Differentiation infographic


What is differentiated instruction?

It is quite known that all students are different and in the same token they learn differently. Smith, author of Differentiating instruction with technology in the middle school classroom, points out the differences as emotional, physical and intellectual developments. Teachers need to be aware of the differences and be able to guide the students through difficulties that impact the students’ lives in a way that interferes with their education.

As teachers we need to focus on the standards and guide all students to success in implementing their knowledge of the standards. This is where differentiated instruction comes in and teachers need to take a standard and teach it in such a way that all students are given the opportunity to learn, understand and apply the standard in different ways. The ultimate goal is that all students will have substantial growth in learning the standard being taught.

In Tomlinson’s book, How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms, she makes it clear that “. . . the teacher assumes that different learners have differing needs. Therefore, the teacher proactively plans a variety of ways to “get at” and express learning”. The key word is “proactively” plans. In order to differentiate in the classroom in a manner of effectiveness a teacher must proactively plan to differentiate in their lessons expecting to adjust their lessons. With differentiated instruction, the progress of students’ learning is also a responsibility of the student. Differentiated instructions is a team effort of the teacher and the student.

As Tomlinson insinuates in her book, teachers need to guide students into thinking on their own, take the responsibility for learning and learn to feed the intrinsic pride for accomplishing the goal. This will prepare students for better opportunities in their lifetime.

There are at least four different elements teachers can use based on students readiness, interest, or learning profile; namely Content, Process, Products, Learning environment. (Tomlinson, 2000) The Content can consist of different reading levels, vocabulary, reading buddies, etc. The Process can vary by tiering, centers, agenda created by the teacher, manipulatives, depth of a topic, etc. The Products can consist of how they want to express what they have learned, rubrics, allowing an option for groups, create their own product assignment, etc. The Learning environment can be a quiet place, materials that reflect home settings, guidelines for independent work, routines, allowing students to move around to learn, etc.

A variety of teaching strategies are used throughout a lesson. Tomlinson suggest oscillating teaching whole class, student work and small group work. This gives students an opportunity to discuss and review the concepts. As the teacher paves the pathway of learning in a variety of ways the students must choose to walk the path put before them. It takes teamwork from the teacher and the student in order to accomplish the task at hand.


Smith, G., Thorne, S. (2009) Differentiating instruction with technology in the middle school. Eugene, Or. USA. Proquest. Ebrary. 29-39.

Tomlinson, C. (2001) How to differentiated instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA USA. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD).


Tomlinson, C. (2000). What is differentiated instruction? Reading Rockets. Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-differentiated-instruction

Weselby, C. (2014) What is differentiated instruction? Concordia Online Education. Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teaching-strategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/


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