Differentiated Instruction to Ensure Student Success

by EducationInfo4U

How can a learning program that features differentiated instruction make sure that students are working at the right level for their individual needs while learning new skills?

Three Crucial Steps for Individualized Instruction

Differentiated instruction acknowledges that students come into a learning situation from various backgrounds and possess different abilities, learning styles and interests. Instead of asking the child to adjust to the curriculum and learning process, the teacher adjusts the content, process and student products to fit the various individuals in the classroom. 

The teacher’s goal is to meet the student where they are and help them gain the knowledge and skills necessary for success in school. Children learn best when they are challenged but not overwhelmed, and when the material being learned is connected with their lives outside the classroom.

Three steps are necessary in providing this individualized instruction. First, the teacher must know the students; their abilities, interests, learning styles, and any special needs. Second, the teacher needs to identify the areas of the curriculum that can be adapted for classroom instruction and student projects. Third, the teacher needs to consider the role of instructor in a classroom using differentiated instruction.

Online math games help to ensure students are working at the optimum level while practicing their new skills. A system that provides real-time feedback to the teacher on student progress allows her to pinpoint areas of trouble and provide immediate help to students who are struggling. An online system that also lets students practice at home extends learning beyond the classroom and helps to stamp in new knowledge and skills.

Image: Phaitoon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Differentiated Instruction

Adjusting Content

Background knowledge, abilities and interests of students will vary in a multi-level classroom. The teacher needs to deal with the required core curriculum but adapt the presentation of information to each student’s needs. A child who is struggling with the concepts being taught will need reinforcement that does not push too much information at a time, while one who is moving quickly will need enrichment.

Meeting all of these needs in a single classroom can be a tremendous challenge. Among the greatest tools a teacher can use to track student progress and provide appropriate support are online computer-based learning games. A system that automatically adjusts to the student’s level of understanding will help to ensure that each child works at a level just above their current mastery, so they receive exactly the right amount of support and challenge. A learning game system that also provides real-time feedback to the teacher can help spot those students who need more intervention in order to experience success.

Adjusting Process

Learners in a classroom utilizing differentiated instruction work together in flexible groups and pairings so that they learn from and encourage one another. The teacher introduces the broad concepts to the whole class, then breaks the class into appropriate groups according to needs and interests. A mix of differing abilities and interests in each group will promote social learning and ensure that children are able to assist one another. Groups are constantly changing as the process they are working with changes. While children are working in groups, the teacher acts as a resource and as a coach if a group seems to be floundering. Staying alert to any developing problems will ensure that the learning groups function as independently as possible while staying on track and deriving the greatest benefit from the experience.

Adjusting Product

The students’ products will vary widely in a classroom with differentiated instruction. Although the project will always reflect core curriculum standards, the complexity of work required will vary from student to student. In this way, the work being done will reflect the student’s background knowledge, culture, interests and abilities. Children will express their learning and skills in ways that utilize their best talents and allow for individual learning style. Each child should be able to experience success by creating a product that shows their understanding of the concepts taught and mastery of needed skills.
A teacher who uses differentiated instruction does not write a separate lesson plan for each student: This would be overwhelming. Rather, the teacher adapts the core curriculum to ensure that each child is able to experience success and progress according to her abilities. 

Use of online computer-based games on a regular basis helps to ensure that each child works at the appropriate level and progresses as quickly as possible. Games do not take the teacher’s place but allow instruction to be targeted to those students who need assistance, either in grasping the concepts and skills needed or in forging ahead into more advanced work. Online systems that allow students to continue playing the learning games at home help to ensure they do not forget what was taught before returning to the classroom. They are able to make continuous, steady progress.

Differentiating the instruction according to student needs and interests assists students by focusing on their particular interests, needs and abilities within a core curriculum. Adjusting the content, the process, and the student product to reflect each child’s level of understanding enables children to progress in their studies without being confused by too much information, too soon. This is one of the hallmarks of a great system of education.

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Differentiated Instruction- Scaffolding Model

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Updated: 01/03/2012, EducationInfo4U
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