Looking at Differentiation...An Overview.

 *This is a blog in the series on differentiation in the classroom. See below for the other blogs in the series.

     In a recent post, Student Engagement Is a Thing, Isn't It?, engaging students was examined and a number of research-driven methodologies were described. One growing path of research in the early 2000s focused on the idea of reaching students equitably through differentiation within instruction. 

What is Differentiated Instruction (DI)?

    Differentiated instruction is a framework, not an instructional strategy, where different aspects of the curriculum are adjusted to help the student learn the content and show achievement. Differentiation speaks to the idea of equity for the learner. This framework is often connected to the tenets of universal design for learning (UDL). The UDL framework holds that content should be presented in multiple ways, processed in multiple ways, and presented in multiple ways. Differentiated instruction holds that students should be allowed multiple options from which to choose or with which the content is assigned to learn, process, and present content showing what learning and how learning has happened.

     Carol Ann Tomlinson, a prominent researcher and the pioneer of differentiated instruction, shares a concise definition to ground the work around DI in the classroom.

The Model of the Framework

    Dr. Tomlinson created a flow of the DI framework to show the aspects and considerations when differentiating in the classroom.

How to Differentiate?

    Tomlinson originally identified 3 areas where teachers can differentiate in their instruction: content, process, and product.  Content can be differentiated by using a student's readiness, interests, and learning style to decide the rigor, emphasis, and focus of the content ultimately to meet the standard or learning goals. Later, learning environment, was added to the framework, and eventually affect was separated to give space for examining how non-instructional pieces play a role in the learning process for students. It is important to remember that though the content, process, product, affect, and learning environment can be differentiate, they revolve around the non-moveable standard or clear learning goals that has/have to be met. The standard being met is the goal, but there is usually flexibility in most of these areas to allow the best chance for the student to learn. 


The Ceedar Center at the University of Florida. 

IRIS Center. Defining Differentiated Instruction. 

More To Come

    Check out other blogs breaking down the components of the Differentiated Instruction (DI) framework below:


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