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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. Today, we're going to be looking at the idea of differentiated instruction. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Dr. Seuss, which states, "today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true. There is no one alive that is YOUER than you." And that so very much applies to the idea of differentiated instruction.
Now, by the end of the lesson today, you will be able to, first, explain the key features of differentiated instruction and, second, describe the different ways that teachers can differentiate. So first, let's go ahead and take a look at the idea of differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction really is involved when we are varying or changing what students will learn and how they will learn it. So we are adjusting that based on their level of readiness, what the students are really interested in, and how that student can best learn.
Differentiated instruction is often characterized by the teacher really focusing in on students' interests and their readiness to look at certain content and performance standards-- so making sure that it's personalized to the student-- that classrooms are emotionally safe and that what we are doing in that class is absolutely student-centered. So that's the idea that students are really taking on those individual differences and learning challenges within Stride so that they can feel comfortable in that learning environment.
In differentiated instruction classrooms, it tends to be exceptionally responsive to various students' learning styles so that they are able to adjust or get that differentiated instruction. And that work can be assigned either to students as individuals or in smaller groups, depending on those various interests and levels of readiness. Finally, a pre-assessment is incredibly important within differentiated instruction. It really allows both the teachers to assess where that student is and what they already know and then to make those strategic decisions about how the learning can progress forward.
Now, learning within a differentiated instruction classroom. There tends to be quite a framework for that differentiated instruction that focuses in on how content is being taught, really changing up the process by which we teach, adding differentiation into the products that the students show you when they're done with their education, and then finally adjusting the learning environment.
So let's take a look at some of those various elements. First and foremost, we have differentiating the content. When we talk about differentiating the content, you can really think about this as differentiating what the students will study.
Now, this can look a couple of different ways. It can be differentiated based on readiness or on mastery. But we can also see differentiation coming in with the idea of the levels of sophistication. So it's not just necessarily based on what a student knows, but also perhaps looking at something a little more in-depth perhaps than others, really focusing in on that idea of Bloom's taxonomy and how ready that student is to encounter that course material.
When we look at differentiating the process, what we're thinking here is differentiating how the students will study. This can be done in a couple of different ways. First of all, we can look at providing choice within the classroom assignments and what the student does within the classroom as well as focusing in on providing choice within the homework options.
So when we look at that homework, students can either self-assess their mastery and then choose the next activity based on that, or we can help guide them towards area of what we call interest centers, so ways in which the students are interested. And focusing in on really reaching them in a couple of different ways. Again the benefit in the process, too, is that we can focus in on those different groupings. So students can work one-on-one, or you can be in small groups. And we can adjust those groups based on that student interest.
As we look at differentiating based on student ability or interest or learning needs, it's important to remember that the interest level and the adjustment of the process is really all so that the student can learn to better. So this is not stepping away from those standards, but rather helping to guide them even clearer. When we look at the idea of differentiating the product, what we're looking there is differentiating what the students will produce by the end to demonstrate what they have learned.
This can look as varied timelines for completion. So some students will complete it sooner than others. You could offer checkpoints in for students or focusing in on really in getting them into a cluster grouping that allows for that enrichment for students. Some can take on more of the leadership role while others can learn from their peers.
Differentiating the product can also look with the use of what are called graduated rubrics or proficiency scales so that students are measuring their success towards certain competencies, as well as the opportunity for tiered assessments, so really looking at different levels of that. Just like with other parts of differentiation, choice plays a huge role when we look at differentiating the product. So some students might choose to answer certain types of questions on tests as opposed to quizzes, or they could choose to show their understanding through a project, all so that they're able to get to that idea of mastery.
Finally, we want to look at differentiating the environment. When we look at that, we look at differentiating the learning space. So that can happen in two major ways. First is really adjusting the physical layout of the classroom, so the way that the space is used.
This can include different areas for some large group work versus small group work, various centers where students can work as individuals. It affects the lighting and various environmental evidence, the amount of elements, like available supplies or the way that the furniture is arranged. Perhaps the furniture is flexibly arranged so that students can move and adjust so that the learning space and the physical element of it feels dynamic.
The second major area you can adjust is the real feel of the classroom. You want to make sure that students feel welcome in the environment. It needs to be safe and responsible and risk-free so that students can really put themselves out there and fail if they have to so that they can continue to take charge of their own learning. So for example, if we were to look at a way in which a teacher can apply these major areas to their classroom, the first might be focusing in on the idea-- let's work backwards-- of the environment.
I want to create a classroom environment that feels open to this, so I'm going to use modular chairs that allow students to wheel around the room and put them into different arrangements as we adjust the classroom. I'm also going to make sure that I have some colorful posters up on the wall that help reflect some of the classroom elements. So there I'm differentiating the environment.
When I look at differentiating the product in my classroom, I might look at offering students the opportunity to either test themselves at the end of a unit on Macbeth or allow them to perform a scene, or perhaps even to write a persuasive paper. These are all different ways of achieving that product, but they're going to show me through different lenses that all students have been able to learn the material.
Finally, if I look at differentiating, we'll go all the way back up to the content. Perhaps if I'm teaching something like Macbeth, some of the students will be reading the actual original work translated by Shakespeare. Others maybe will be reading some summaries and then a few key scenes, whereas others might read a more basic or simplified version of the play. All of them are getting the content of it and are able to talk about how it applies to outside ideas. But only some are really going in-depth with Shakespeare's original language.
There's just a few examples of how you can implement these into your classroom, specifically into that one unit, assignment, or activity, to really help show how those could be beneficial for learners. Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you are able to explain the key features of differentiated instruction and to describe the different ways that teachers can differentiate within the classroom. Now that we've reached the end, I would like you to take just a moment and think, what would be the first step you would take in including differentiated instruction into your lesson plans?
For more information on how to apply what you've learned in the video, please view the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The Additional Resources section will include hyperlinks that are useful to the application of course material, including a brief description of each resource.
(00:34-02:43) Differentiated Instruction Overview
(02:44-04:36) Differentiating Content & Process
(04:37-08:28) Differentiating Product & Environment
(08:29-09:07) Review & Reflection
Edutopia: Differentiated Instruction
This web page provides articles, videos, and tech tools for teachers who are interested in differentiating their classroom instruction. The videos are linked from the Teaching Channel, and demonstrate differentiation in action in the classroom.
UVA's Institutes on Academic Diversity
Carol Ann Tomlinson, professor from the University of Virginia, is well-known for her work in the area of differentiated instruction. This UVA site highlights Tomlinson's work in differentiated instruction and provides useful videos, articles, and resources for teachers embarking on DI in their instruction.