According to Dr. Tracey Hall (2002), a scientist at the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum, differentiated instruction is, "to recognize students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, interests, and to react responsively." There are three main components within instruction that teachers can differentiate: content, process, and product (Tomlinson, 2014). Within these categories are a variety of differentiation strategies, some of these include: tiered activities, small group instruction, graphic organizers, compacting assignments, jigsaw, and learning centers (Tomlinson, 2014, p. 83, 123-149).
As referenced by the Standards and Indicators for School Improvement
, specifically in Standard 3.1a
, varied instructional strategies should be used in all classrooms. Standard 3.1c
also indicates that instructional strategies and activities should be consistently monitored and aligned with diverse student populations. Differentiation is an essential component to Tier 1 Response to Intervention
and should be embedded in core classroom instruction for all students. It is a key component of improving instruction in response to the needs of all learners, thus addressing achievement gaps for targeted populations of students. For more information on closing achievement gaps, please see Guidelines for Closing the Gaps for All Students
Information on Differentiation
The Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson—This book is a complete guide to differentiated instruction. Tomlinson describes the difference between a differentiated and non-differentiated lesson and provides a variety of ideas for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Differentiated Instructional Strategies by Gayle H. Gregory and Carolyn Chapman—Gregory and Chapman provide a clear understanding of each learning style. They also show numerous examples of how teachers can reach students with specific learning styles and needs.
Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Tonya R. Moon—This book describes how to use formative and summative assessments to guide instruction in order to promote student success.
—This website defines differentiated instruction, provides samples of how differentiation looks in the classroom, and has a list of activities at all grade levels available to teachers.
—This website features differentiated activities created by teachers. There are numerous lessons for all subjects and ability levels.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.