking processes) resulting in varying products that employ
students' preferred learning modality (auditory, visual or kinesthetic). Thus the content is being differentiated by
interest, the process is being differentiated by readiness (complexity of thinking skills required) and the product is being
differentiated by student learning modality preferences. This multiple differentiation has the added advantage of
making presentations much more interesting than it would be if all groups do everything in the same way and each presentation
was simply a repetition of the former one.
- All differentiation
of learning begins with student assessment http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/assessing.html
- Since differentiating
requires a considerable degree of self direction and intrinsic motivation, it is necessary to focus on developing intrinsic
motivation skills. http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/motivation.html
- It is necessary
to clarify the concept of fairness. Students often
get hung up on the idea that it isn't fair for the teacher to have different expectations for different students. They often
feel that all students should be doing the same thing or "it isn't fair." It is important for the teacher to establish
the fact that each student is a unique individual and has different learning needs. Consequently they will be working at different
tasks much of the time.
Readiness / Ability
Teachers can use a variety of assessments to determine a student's ability
or readiness. Also, to learn new concepts students may be generally working below or above grade level or they may simply
be missing necessary prerequisite skills.
However, readiness is constantly changing and as readiness changes it is important
that students be permitted to move between different groups (see flexible grouping). Activities for each group are often
differentiated by complexity. Students whose understanding is below grade level will work at tasks inherently less complex
than those attempted by more advanced students. Those students whose reading level is below grade level will benefit by reading
with a buddy or listening to stories/instructions using a tape recorder so that they receive information verbally.
Varying the level of questioning (and consequent thinking skills) and compacting
the curriculum and are useful strategies for accommodating differences in ability or readiness.
During large group discussion activities, teachers direct the higher level
questions to the students who can handle them and adjust questions accordingly for student with greater needs. All students
are answering important questions that require them to think but the questions are targeted towards the student’s ability
or readiness level.
An easy tool for accomplishing this is to put posters on the classroom walls
with key words that identify the varying levels of thinking. For example I used to put 6 posters on my walls (based on Bloom's
taxonomy) one for Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. These were useful cues for me
when conducting class discussions and useful for my students when they were required to develop their own research questions.
Different students may be referred to different posters at certain times depending on ability, readiness or assignment requirements.
With written quizzes the teacher may assign specific questions for each group
of students. They all answer the same number of questions but the complexity required varies from group to group. However,
the option to go beyond minimal requirements can be available for any or all students who demonstrate that they require an
additional challenge for their level.
Compacting the curriculum means assessing a students knowledge, skills and
attitudes and providing alternative activities for the student who has already mastered curriculum content. This can
be achieved by pre-testing basic concepts or using performance assessment methods. Students who demonstrate that they do not
require instruction move on to tiered problem solving activities while others receive instruction.
Tiered activities are a series of related tasks of varying complexity. All
of these activities relate to essential understanding and key skills that students need to acquire. Teachers assign
the activities as alternative ways of reaching the same goals taking into account individual student needs.
Accelerating or decelerating the pace that students move through
curriculum is another method of differentiating instruction. Students demonstrating a high level of competence can work
through the curriculum at a faster pace. Students experiencing difficulties may need adjusted activities that allow for a
slower pace in order to experience success.
As student performance will vary it is important to permit movement between
groups. Student’s readiness varies depending on personal talents and interests, so we must remain open to the
concept that a student may be below grade level in one subject at the same time as being above grade level in another
Flexible grouping allows students to be appropriately challenged and avoids
labeling a student's readiness as static. Students should not be be kept in a static group for any particular subjects as
their learning will probably accelerate from time to time.
Even highly talented students can benefit from flexible grouping. Often they
benefit from work with intellectual peers, while occasionally in another group they can experience being a leader. In either
case peer-teaching is a valuable strategy for group-work.
