Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction

EDU 381 Curriculum & Instructional Design


Differentiated Instruction (DI) is a broad framework for supporting student differences by varying instruction and making an adaptation that considers students’ strengths and weaknesses (Hansen, Buczynski & Puckett, 2015). This instruction aims to improve learning outcomes, increase self-awareness, inspire learning, increase engagement, and assist students with learning effectively and with more in-depth understanding.

Theoretical or Research Background

This instruction according to Carol Ann Tomlinson is the process of ensuring that what a student learns, how he or she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he or she has learned, is a match for that student’s level of reading, interests and preferred mode of learning (Robb, 2019). A study was in 2005 with 31 math teachers and 645 students. They found that differentiated instruction was sufficient for keeping high-ability students challenged in a diverse classroom. Pre-assessments were conducted before a three-week unit on statistics. The study indicated that high-performing students brought more significant levels of prior knowledge to the start of the unit. Students were taught using a differentiated curriculum that supplemented the textbook curriculum and were placed in various groups according to their performance level. They demonstrated significantly higher achievement on the post-test than did high-performing students who were taught using the textbook curriculum and whole-class instruction (Huebner, 2010).

The DI model consists of four levels. The first level of the model, General principals of differentiation, explains best teaching practices. The foundations should include attention to respectful tasks, quality curriculum, teaching up, flexible grouping, continual assessment, and building community (Hansen et al., 2015). The second level, Curricular Elements of Teaching, focus on content, process, and product. The third level Differentiating in Response to Student Characteristics prepares teachers to plan for characteristics such as readiness, interest and learning profiles that they see in the classroom setting or ones that they are most likely to see. The final level, Strategies for Differentiation, assist with helping teachers better meet the needs of their students.

How does it work

My classroom would be second-grade students. During our reading instruction, I would read aloud to the students. While reading aloud, I would incorporate questioning, discussion, and a worksheet (writing) to build their comprehension and confirm students understand what I am reading. It would also promote content (what we want students to learn), process (students making sense of the material), affect (students’ emotions and how they react to the learning), and a positive learning environment. I would break the students up into groups of four. While reading, each group can work together to complete the worksheet. Their individual learning needs would differentiate the groups..

Experience with this Method

I haven’t had any experiences with this method, however I have observed through volunteering with one of my best friends (2nd grade teacher) demonstrate this instruction.

Questions about the Method

One question I would pose is how to apply this method with English Language Learners. I recently took a course on Learning & the Brain, which focused on ELL’s. I would want to know how to use this method effectively when teaching ELL’s. Their language barrier could add a challenge to learning, and I would want to make sure that I am using learning styles and differentiated instruction to allow them to reach their academic potential.


This method is a benefit to teachers and students. It allows teachers to adapt to each childs learning style and they have an individualized learning plan that will allow them to grow academically. It’s proactive and it provides a broad approach to content, process and product. It’s student centered, which is one of my favorite learning styles. Most importantly, it gives students the opportunity to exceed effectively.


Hansen, C.B., Buczynski, S., & Puckett, K.S. (2015). Curriculum and instruction for the 21st century Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Huebner, T. (2010). What Researchers Say about Differentiated Learning. Retrieved from


Robb, L. (2019). Scholastic: What is Differentiated Instruction?. Retrieved from


Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.teachersity.org/resources/instruction.pdf