Differentiation in instruction means meeting individual students learning needs.
Differentiation in teaching is essential to help students learn effectively and help them have a complete understanding of subject knowledge while keeping their interests and learning needs in mind. The process of differentiation requires the teacher to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. At The Core, differentiated instruction creates the best learning experience for the learner, in whatever way possible.
There are multiple strategies to differentiate instruction. However, four key classroom elements provide a way to make it happen. These are:
- Content – resource students access to learn about the subject topic.
- Process – the activities in which the student engages to learn and understand the content.
- Products – projects that students make to showcase, apply, practise, and extend all they've learned in a unit or subject. For example, projects, assignments and assessments.
- Learning environment – classroom working and the way it feels to students. The learning environment consists of multiple factors like student-teacher relationships, seating arrangements, guidelines, routines, rules, etc.
Differentiating instruction could be overwhelming as teachers need to work with students with varied needs and teach them the same material in multiple ways as per all students' learning styles. This requires the teacher to use a variety of instructional strategies.
Here is a list of top strategies for differentiated instruction that'd help teachers kick start the process in the classroom.
Team Learning Is The Key
Grouping students in different teams based on different grounds could be helpful. This group formation should be intentional and could be based on a specific academic ability, learning styles, subject knowledge, similar collaboration skills, social-emotional purpose, passions or any other basis as long as it helps with effective differentiated instruction.
Having a flexible approach to group students help teachers in analysing students' grasp of subject knowledge. Through these groups, students get a chance to take control over their learning and help their peers. The approach also helps educators get an insight into students' understanding of the concepts. However, it is recommended that you keep shuffling students among various groups to help them develop soft skills and connect with all their peers.
You can apply flexible grouping as a differentiation strategy in your classroom by diving students into groups every time you start a new unit. Review the skills of all students individually and compare it with the skills that the students will require to complete the new unit you're starting. Begin by forming groups with students having varied skills level, and where each group has students who can help each other with something to have a complete understanding of the subjects or unit you're going to start. This grouping will allow your students to learn more from their peers and develop soft skills, all while learning at the pace that works the best for them.
Practice Goal Setting and Reflection Exercises
Just like journaling helps one have better clarity, reflecting and continuous goal setting can help teachers provide differentiated instruction to students. It is crucial that throughout the learning journey of any subject topic, students reflect on their work and set goals for further learning. They can keep track of the topics that they enjoyed the most or would like to learn more about. This target setting can aid personalised learning as teachers can look into their goal setting and work around the instruction as per students' needs.
For instance, teachers can ask students to write about their favourite topics and most interesting concepts from their chemistry class and the information they've learned. Once the teacher has the students' responses, teachers can target lessons to help students achieve their learning goals. Also, if most students want to learn and explore a certain aspect of the subject, teachers can design more activities.
Bring Varied Learning Content
Changing the type of content with what students want to learn from could make your differentiated instruction much better. The type of content you use in your lessons directly impacts students interest, engagement, and understanding of the concepts. You may have noticed that certain students do not participate in class discussions or take an interest in lessons. Switch content type and bring varied content like videos, podcasts, audio recording, computer programs, games or anything multimedia that goes with your subject. You can also make an interactive lesson by having students act out.
Addressing students' preferred learning styles and delivering learning content to varied styles is a crucial part of differentiated instruction. This also implies that all students may not need the same support and help from the teacher. While some students may work in pairs, others might like to collaborate in groups or one-on-one interaction. Teachers can help students by offering support based on their individual needs and catering to their learning styles.
Tailor Assignments as per Students' Learning Style and Goals
Teachers usually provide the assignment to understand students' knowledge on the subject topic. Like their different learning styles, using a differentiated approach for the end product from students can help different learners. For instance, some students are visual learners, while others may enjoy learning from audio resources or are readers. Just like you offer students the flexibility to learn from varied content as per their learning style, it can help students if you allow them the same flexibility to work on the assignments. They can present their understanding of the subject topic in various ways. This will help students unleash creativity and enjoy their learning even better. For example, visual learners may want to create a poster or presentation, readers would enjoy writing a paper, and auditory learners may want to give an oral presentation.
Feedback can change your teaching game upside down. Like in all pedagogies, to provide differentiated instruction, consider reaching out to students to learn more about their expectations and understand their preferred learning style. It is important to understand students' strengths and weaknesses, and once you have that understanding, you can develop activities, lessons and other classroom resources keeping that in mind. Taking Feedback from students can help teachers help students as well as perfect their art of teaching.
What other ways can teachers initiate and enhance differentiated instruction? Mention in the comments section below.