Occasionally a student may have personal needs that require one-on-one instruction
that go beyond the needs of his or her peers. After receiving this extra instruction the student could be designated as the
"resident expert" for that concept or skill and can get valuable practice by being given the opportunity to re-teach the concept
to peers. In these circumstances both students benefit.
Another filter for assigning students to tasks is by learning style, such as adjusting preferred environment (quiet, lower lighting, formal/casual seating etc.) or learning
modality: auditory (learns best by hearing information) visual (learns best through seeing information in charts or pictures)
or kinesthetic preferences (learns best by using concrete examples, or may need to move around while learning) or through
personal interests. Since student motivation is also a unique element in learning, understanding individual learning styles
and interests will permit teachers to apply appropriate strategies for developing intrinsic motivational techniques.
Interest surveys are often used for determining student interest. Brainstorming
for subtopics within a curriculum concept and using semantic webbing to explore interesting facets of the concept is another
effective tool. This is also an effective way of teaching students how to focus on a manageable subtopic. Mindmanager / (http://Mindjet.com) and Inspiration are two very useful software applications that can facilitate the teacher in guiding students through
exploring a concept and focusing on manageable and personally interesting subtopics.
This strategy is particularly useful for younger students and/or students
with reading difficulties. Children get additional practice and experience reading away from the teacher as they develop fluency
and comprehension. It is important that students read with a specific purpose in mind and then have an opportunity
to discuss what was read. It is not necessary for reading buddies to always be at the same reading level. Students with
varying word recognition, word analysis and comprehension skills can help each other be more successful. Adjusted follow up
tasks are also assigned based on readiness level.
Independent Study Projects
Independent Study is a research project where students learn how to develop
the skills for independent learning. The degree of help and structure will vary between students and depend on their ability
to manage ideas, time and productivity. A modification of the independent study is the buddy-study.
A buddy-study permits two or three students to work together on a project.
The expectation is that all may share the research and analysis/organization of information but each student must complete
an individual product to demonstrate learning that has taken place and be accountable for their own planning, time management
and individual accomplishment
A learning contract is a written agreement between teacher and student that
will result in students working independently. The contract helps students to set daily and weekly work goals and develop
management skills. It also helps the teacher to keep track of each student’s progress. The actual assignments will vary
according to specific student needs.
Learning Centres have been used by teachers for a long time and may contain
both differentiated and compulsory activities. However a learning centre is not necessarily differentiated unless the activities
are varied by complexity taking in to account different student ability and readiness. It is important that students understand
what is expected of them at the learning centre and are encouraged to manage their use of time. The degree of structure that
is provided will vary according to student independent work habits. At the end of each week students should be able to account
for their use of time.
Carol Anne Tomlinson’s book The Differentiated Classroom and ASCD’s video tape kit Differentiating Instruction (VT 7600) list
the following additional strategy for differentiating learning in a mixed ability classroom.
This may be a list of activities that a student can do to at any time when
they have completed present assignments or it can be assigned for a short period at the beginning of each class as students
organize themselves and prepare for work. These activities may relate to specific needs or enrichment opportunities, including
problems to solve or journals to write. They could also be part of a long-term project that a student is working on. These
activities may provide the teacher with time to provide specific help and small group instruction to students requiring additional
help to get started. Students can work at different paces but always have productive work they can do. Some time ago
these activities may have been called seat-work, and should not be confused with busy-work. These activities must be
worthy of a student’s time and appropriate to their learning needs.
Tomlinson also recommends tiered activities, adjusting questions, learning
centres, flexible grouping, independent study and curriculum compacting as defined above.
The teacher becomes a facilitator, assessor of students and planner of activities
rather than an instructor. This is what Roger Taylor called the "Guide on the Side rather than the Sage on the Stage" approach in the early 80s. It is less structured, more busy and often less quiet than traditional teaching
methods. However, differentiation engages students more deeply in their learning, provides for constant growth and development,
and provides for a stimulating and exciting classroom.