The Move Towards Differentiated Instruction

The idea has been around for quite some time, but no one really put together what differentiated instruction actually meant until the more recent years.  According to Pearl Subban’s article, “Differentiated Instruction: A Research Basis,” there has been a significant change in the student population over the past decades.  As classrooms have become more diverse, the need for more diverse teaching techniques has increased.  Part of the increased referrals to special education can be attributed to the fact that many teachers have not adjusted their teaching methods to accommodate these new student populations.

Subban’s article was published in the 2006 edition of the International Education Journal.  The article focuses on a study that was conducted to “synthesise the research and the rationale underpinning the differentiated instruction model” (936).  Subban looks further into Vygotsky and his research on learning theories, the Zone of Proximal Development Theory, and the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated instruction.  One of the focuses of Subban’s article that caught my attention was the section entitled “The Dangers of Teaching to the Middle” that discusses the negative affects of not using differentiated instruction.  Subban says, “The use of single-paced lessons delivered through a singular instructional approach disregards the different learning styles and interests present in all classrooms” (938).  Teaching to the middle of your students can leave out a large percentage of them.  Those students that the work is too easy for will lose interest and motivation.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, those students that the work is too hard for will also lose motivation as a result of falling behind and not being able to succeed.  This is a large factor in why differentiated instruction came to be in these recent years.

In order to implement differentiated instruction in a classroom, the teacher must take into consideration several factors.  Referring to the picture to the right, the teacher must first pre-assess the students in the class on the material that is going to be covered.  Taking into consideration the pre-assessment scores, the teacher must also look at the different interests and abilities of the students in the class.  Then, while looking at the curriculum, the teacher can put together the content that will be covered, how it will be covered, and what activities the students will be engaging in.  Engaging the students is an extremely important part of differentiated instruction.  If a student doesn’t feel engaged in the topic or content being covered, they are more likely to lose motivation or interest and fall behind.  After teaching the students the required content, the teacher will then assess the students and either proceed to new content or go over again the material that the class seemed to struggle with.  This process may look easy when mapped out as it is in the image, but it is far from it.

There have been several studies done over the past couple of decades that show the positive outcomes or success of using differentiated instruction in classrooms.  Having documentation showing the success of differentiated instruction, this should persuade more and more teachers to switch over to this more modern way of teaching.

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2 Responses to The Move Towards Differentiated Instruction

  1. Timothy York says:

    Awesome topic, I have thought about it many times as I have been on both sides of the spectrum. I have experienced being the kid who is completely lost and uninterested and I have also been the kid who cannot stand how slowly the teacher is going over the material because a few kids in the class do not understand it. I think that you are right about how teachers should approach this issue but as you said its not as easy as it looks. Unfortunately there are restraints; time restraints, limited budget, etc that must be factored in and making this a reality will not be easy. Cool topic though, I enjoyed it.

  2. Kelli Davenport says:

    Being an elementary education major I completely agree with incorporating differentiated instruction within the classroom. I cant tell you how many times I have gone into the classroom and seen teachers who give out worksheets constantly and expect the students to benefit from it. All students have different types of learning styles and the teacher needs to meet them in order for them to learn. I really liked the graph you supplied, it breaks down the the instruction perfectly but its not as easy as it looks. Teachers have so many responsibilities within the classroom and sometimes changing their teaching styles is hard to do.

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