Instructional Strategies For Differentiating Instruction
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An instructional strategy structures the approach instructors and educators take in conveying and teaching information to students. Differentiated instruction is recognized by the following characteristics:
- A means of recognizing that no two students are the same.
- All students enter a class with different backgrounds, preparation, experiences, abilities, and weaknesses.
- Differentiating instruction is an instructional theory that encourages teachers to address this challenge by taking diverse student factors into account when planning for and delivering instruction.
Differentiated instruction is informed by a belief that every student may learn or demonstrate mastery of a concept in a different way; this means that students should be offered a variety of ways of interacting with the information or ideas. Because of this, differentiated instruction requires that the educator tailor and adapt the activities and curriculum to the needs of the student. In order to address the needs of all students, educators must incorporate a variety of approaches and strategies into every lesson. Some examples of broad instructional strategies include direct instruction, indirect instruction, independent study, experiential learning, and interactive instruction. These strategies can be applied to a wide variety of content and are appropriate for students of every age. The goal of differentiated instruction is to provide every learner, no matter his or her personal preference or learning style, the opportunity to learn and succeed.
In terms of how differentiation functions in the classroom, one can consider the following example from a diverse, fifth grade, social studies classroom in the public school serving children with average ability, and those who have been identified as needing gifted, learning support and ESL accommodations. Take a unit on Colonial America for instance. Within this unit there are multiple opportunities to group students in a variety of ways that will maximize their learning experience. The following topics and activities demonstrate how one might institute multiple grouping patterns to facilitate instruction for at different types of learners.
In introducing the topic of Colonial America, I would want to assess the prior knowledge and perspectives of my students on this topic in general. In brainstorming about What We Know and Want to Know about Colonial America students will activate their prior knowledge as a foundation for future learning, and generate questions that will help to structure their learning. For this topic I would group students heterogeneously and provide the same level of facilitation to all groups. Small groups encourage better participation than whole class work. By heterogeneously grouping students at this point, I am more likely to have a broad range of prior knowledge and experiences in a group, which is what I would want when brainstorming. In these groups everyone is an equal contributor of their own experience. The ESL students might offer a different perspective than their classmates. The gifted student may have more in depth experience to share with the group. Children with learning disabilities can easily participate. Any child from the group who lacks a lot of first hand background knowledge will have a head start, after participating in the group, when it comes to sharing later in class.