Differentiation refers to educators’ attempts to react to differences among students in the classroom. Differentiating instruction occurs whenever a teacher reaches out to a person or select group to customize their instruction to have the best educational experience. An instructor must understand a student’s varied context experience, preparation, language, learning habits, and interests and respond appropriately. Differentiated instruction has significantly changed the conventional teaching method to a more learner-friendly and easier approach to learners’ diversity.
Importance of Differentiated Instruction in Classroom
The differentiated instruction approach has various benefits for learners and educators. Firstly, differentiated instruction provides a basis for resolving learner variation as a vital component of instructional planning. According to Ismajli and Imami-Morina (2018), when educators offer a program to their learners without concern for their diverse learning needs, only a few instructors find their jobs productive or fulfilling. Secondly, differentiated instruction enhances the learning ability of students. According to Ismajli and Imami-Morina (2018), there is abundant proof that students who are taught through forms that are attentive to individual readiness levels, abilities, and learning styles are more effective in school and find this more rewarding.
Thirdly, differentiated instruction ensures the lesson objectives are met after every lesson. Rather than generalizing learners under one big class, differentiated teaching helps educators provide the help students demand (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). Smaller units make it simpler to assess who has learned the lesson’s objectives and is ready to progress. An educator can assess areas of learners that need special attention for a better understanding. Lastly, differentiated instruction reduces conflicts in a learning environment. The conventional content delivery approaches do not work well for most learners (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). Instead, most learners report that they do not understand because of decreased participation and lack of motivation (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). Such conflicts that arise when learners fail to understand are resolved or reduced through differentiated instruction.
Analysis of Key Principles of Differentiation
Differentiated classrooms share several key guiding principles. First, the instructor establishes specific learning objectives and high standards for all learners (Strogilos, 2018). Second, in lesson planning, educators should make critical and innovative thinking a priority (Strogilos, 2018). Students should be required to consider and apply context in their assignments, events, and practices. Third, assessment and evaluation drive instruction, such that educators focus their classes on what their learners know or don’t know, as determined before classes start (Strogilos, 2018). Lastly, differentiated learning is constructive rather than reactive (Strogilos, 2018). Instead of preparing a lesson for all learners and changing it when it doesn’t fit particular learners, educators plan to meet their students’ diverse needs.
Comparison Between Methods
There are three methods: content, process, and product, that guide differentiation in the learning environment. It is possible to distinguish several vital similarities and differences between them. Firstly, a common feature of methods is that every technique of differentiation is intended to meet students’ specific needs uniquely. Secondly, all approaches are dependent on the instructor’s understanding of the learners’ skills and competencies, which is derived from timely, well-planned, and continuous evaluation. Thirdly, the methods unutilized depend on the learner’s readiness, profile, and personal interests. Finally, content, process, and product require the use of the same cognitive functions to proceed with the information successfully.
Since content, process, and product have interlinked similarities, it is difficult to tell them apart and distinguish between them. When a student reads anything (Content), he or she often absorbs the knowledge (Process), and what the learner understands and describes (product) is how teachers know the student has adequately understood (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). The knowledge or ability teachers want learners to study is referred to as content (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). The process is the method by which pupils practice the content. The product is how learners demonstrate comprehension of the current knowledge or ability.
Educators range the resources that the learners work with while differentiating through content. Books, study groups, publications on tape, various documents, outlined articles, or think-pair-share are examples of activities at this level (Smets, 2017). The aim is to transfer learners as rapidly and profoundly as possible along the spectrum. Differentiation by the process is accomplished by open-ended projects that range from basic to complex. The instructor creates these assignments to correct responses and approaches to the problem (Smets, 2017). The challenge is that teachers do not have to be available for every lesson. Learners may select from a variety of assignment choices because of product differentiation. Each student uses the same materials and processes as the rest, but they each have their own goal in mind (Smets, 2017).
The methods, however, exhibit several differences. Firstly, the content is similar to the product, as the second is the proceeded form of the first one. The difference between the mentioned methods is the distinct individuals’ perspectives, which results in the transformation of the information (Ismajli & Imami-Morina, 2018). Secondly, the process is different from the other two methods as it does not focus on the object, which is the information, but on the approach to transfer it from the sources to the learner. Thirdly, the vital differences between content and process are the loss or change in information transformed through learning. Finally, the techniques of the implementation of the methods are significantly different from each other.
