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Differentiation. The research and work of Carolyn Tomlinson. What Is Differentiated Instruction? By: Carol Ann Tomlinson (2000). the efforts of teachers to respond to the variety found among learners in the classroom

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The research and work of

Carolyn Tomlinson

what is differentiated instruction by carol ann tomlinson 2000
What Is Differentiated Instruction?By: Carol Ann Tomlinson (2000)
  • the efforts of teachers to respond to the variety found among learners in the classroom
  • reaching out to an individual or small group to vary teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible

Differentiated instruction is about using teaching strategies that connect with individual student's learning strategies.

  • The ultimate goal is to provide a learning environment that will maximize the potential for student success.
  • It's about being flexible and open to change.
  • It's also about taking risks and trying teaching and learning strategies that you would have otherwise ignored.
Teachers can differentiate at least four classroom elements based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile:
  • Content – what the student needs to learn or how the student will get access to the information;
  • Process – activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or master the content;
  • Products – culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit; and
  • Learning environment – the way the classroom works and feels.
step 1 know your students
Step 1- Know Your Students
  • Determine the ability level of your students. Gather your data.
  • Survey student interests.
    • interest inventory
    • an interview/conference
    • asking students to respond to an open-ended questionnaire with key questions about their learning preferences
  • Is behavior management a problem?
    • This is key when planning for activities that require less structure.
step 2 have a repertoire of teaching strategies
Step 2- Have a Repertoire of Teaching Strategies

Among many teaching strategies that can be considered, there are four worth mentioning:

Direct Instruction

  • Teacher centered and can be used to cover a great amount of material in the amount of time teachers have to cover what students need to learn. It is structured and is based on mastery learning.

Inquiry-based Learning

  • Based on the scientific method and works very well in developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. It is student centered and requires students to conduct investigations independent of the teacher. (KWR Book)

Cooperative Learning

  • Based on grouping small teams of students heterogeneously according to ability, interest, background, etc.
  • One of the most important features of cooperative learning is to pick the best strategy that will be used to assign the task for students to accomplish. (ex: Jigsaw)

Information Processing Strategies

  • Teaching students "how to" process information is a key factor in teaching students how to strategically organize, store, retrieve, and apply information (ex: reciprocal teaching, graphic organizing)
step 3 identify a variety of instructional activities
Step 3- Identify a Variety of Instructional Activities
  • Good activities require students to develop and apply knowledge in ways that make sense to them and that they find meaningful and relevant.
step 4 identify ways to assess or evaluate student progress
Step 4- Identify Ways to Assess or Evaluate Student Progress
  • Varying means of student assessment is necessary if students are to be given every opportunity to demonstrate authentic learning.
  • Ex: portfolios, rubrics, performance-based assessment, and knowledge mapping.
      • Foldables
differentiation s top 10 list
Differentiation’s Top 10 List
  • High-Quality Curriculum planning with the end in mind
  • Continual Assessment
  • Respectful Tasks is challenging, interesting, and worth doing
  • Building Community
  • Flexible Grouping students work in a variety of arrangements
  • Teaching Up raising the ‘ceiling' for all students
    • In a differentiated classroom, all students should be working at a level of complexity that is just above their individual comfort levels.
  • Process
  • Content
  • Products
  • Learning environment
survey monkey results
Survey Monkey Results…
  • What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word "differentiation"?




differentiated instruction means individualized instruction for every child in the classroom
Differentiated Instruction means individualized instruction for every child in the classroom
  • There was a movement in the 1970’s called “individualized instruction” that was flawed because teachers attempted to plan differently for each student in the class. This made learning “fragmented and largely irrelevant” in addition to exhausting teachers.
  • Differentiated learning offers several avenues to learning, it does not assume a separate level for each learner.
  • Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2.

Fear of losing control of student behavior is a major obstacle for many teachers in establishing a flexible classroom.

  • TRUE
  • Fear of losing control of student behavior is a major obstacle for many teachers in establishing a flexible classroom (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2).
  • Effective differentiated classrooms include purposeful student movement and some purposeful student talking. They are not disorderly or undisciplined (Tomlinson, 2001, p. 2).
  • Chaos is not a characteristic of a differentiated classroom.
Differentiated instruction strives to develop effective homogeneous groups in which student collaborate.
  • A hallmark of an effective differentiated classroom…is the use of flexible grouping, which accommodates students who are strong in some areas and weak in others.
  • This teacher knows that sometimes she needs to assign students to groups so that assignments are tailored to student need, but that in other instances, it makes more sense for students to form their own working groups.
  • In a differentiated classroom, the teacher uses many different group configurations over time, and students experience many different working groups and arrangements.
  • Tomlinson, 2001, p. 3.

In a differentiated classroom, the teacher does not wait until a student shows weaknesses in learning before planning different ways for that student to "express {his/her) learning".

  • Differentiated instruction is
  • The fact that learning options are available based on …knowledge of varied learner needs, the chances are greater that the learning experiences will provide an appropriate fit for many learners.



One of the most effective ways for a teacher in a differentiated classroom to know his/her students as learners is through frequent ______________.

  • Classroom discussions.
  • Teacher/student conferences in the workshop setting.
  • Reading of the students' journal writing.
  • Assessment.

In a differentiated classroom, there are times when it is more effective or efficient to share information or use the same activity with the whole class at one time.

  • Differentiated instruction is a blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction.

Tomlinson, 2001, p. 5.

check all words phrases that describe differentiated learning
Check all words/phrases that describe differentiated learning.
  • Student Centered – Absolutely
  • Individualized – to a reasonable degree
  • Chaotic – not if we’re doing it correctly
  • Organic – very!
  • Teacher led – teacher as facilitator of learning
  • Collaborative – as much as possible
  • A mix of strategies – YES! A virtual bag of tricks.
  • Group learning - sometimes
  • Homogeneous – sometimes – but not often
  • Process – you bet!
  • Qualitative – Quality learning is always our goal.
  • Dependent upon assessment – we can’t know our students unless we know what they know
  • Anticipatory – two steps ahead of you
  • Proactive – if we wait until there’s a problem, we’ve waited too long
  • http://www.diffcentral.com/#curriculum
  • http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/teaching/differentiate/planning/
  • Tomlinson, C. A. How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. 2001. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.
  • http://www.readingrockets.org/article/263 :

Excerpted from: Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000).

Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary

Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on

Elementary and Early Childhood Education.