Teachers all over the world are seeking new and better ways and means of meeting the needs of their learners so that they can realize their full potential and become successful both academically and career-wise. One of the methods that teachers are employing in their instruction process is differentiated instruction. Teachers of students with special needs like disability in learning and tutors of the academically gifted have adopted this method in their teaching process. All teachers should, however, realize that all the best teaching methods should be employed in every classroom setting to ensure the achievement of the desired results (Hoover & Patton, 2004).
Definition of differentiated instruction
Differentiated instruction is described as teaching with student variance in consideration. It means starting where the learner is rather than employing a standardizing approach to teaching that seems to assume that all students of a given age or grade are primarily similar. Thus differentiated instruction is responsive instruction as opposed to uniform teaching. In this type of instruction method, the teacher proactively plans various strategies to what learners need to learn, how they will learn it, and/or how they can articulate what they have learned in an attempt to increase the chances that each learner will learn as much as he or she can as effectively as it can be done (Hoover & Patton, 2004).
Differentiated instruction is thus based on an understanding of how individuals learn. Instruction starts with an evaluation of what learners already know and builds new ideas on their present knowledge. Differentiation offers the learners with diverse experiences to connect with content. A differentiated classroom provides several ways for learners to access content, to develop and make sense of the ideas and skills and to create products that display their learning. Technology promotes classroom strategies by establishing new ways to learning, catering for multiple learning needs and offering forums for individualized access to substance and expression (Hoover & Patton, 2004).
Teacher Roles in Differentiated Instruction
The classroom teacher determines the crucial concepts and major skills to be learned. The teacher is also involved in determining the most vital aspects of a unit that should be involved in the instruction of every learner. In the curriculum design, the classroom teacher should focus on the main idea, noticeable strategy instruction and mediated scaffolding. Other principles that can be included in the designing of the curriculum are linkage to the ideas and judicious review. These principles benefit instruction to all learners but are specifically essential for the classroom that caters for learners with learning disabilities (Grant, 2003).
Differentiated instruction is a very effective process in a classroom setting because it engages the teacher in a different kind of energy as opposed to direct instruction. It enables the teacher to succeed in teaching of all kinds of students including those with disabilities. The method is mostly involving the planning process where the tutors are required to plan and strategies on the approaches to include. The starting process is rather involving because the teacher is required to evaluate individual students in a classroom in order to determine the starting point. This information is then analyzed and every learner is handled separately. This teaching process is a benefit to the teachers because after the evaluation process the teacher does not need to repeat what the learner already knows. What is required of the teacher is to build on what the learner knows and concentrate on the weak area. After getting experience in this process, the teachers realize that learners require varying levels of structure to understand any content planned for them (Laurence-Brown, 2004).
How Differentiation Works
Although teachers are at first worried about the manner in which differentiation instruction works, the process is simple because differentiation works for learners at all age levels. The method requires a focus on concepts and a concentration on the understanding and sense making. The evaluation process of the learners should be an ongoing process to assess the learners' progress and focus more on the weak areas. The teachers should make the learning process more flexible by letting the learners work alone at times and in groups based on readiness, interests or learning styles. They teachers should employ whole-group instruction for launching new ideas, planning, or sharing of resources. The teachers should assume the responsibility of guides and assist the students to achieve their goals in class (Laurence-Brown, 2004).
Differentiated instruction is a very effective instruction method that is capable of meeting individual learner needs in a classroom. Teachers are able to meet every learner's needs through the adoption of this approach. This method is particularly useful to students who have special needs in learning. All teachers and support staff should be ready to dedicate the time, energy, and resources to devise and execute a successful program (Grant, 2003). Roles need to be evidently defined and schedules should be determined in advance and geared towards the achievement of the set objectives. At the start, redesigning curriculum and instructors and teacher roles for differentiated instruction is a laborious process. However using technology, future planning can be rationalized and tutors can apply what was victorious to them in the past and change activities that may require clarity and use more time in meeting specific needs of individual students. In a classroom setting where teachers use differentiated instruction, the roles for learning are shared by everyone. It becomes a society of learners characterized by complex difficult learning environments and genuine tasks, social negotiation and shared roles as a part of the learning process (Grant, 2003).