DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION – ALL EDUCATORS SHOULD RESEARCH THIS TEACHING STRATEGY AND PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTATION!
*Revised excerpt from my Research Methods & Design Research Proposal SPRING 2017*
Each student has individual strengths, weaknesses, prior knowledge, experiences, interests, skills, challenges, and talents. To best ensure optimal student success and academic achievement, individualized instruction that is modeled to collaborate with these existing characteristics can optimize the level of mastery achieved in learning for each individual student. Differentiated Instruction (D.I.) is a highly effective way to maximize student success and academic achievement. D.I. is defined as a way of recognizing and teaching according to the various talents and styles of students (Morgan 2014).
D.I. has been thoroughly researched and discussed in the past and present. There are many discussions existing of the logistics of D.I. According to Mills, et al. (2014), while D.I. is a complex concept and required more careful explication at policy level, more support for teachers to enact should exist, as D.I. is a valuable strategy for teachers and students. Collaboration is another logistic discussed by scholars, today. According to Jones, Yssel, and Grant (2012), all levels of school personnel must make the most of the instructional time available at all tiers and develop optimal D.I. within Response to Interventions (RTIs).
The debate of D.I. continues via scholars, such as Parsons, Dodman, and Burrowbridge (2013), who discuss the issue of broadening the understanding of D.I. and the continuance of D.I. in the education community. Studies have shown that D.I. can significantly aid in avoiding the issue of student success being stunted by non-tapered teaching methods to adequately reach each individual student’s learning needs (Morgan 2014). This is achieved through recognizing needs and differing teaching methods to accommodate these needs.
Many studies and discussions exist on D.I. in the classroom at the various grade levels, aiming to provide evidence supporting D.I. in the classroom. D.I. is vitally important in the maximizing of student achievement in (and out of) the classroom. Due to the variances in students’ prior knowledge, aptitude, attitude, earning, styles, and cultural background, D.I. is necessary to effectively provide optimal opportunity for all students. It allows for an equal opportunity to each student to succeed in the curriculum. Educators being able to identify and address individualized needs within the student’s learning environment is vital to student success and academic achievement. D.I. allows for educators to taper activities, instructions, and methods to best accommodate all students. Darrow (2015) states that students who realize their teachers are invested in their development are more open to communicating needs. Furthermore implicated by current researchers are the potential benefits of utilizing D.I. with special needs students in concurrence with prescribed Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Response to Interventions (RTIs) in a regular classroom setting—this allows for learning in a Least Restrictive Environment while simultaneously developing a more normalized educational and social experience for these special needs students.
D.I. can generate a new classroom environment where each individual student’s needs are identified and accommodated, allowing for optimal achievement. D.I. has been studied in action, and results have concluded that D.I. has the potential to optimize student achievement and scores. Studies have also shown that D.I. in the classroom can lead to a positive learning environment, encouraging students to grow and learn in a way that they feel comfortable and interesting. D.I. within the classroom can aid in creating an active learning environment, one in which students feel comfortable learning the content in new and varying ways. This can lead to optimal development of understanding of curriculum content, preparing students to have all necessary tools to continue to develop and achieve success.
Due to the existing variances in the way students best retain and conceptualize knowledge, D.I. can aid in reaching all different learner types, while also developing other skills and applications for each individual student and his/her own talents and strengths. There are many applications in which D.I. can be extremely helpful, both in regular classroom environments and special needs classroom environments. D.I. can be useful in maximizing the student achievement with all students—providing individualized instruction aimed specifically to meet the needs of an individual student can provide insight to the educators and opportunity to the child to develop to their highest potential. D.I. and Response to Interventions (RTIs) can easily coincide and collaborate in efforts to maximize student achievement. D.I. can be useful at all levels of education; various strategies and RTIs are implemented alongside D.I. at concurring various levels of grades/age groups.
D.I. is a topic of much conversation—one that morphs constantly. Regardless of the position in the education system one holds, all educators should continuously research and strive to understand and implement the variances of D.I. in the classroom and how it could be applied in their own educational environment—classroom, school, district, etc. Due to the amorphous nature of the discussion surrounding and understanding of D.I. in the classroom, all education professionals have an obligation to continuously further develop their understanding and ability to implement, while adjusting accordingly, D.I. within their own educational environment. To best taper teaching methods and classroom management strategies to achieve optimal success by all students, D.I. needs to be thoroughly understood, discussed, and collaborated upon by professionals in the field. Collaborative efforts in understanding and implementing D.I. within the classroom learning environment can lead to an overall positive school environment, as education professionals have collaborated for understanding and discussed for possibilities of achievement or failure, ensuring the optimal learning environment provided to each individual student.
