Apr
27
2012

Differentiated Instruction as a Necessity in the Modern Classroom

 

Guest Post by Matt Herndon

What do Thomas Edison,
Steven Spielberg and Winston Churchill have in common? They were geniuses. And
beyond that? They were bad students. Teachers considered Edison
“dull”, Spielberg dropped out of college and Churchill failed sixth
grade. How could that happen? Obviously it wasn’t because they were dumb. Maybe
it was because their school environments just weren’t right for them.

Back in the old days,
teachers treated all students the same. You may remember being in a classroom
with rote memorization, rigid rules for each concept and identical treatment of
each student. Maybe you fit the mold; maybe you didn’t. Like millions of
students, the brilliant men listed above may have had different learning styles
than the one that teachers accommodated. Maybe they would have done better in
school with differential learning.

 

What is Differentiated
Instruction?

Differentiated instruction is the theory that all students learn
differently and should be taught using a variety of methods. This idea
separates classic teaching—in which all students are expected to learn the same
way. Some students may do better with interactive lessons; others may prefer to
listen or read. Some need to use all of these techniques. Each classroom
consists of students with a variety of abilities. Differentiated instruction is
responsive to learner needs.

 

Getting Started

Carol Tomlinson
of Reading Rockets identifies four components to focus on
when implementing differentiated instruction in your classroom. Consider each
one carefully, placing more importance on your students’ needs than on what you
perceive as standard practices.

 

1.       Content: What do your students need to know? This may be part of a
mandated curriculum or some information that you feel is important.

2.       Process: How will they learn it? Will you give a lecture, draw a
picture or have your students do some research?

3.       Products: Do you need additional materials? You may need a computer, a
device such as a video recorder or some software, such as an interactive game.

4.       Learning Environment: How does your classroom feel? Is it
friendly, warm and welcoming, so that all students are comfortable making
mistakes without feeling threatened?

 

A Few Extra Tips

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics suggests a few tips for differentiated
instruction.

  • Make use of instruction in class, individual
    and group settings.
  • Accept and value differences and diversity.
    Each student has different learning styles and basic knowledge, so design
    lesson plans so that all students can excel in their own ways.
  • Evaluate results. You need to be sure that
    your students are learning what you want.
  • Offer choices. Students will be more invested
    and do better if they feel that they have chosen what they are doing.

 

Online
Learning and Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated
instruction goes hand in hand with online education. Instead of only choosing
your own hours and locations for studying and attending lectures, you can also
tweak your learning to match your needs. Visual learners can read books or
online materials; audio learners can video chat, and lectures help you learn
through sight and sound simultaneously.

Differentiated
instruction may be worth considering if you’re a teacher who is trying to
maximize each student’s potential, if you find yourself struggling in your
classes or if you are considering online learning. You may be the next
Einstein, or, just as fulfilling, you may end up with a college degree, a new
set of skills and some extra respect from yourself and your colleagues.

 

About the author: Matt Herndon is a freelance writer living
and working in the Indianapolis area. His undergraduate and graduate work was
done in Upper East Tennessee where he studied communication and institutional
leadership. He writes on behalf of American
InterContinental University
.

 

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