Understanding Differentiation


What does “Differentiation” Mean?

It is most often not different curriculum content, but just differing the…

  • quantity
  • time or pace
  • support
  • resources
  • difficulty
  • product choice
  • assistance
  • goals

Every student is required to learn their grade level standards.  Once they have learned them, it’s important for them to have opportunities to keep moving forward.

Differentiation is…

  • Students and teachers collaborating in learning
  • Respecting prior knowledge and readiness levels of students
  • Considering students’ needs and abilities when planning
  • Assessing prior to, during, and after a unit of study
  • Assessing students in multiple ways
  • Allowing for choice in the demonstration of knowledge
  • Incorporating critical thinking skills
  • Having high expectations for all students
  • Using time flexibly, based on student need
  • Working with students to establish whole class and individual learning goals

What Differentiation is not…

  • Assigning more work to students who finish early
  • Asking students to teach material they have mastered to others
  • Giving every student an individual assignment
  • Finding a student’s deficit and then having the student practice that skill indefinitely
  • Only assessing students at the end of learning to see “who got it”

4 Ways to See Differentiation in the Classroom

Instructional Strategies Used for Differentiation

Characteristics of a Differentiated Classroom (Tomlinson)

Differentiation Model (Tomlinson)