Differentiating Instruction for Learners

The winds of change are blowing once again in education. This time the word of the day is differentiated instruction. Leaders in the education field seem to be constantly on the lookout for the best and newest ways to teach children at the highest level. This latest attempt is an acknowledgement of the extraordinarily diverse student population we now have in our schools.

In any given classroom, it is not unusual to have children operating at very different levels of academic ability and achievement. There are also more social challenges than ever as we move ever further from the ideal of a "traditional" family. Many of today's students deal with issues outside of school that are quite challenging.

Differentiated instruction is a method by which the teacher leads his or her entire class toward a common teaching objective, but by a variety of paths. The first thing the teacher must do is assess where each student is starting from in terms of academic strengths and weakness. This can often be done by looking at student performance on pre-assessments. Next, the learning style of each individual student needs to be addressed. While some students like and actually prefer the traditional model of a teacher talking to the whole class, it is far more likely that a visitor in today's classroom would see students working on a variety of projects designed to meet the needs of all learners. Some students might be working on a hands on activity, while others are doing a listening exercise. While this is going on, the classroom teacher might be working with yet another group on a guided reading activity.

Learning to teach a diverse group of students with differentiated methods can be difficult. It demands much preparation and a deep knowledge of the needs of every child. Hopefully, in the end, this model of teaching will prove itself to be effective and beneficial to every student in the classroom.

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