Differentiated instruction is a way of teaching that keeps students accountable for their individual learning needs and styles. Differentiation can include the use of various resources, technology, materials, and classroom management strategies for a rigorous and appropriate curriculum for all learners. This instruction is considered prior to designing lesson plans and based on the needs of the diverse learners within the classroom. There are so many various routes to take when differentiating instruction. The goal is to meet the needs of all learning in a way that targets their strengths and weaknesses. This method of teaching is imperative when teaching and gives the students a choice in how they learn, but it also aids teachers in personalizing their instruction for students. When differentiating instruction there are three ways to adjust to learners. Educators may start with content, and determining the knowledge and skills needed to master. Next, would be the process of instruction and deciding what activities will be used to aid students in mastering content. The third element would be the product, and this is what the method used to deliver instruction would be. Of course, the learning environment plays a factor in how and when differentiation of instruction can and should take place.
According to Hamilton, differentiation strategy most popularly used with students is flexible grouping. However, the disadvantage to grouping students is that students do not always know how to work in groups. More commonly, especially since the Pandemic, students are struggling with their social skills. Not all students work at the same pace or learn at the same speed, so this is a challenge when there are mixed ability students in the classroom. This can be especially challenging when there are students on an IEP or 504 Plan, but of course other students don’t know they have a disability or understand why they are not on the same ability level. So, in this grouping comes teaching a lot of respect, understanding, and social skills. It has been found that positive behavioral support and rewards have made this an effective method of teaching.
Student Centered instruction is a teaching style that is focused on the teaching of the students rather than the teacher. This type of instruction is where students and teachers actively work together in the learning process. Students take full responsibility and play an active role in their education in this type of teaching style. During this teaching style students are granted opportunities to lead learning activities by participating in more active discussions, designing projects, exploring topics of interest, and providing input on the design of their instruction. Teachers deliver instruction in student centered learning to meet the needs of the individual learners. Some of the characteristics of this type of instruction are voice, choice, competency-based progression, and monitoring student needs continually. In student centered learning the student requires individualization, interaction, and integration. They can feel empowerment to create their own activities and materials of choice. Students also can work as a team to learn by teaching their peers. Planning for this learning often involves beginning with the student in mind as opposed to considering the school or district policy. Assessing student centered learning can be based on a few things. Often, considering what students are to learn and telling them. Selecting assignments and tests that measure what is valued most is another alternative to assessing. Collaborating with students to set and achieve goals and then construction of a skeleton assessment with them might be another way to gain assessment data (Lupoli, 2016). Determining if students are engaged in the student-centered learning can be based on the following: Is the student alert? Are they listening? Do they track the lesson, instruction, or communication with their eyes? Are they taking notes and asking questions? Are they working with other students? Do they answer basic questions? Can they promptly respond to teacher questions? If students are in fact able to demonstrate the above questions, then it would prove they are in fact engaged in the lesson and actively collaborating to take ownership of their learning.
Best practices in education are very effective if conducted appropriately. Educators depend various methods to use during lessons when driving their instruction within the classroom. Continual research is important to differentiate instruction with accommodations or modifications based on student need and staying up to date on new resources for curriculum use. Researching methods of instruction provide evidence and determinations made based on student success. Veteran teachers can bring experience to the table of education, but research can teach educators how to stay current in the ever-changing world of education. Remaining in the know on best practices for all areas of education is critical to being an effective educator.
Lupoli, C. (2017). I want it NOW! THREE EFFECTIVE TEACHING STRATEGIES IN AN AGE WHERE WE WANT IT ALL. NOW. Leadership, 46(4), 20–22.
Thorburn, M., & Allison, P. (2017). Learning outdoors and living well? Conceptual prospects for enhancing curriculum planning and pedagogical practices. Cambridge Journal of Education, 47(1), 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2015.1118438
HAMILTON, N. J., & ASTRAMOVICH, R. L. (2016). Teaching Strategies for Students with Adhd: Findings from the Field. Education, 136(4), 451–460.