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Differentiated learning, also known as differentiated instruction, is part of an educational philosophy reversing the traditional direction of fit in education. Rather than expecting students to adapt themselves to fit a given teaching model, instruction based on a differentiated learning paradigm fits the method of instruction to students. The model emphasizes the individual, so instruction in a classroom environment must incorporate a wide variety of tools to accommodate the needs of all students by taking account of their differing:
- Learning abilities
- Unique interests
- Learning styles
The Philosophy of Differentiated Learning
A forerunner to the philosophy of differentiated learning was Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner rejected the singular model of intelligence widely accepted within psychology and the education field, claiming instead that there exist many types of intelligence. Gardner supported the idea of schools catering to individual student intelligences and different styles of learning.
Differentiated Learning and Gardner's Theory
Gardner's theory attracted considerable criticism for being out of step with contemporary cognitive psychology in rejecting the idea of general intelligence. Though his ideas have gained some traction within the field of education, the more scientifically oriented field of cognitive psychology takes general intelligence as one of its best established concepts. Still, the part of the theory regarding people having different styles of learning has found scientific support, and that is the concept that most influenced the philosophy of differentiated learning.