Material for this page is from Tomlinson, C. A. (1997, October). Differentiation of instruction in mixed ability classrooms, Idaho Council for Exceptional Children State Conference, Sun Valley, ID.

3 Reasons for Differentiating


"Teachers often do not start with "where children are" but with the requirements of a predetermined, time-allocating curriculum."
-The Culture of The School and The Problem of Change by Seymour B. Sarason


How Classroom Learning Must Emulate Video Games


"Certain motivational states interfere with learning. Two adverse conditions are especially dangerous: anxiety and boredom. Anxiety occurs primarily when teachers expect too much from students; boredom occurs when teachers expect too little. When curricular expectations are out of sync with students' abilities, not only does motivation decrease, but also achievement."
--Talented Teenagers by Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, Whalen


Principles of a Differentiated Classroom

  1. Learning Experiences are based on diagnosis of student readiness, interest and/or learning profile,
  2. Content, Activities and Products are developed in response to varying needs of varied learners,
  3. Teaching and Learning are focused on key concepts, understandings and skills,
  4. All students participate in "respectful" and engaging work,
  5. Teacher and students work together to ensure continual engagement and challenge for each learner,
  6. The teacher coordinates use of time, space and activities,
  7. Flexible grouping ensures consistently fluid working arrangements, including whole class learning, pairs, triads and quads, student-selected groups, teacher-selected groups, and random groups,
  8. Time use is flexible in response to student needs,
  9. A variety of management strategies (such as learning centers, interest centers, compacting, contract, independent study, collegial partnerships, tiered assignments, learning buddies, etc.) is used to help target instruction to student needs.
  10. Clearly established individual and group criteria provide guidance toward success,
  11. Students are assessed in a variety of ways appropriate to demonstrate their own thought and growth.
Options for Differentiation

 
Who
Decides
Portion of the
Curriculum
Learner 
Trait
Group
Make Up
Teacher
Choice
Content
Readiness
Student
Similarity
Student
Choice
Process
(Activities)
Interest
Student
Difference
Shared
Choice
Product
Learning
Profile
Random

Learner Traits for Which Instruction Can be Differentiated


 
Readiness
Level
  • material, ideas, activities, products at a level of moderate challenge for a given student
Interest
  • building passion
  • opportunities for flow
Learning
Profile
  • learning style
  • intelligence type
  • cultural profile
  • gender profile

Developing a Tiered Activity
(You can't create a great tiered lesson unless you know the "guts" of the lesson.)

"The Equalizer" to Chart the Complexity of An Activity

 
Foundational

Transformational
Information, Ideas, Materials, Applications
Concrete

Abstract
Representations, Ideas, Applications, Materials
Simple

Complex
Resources, Research, Issues, Problems, Skills, Goals
Fewer Facets

Multi-Facets
Disciplinary Connections, Directions, Stages of Development
Smaller Leap

Greater Leap
Applications, Insight Transfer
More Structured

More Open
Solutions, Decisions, Approaches
Clearly Defined Problems

Fuzzy Problems
In Process, In Research, In Products
Less Independence

Greater Independence
Planning, Designing, Monitoring
Slower

Quicker
Pace of Study, Pace of Thought