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Differentiated Instruction

February 15, 2007

Differentiated Instruction, also know as differentiation, is responsive teaching rather than one-size-fits-all teaching. By differentiating we are meeting the students where they are, not where we wish them to be. “Differentiation is classroom practice that looks eyeball to eyeball with the reality that kids differ, and the most effective teachers do whatever it takes to hook the whole range of kids on learning.” (Tomlinson, 2001) Essentially we teach with student variance in mind.

Differentiation is not new, nor is it Individual Education Plans for all. It is also not individualized instruction or tracking. Differentiation is “shaking up” the classroom so students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. Differentiated classrooms offer different approaches to content, what students learn; process, how they learn it; and product, how they demonstrate what they have learned. Differentiation is based on the student’s interests, learning profile and readiness.

North Scott Jr. High, Eldridge, IA, has been implementing strategies of differentiation this school year. Through the Instructional Decision Making (IDM) process the leadership team identified differentiation as the method by which they could more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of all students. The teachers have been involved in a book study to further their knowledge of what differentiation looks like in the classroom. They also meet with Cindy Strickland to deepen their understanding of effective instructional strategies in order to meet students’ learning needs. All of the staff have used a pre-assessment tool in their classroom as a way to get to know their learners.

The Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) has been providing training on applying differentiated instruction in the classroom. Cindy Strickland from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) led a session in October 2006 and February 15, 2007 to continue the journey. Cindy Strickland will be with us again during the 2007-2008 school year.

If you would like further information on differentiation please contact Linda Mannhardt at 563-344-6524 or 800-947-2329 extension 6524 or e-mail to

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