One approach to dealing with the individual differences of students is the method of differentiated instruction. In this approach, the focus is on the academic success of individual students or a small group. In order to use this method, a teacher needs a knowledge of the students learning history, interests, readiness to learn among other things. This knowledge helps in developing individual lessons and activities that maximize the personal growth of each student.
In general, there are three crucial components of differentiated instruction. These components are…
The content in differentiated instruction is varied. This allows the learners to choose how they will learn. The content also varies in complexity in that students are able to complete task that are with their zone of proximal development. This allows all students to experience academic success.
Content is also present in incremental steps or from simple to complex. The goal is to meet the students where they are at and allow them to grow through activities that are appropriate for their current level of ability.
Students are allowed to work individually, in small groups, or as an entire class. These various methods of the process of learning helps to meet students various goals for learning. This also provides incentive for students to learn as they are allowed to learn in a format that is comfortable for them.
Differentiated instruction calls for variety in the assessment methods. There is often a list of assignments to choose from. Students pick an assignment that is appropriate to their level of ability They are allowed to express their understanding of the content in a multitude of ways.
Pros and Cons of Differentiated Instruction
There are several advantages of differentiated instruction. One, a teacher can meet the individual needs of a student. Two, this approach is useful for diverse heterogeneous classrooms. Everyone is not put into the same mold but allowed various forms of demonstrating mastery. Lastly, there is a Shift from subject-centered to student-centered curriculum. This increases the level of activity of the student and helps in increasing learning.
Some cons of differentiated instruction are as follows. One, developing all of the various activities, assignments can be extremely taxing for even an experienced teacher. Another problem is marking different assignments for different students yet submitting a grade. If everyone does something different it leads to questions about the validity of the grading. Finally, a teacher has to teach and assisted with several different tasks simultaneously. This is again challenging to do.
Differentiated instruction is best for small classes with diverse students. As the classes grow larger, there is a need for more homogeneous teaching and assessment. In addition, differentiated instruction is an advance teaching approach. Younger teacher are welcomed to attempt this approach but may find themselves overwhelmed due to the high demand on time. It is left to each teacher to decide if this approach is appropriate for them.