D.I. in the classroom learning environment is something that is attainable yet has many obstacles along the transition from theory and policy to active classroom practice and achievement. Teachers, administration, parents, and any other educator or counselor needs to understand the importance of D.I. Collaboration is key in all aspects of education; D.I. can be exalted by this collaboration and discussion among all involved in the development and success of the student. D.I. can be planned, implemented, and examined; however, active D.I. also needs to happen according to the needs of the students. Teachers actively responding to the needs of students within the previously planned discussions or activities is vital to the optimal achievement by students through D.I. Furthermore, both teachers and administration, as well as any other form of educator, should constantly further develop their understanding of D.I. and the impacts it has on students in (and out) of the classroom. Continuous attention, modeling, implementation, examination, and remodeling should be never-ending; students always can learn how to better use their strengths and talents to obtain optimal achievement, and educators should always be aware of and accommodate this as necessary.
There are many discussions existing of the logistics of D.I. According to Mills, et al. (2014), while D.I. is a complex concept and required more careful explication at policy level, more support for teachers to enact should exist, as D.I. is a valuable strategy for teachers and students. In regards to understanding D.I. and its implementation, they state:
“…Within school differentiation is most obvious in terms of distinctions made between academic and vocational [programs]. Other examples may be ‘gifted and talented’ [programs], ‘special education’ classes, or the streaming of classes according to student test results or [behavior] (see for example, Kronborg & Plunkett, 2008; Noble, 2004). However, differentiation can also occur at a class level and this can involve splitting the class into small groups, giving individual learning activities, or modifying curriculum materials based on perceived ability. Yet differentiation can also entail a recognition of the different knowledges that various students bring to the classroom, their differing skills, and their diverse interests and circumstances, and responding in ways that value these differences and use them to engage students in the work of the classroom. This latter form of differentiation is perhaps most properly conceived of as ‘pedagogical differentiation’ or in US terms, ‘instructional differentiation’…” (334).
This is to say that, even though a stigma exists within the general understanding of singularly and specifically differentiating instruction type based on achievement level within a Tier III intervention environment, D.I. can be implemented at the Tier I level (within the regular classroom environment) via teacher acquisition of knowledge and implementation of strategies for differentiation on a day-to-day basis in the classroom learning environment.
Collaboration is another logistic discussed by scholars, today. According to Jones, Yssel, and Grant (2012), all levels of school personnel must make the most of the instructional time available at all tiers and develop optimal D.I. within RTIs. They present the argument that implementing previously validated and evidence-based intervention/instructional differentiation methods that are more widely associated with an RTI model to be an efficient approach to closing achievement gaps for students, as well as bridging the gap between theoretical research and professional practice. For this to occur, collaboration within the entire education community must first occur. Administrators, interventionists, regular classroom teachers, and special education classroom teachers, alike, need to meet to create a professional and applicable conversation crafted to fit their own school environment and student culture—sharing and compiling of resources and methods can lead to an optimal education environment in which all collaborators involved have contributed to the development, support, and implementation of D.I. within the regular classroom specific to recognized student learning needs, as well as a professional understanding and ability to adjust as needed within an active lesson to ensure optimal student development of skills and achievement of academic success.
Due to the variances in students’ prior knowledge, aptitude, attitude, earning, styles, and cultural background, D.I. is necessary to effectively provide optimal opportunity for all students. It allows for an equal opportunity to each student to succeed in the curriculum. Educators being able to identify and address individualized needs within the student’s learning environment is vital to student success and academic achievement. D.I. allows for educators to taper activities, instructions, and methods to best accommodate all students. Implemented within the regular classroom environment, D.I. can aid in creating an active learning environment, one in which students feel comfortable learning the content in new and varying ways. This can lead to optimal development of understanding of curriculum content, preparing students to have all necessary tools to continue to develop and achieve success.
Birnie, B. F. (2015). Making the Case for Differentiation. Clearing House, 88(2), 62-65. doi:10.1080/00098655.2014.998601
Darrow, A. (2015). Differentiated Instruction for Students With Disabilities: Using DI in the Music Classroom. General Music Today, 28(2), 29-32. doi:10.1177/1048371314554279
Jones, R. E., Yssel, N., & Grant, C. (2012). Reading instruction in tier 1: Bridging the gaps by nesting evidence based interventions within differentiated instruction. Psychology In The Schools, 49(3), 210-218. doi:10.1002/pits.21591
Little, C. A., McCoach, D. B., & Reis, S. M. (2014). Effects of Differentiated Reading Instruction on Student Achievement in Middle School. Journal Of Advanced Academics, 25(4), 384-402. doi:10.1177/1932202X14549250
Mills, M., Monk, S., Keddie, A., Renshaw, P., Christie, P., Geelan, D., & Gowlett, C. (2014). Differentiated learning: from policy to classroom. Oxford Review Of Education, 40(3), 331-348. doi:10.1080/03054985.2014.911725
Morgan, H. (2014). Maximizing Student Success with Differentiated Learning. Clearing House, 87(1), 34-38. doi:10.1080/00098655.2013.832130
Parsons, S. A., Dodman, S. L., & Cohen Burrowbridge, S. (2013). Broadening the view of differentiated instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(1), 38-42.
Piasta, S. B. (2014). Moving to Assessment-Guided Differentiated Instruction to Support Young Children’s Alphabet Knowledge. Reading Teacher, 68(3), 202-211. doi:10.1002/trtr.1316
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