What is Differentiated Instruction?

April 7, 2020

What is Differentiated Instruction?


Differentiated instruction consists of tailoring an educator’s teaching style to fit the needs of all individuals. There are different ways that instructors can change up their teaching styles to accommodate learners. By leveraging differentiated learning, instructors can ensure that their students are met at their comfort level. As classrooms become more and more diverse, the importance of differentiated instruction makes itself evident. 

Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom

As we mentioned, there are different ways that instructors can differentiate their teaching styles. The first of these is the actual content they are teaching. Students are all going to have different knowledge bases coming in so it is important to base your instruction off of this. 

An example of differentiating the content would be breaking up students into groups based on knowledge of a topic. When students are in groups, you can assign different content based on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom’s taxonomy is important to keep in mind when structuring your differentiated instruction. It is a framework to base your teaching off of. Within it there are six categories: create, evaluate, analyze, apply, understand, and remember.

The next way to differentiate instruction is through the process of teaching. This method involves adjusting how a student acquires new knowledge. Some examples of ways to differentiate the process include reading, listening, technology, and hands-on activities.

The third method of differentiating instruction is the product. The product differentiation focuses more on the end result of learning activities. Some examples include tests, presentations, evaluations, and projects.

Lastly, instructors can differentiate the learning environment. The learning environment includes all aspects of the physical classroom, such as how the space is used, the lighting, and the colors. The classroom should be a positive environment that is flexible enough to accommodate all students.

Criticisms of Differentiated Instruction

Some critics of differentiated instruction believe that it is a waste of resources and does not result in any improvement in learning outcomes. Education resources are typically limited, so it makes sense that critics would have an issue with this. 

Another popular criticism of differentiated learning is that while the theory may sound nice, it loses its appeal in practice. Differentiating instruction in some classroom settings can prove to be difficult, and takes away time from teaching material. 

Key Things to Keep In Mind

When beginning to use a differentiated learning approach, it is important to assess where your students are currently. This way you can tailor your teaching methods to meet them where they are. This can be referred to as a pre-assessment. 

You should also continuously assess your students as you move along with your differentiated instruction. This assessment can be done by observing different content and processes that you are using, such as tests, assignments, and projects, to name a few. 

When you are assessing your teaching, you should remember Bloom’s Taxonomy. The two important categories to use are evaluate and analyze. When you become comfortable using these two elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy, you will become more proficient in differentiated instruction. 

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