Chances are you’ve heard the phrase, but if you want to brush up on exactly what it means and why it’s so important in today’s classrooms, we’ve got you covered!
Differentiation instruction is the act of designing your lesson plans after you have taken into consideration the individual learning levels, needs, and styles of your pupils, in order to deliver the optimised learning environment. Although this can seem like a huge undertaking, it’s worth it: teachers typically notice a drastic improvement in their classroom performance after the application of differentiation strategies.
To help you bring the benefits of differentiation into your own classroom, here are a few vital steps you can take right away.
Start Assessing Progress Regularly
Assessing your pupils progress as they learn is crucial to creating an environment in which they can thrive. Differentiation provides your pupils the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in multiple ways throughout the learning process – and not just in a summative assessment. Therefore, real-time adaptation of your lesson plan and learning assessments is key. During your lessons, take the time to wander through the classroom while your pupils are working to check in on their progress. Specifically be on the lookout for the children who might seem distracted, as this is often a sign that they need either extra assistance or a further challenge. Don’t be afraid to adjust individual or group activities based on what you observe during the lesson, in order to challenge all pupils appropriately.
Offer Extra Activities for Different Learning Types
This is a simple step that can make or break a lesson plan. One of the primary goals of teaching is to hold your pupils’ attention for the entirety of a lesson, but it only takes one under-stimulated child to distract an entire class and disrupt everyone’s learning process. For pupils that move more quickly through exercises, having a set of bonus activities at the ready can encourage them to maintain focus through the remainder of your lesson. Similarly, if you have students that need more incentive to stay on task, you might consider linking activities with completion rewards.
Take Advantage of Group-work Opportunities
Classroom group activity benefits from differentiation strategy immensely. There are so many ways to improve your pupils’ learning level when choosing your groupings in class, so be intentional about your placements! Make sure you are placing pupils together for a reason: are there shared interests or learning styles? Are their skill levels similar or do some pupils bring skills to the group that others might be lacking? Differentiation instruction isn’t just for individual student application, but is also an important concept to consider when deciding which of your pupils should work together.
Maintain Control If you’re not careful with how you apply differentiation techniques, giving pupils input into your method of instruction might feel like giving up control of the lesson itself. in order to reinforce your classroom authority, be sure to remind your pupils that while they have a choice in how they learn, their choices are limited. It is important that your students understand they do not have input on curriculum or presented topics, so create and enforce your boundaries here with care. As with so many things within the classroom, success is found through balance; if you ever feel your classroom authority slipping, refocus and readjust your approach in order to create a safe and efficient learning environment for your pupils.
We hope you’ve seen how valuable differentiation instruction can be, and how multifaceted its classroom applications are. Whether you choose to try just one or all of the ideas above – or if you have tips of your own – we’d love to hear how your own classroom has benefited from the use of differentiation techniques!