Evaluation of methods: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Methods
Evaluation of Content
Some of the strengths in this level include; first, content differentiation occurring on a scale of complexity that ranges from providing few to several guidelines and from specific to abstract activities, thus boosting creativity and creative thinking (Smets, 2017). Second, educators adapt the content’s starting point to the learner’s preparation level (Smets, 2017). In addition, the variety of sources enables learners to choose the most appropriate one (Drew, n.d.). Finally, the level of access to the information is equal for all the students.
One of the content method’s weaknesses is that it is costly to get a wide range of resources to improve the learner’s ability. The second con of content is the large amount of time that is required for the teacher to choose the sources of information successfully (Drew, n.d.). Moreover, there are chances of losing the primary point because of the differences between distinct sources, which provide the same provisions independently (Drew, n.d.). Finally, this method can conceive difficulties related to the evaluation of the learning process’s outcomes.
Evaluation of Process
This method’s strengths include: first, students are engaged in exercises that promote active thought (Smets, 2017). Secondly, additional exercises help learners build on their relevant facts. Thirdly, various forms are typically used to guide learners who require additional assistance (Smets, 2017). In addition, it strives for equity without teaching everyone the same. The process’s weakness is that it can be difficult for teachers to visualize exactly how this approach would work (Smets, 2017). Moreover, learners are individuals with distinct learning abilities, and teachers should find a unique approach to each of them (Drew, n.d.). In addition, it is time-consuming and often cannot be implemented for all students. Finally, the consideration of every student’s level of this method acceptance is a due.
Evaluation of Product
The strengths at this level include creating a unique integrated learning experience that showcases how much they have learned over time (Smets, 2017). Secondly, as a collaborative assignment, learners may, for instance, create a board game, a charade, an audio recording, or a diary (Smets, 2017). Thirdly, it enables students to increase their communication and public speaking abilities (Drew, n.d.). Finally, it promotes the use and improves secondary creative abilities. The weakness at this level is the teacher’s time constraints and thoughts, which sometimes limit the product differentiation. Moreover, this method is unrealistic in the context of standardized tests. In addition, it is often time-consuming for students. Finally, it is necessary to choose an appropriate type of product for each student, which is complicated.
A Differentiated Activity to Implement in the Classroom
The differentiated activity of choice is the Think-Pair-Share instructional activity. At the thought level, I will ask learners to respond to a question by writing it down on paper in one or two minutes. The activity will ensure they are actively involved in-class participation and will also enable them to think critically. I will ask learners to discuss their responses with the person seated next to them at the pair level. The pair should come up with the best response to the posed question. At the share level, I will ask the learners to share their responses with the whole class. The activity is meant to form the basis of my teaching and capture the learner’s attention by actively involving them. It is unlikely to cause uncertainty and make students feel uncomfortable through this method implementation, as the level of stress is reduced by enabling students to work in pairs. At the final stage of the activity, all participants will be engaged in the open discussion that is intended to familiarize other pairs with responses, choose the best one, and improve their skills in public speaking.
Not every student is the same. Based on this understanding, differentiated instruction is a teaching method that gives students various ways to absorb knowledge and make sense of concepts. Some of the learners’ varied options to look into include interests and learning abilities. The method of instruction is critical to a learner’s understanding. Teachers are therefore expected to handle learners’ diversity appropriately. In differentiated instruction, the curriculum is structured to support learners’ identified or unidentified learning abilities and disabilities; hence learning objectives are often met. It is vital to find the balance between engaging in collaborative activities and coinciding with particular students’ level of comfort with public speaking. Differentiated instructions are time-consuming and often complicated by external factors, but they may become a valuable part of the learning process regarding the internal atmosphere in the classroom.
Drew, C. (n.d.). Differentiated instruction – strategies, pros & cons. Helpful Professor. Web.
Ismajli, H., & Imami-Morina, I. (2018). Differentiated instruction: Understanding and applying interactive strategies to meet the needs of all the students. International Journal of Instruction, 11(3), 207-218.
Smets, W. (2017). High-quality differentiated instruction – A checklist for teacher professional development on handling differences in the general education classroom. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 5(11), 2074-2080.
Strogilos, V. (2018). The value of differentiated instruction in the inclusion of students with special needs/disabilities in mainstream schools. In SHS Web of Conferences (Vol. 42, p. 00003). EDP Sciences.