Differentiated Instruction
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Adelphi University
Daniel Willingham
Why Don’t Students Like School?
• “The first thing to know is that everyone likes to learn.”
• “There is a sense of satisfaction, of fulfillment, in
successful thinking” But it’s not fun to try to learn
something that’s too hard.
• “Working on a problem with no sense that you’re making
progress is not pleasurable… in fact, it’s frustrating.”
• “Working on a problem that’s too easy is no fun either.
It’s boring.”
• “What people enjoy is working on problems that are the
right level of difficulty.”
• “The problem must be easy enough to be solved yet
difficult enough to take some mental effort.” He calls this
the “sweet spot” of difficulty.
What is Differentiated Instruction?
• Differentiated Instruction (DI) addresses
each student’s growth and individual
success by meeting them where they are,
and assisting in the learning process.
• Simply put… A teacher's reacting
responsively to a learner's needs
Differentiated Instruction
• Student Centered
• Tiered
• Balance of WholeClass, Group and
Individual Instruction
• Flexible and
• Heterogeneous
• One-Size-Fits-All
• Homogenous all the
• Special Education or
• “Tailoring the Same
Suit of Clothes”
• Determine the Ability Levels of Your Students
– Survey Past Records, Look at their past educational history
• Align Tasks and Objectives to Learning Goals (Begin with the end in
• Survey Student Interests
– Interest Inventories, Interview/Conference, Respond to OpenEnded Questionnaire with Questions
• What are Your Students’ Learning Styles?
• What are Your Student’s Preferences and Motivators?
• Instruction is based on Essential Questions / Understandings
• Brain-Based Research
• Know Your Students!
Project-Based Learning
Group learning/discussions
Case study, Lab activity, Debate
Student-created videos
Peer review of work
Instructional Strategies
• Flexible Grouping is Consistently Used
– Groupings are Not Fixed, and Should Be Dynamic in Process
– Teach Whole Class Introductory Discussions, then Follow
with Small Group (or) Pair Work.
Direct Instruction
Inquiry-Based Learning
Cooperative Learning
Classroom Management Benefits Students and
– Organization & Routines
Instructional Strategies
• Who?
– Struggling Learners
• Modeling / Direct Instruction Needed
• Review with Visuals Needed
• Will Complete Graphic Organizers
– On-Grade Learners
• Can complete on-grade assignments
• Less review needed
• Can create their own Graphic Organizers
– Advanced Learners
• Can work independently and interpret information on their own
• Can work with ideas and expand concepts
Instructional Strategies
• What?
–Backward Design
–Tiered Lessons
Instructional Strategies
• What?
– Backward Design
Goals &
Varied; Clear; With Passion
Instructional Strategies
• What?
– Tiered Lessons
“Tiered instruction is like a wedding cake;
all one flavor; same color icing but multilayered.”
- Carol Ann Tomlinson
“Fair is not equal, fair is getting what you
need (when you need it)”
Instructional Strategies
• What?
– Choice
© Tomlinson ,2001
Products (Assessments)
• Initial & Ongoing Assessment of Student Readiness &
Growth are Essential (Formative and Summative)
• Authentic Assessment
• Students are Active & Responsible Explorers
• High Expectations with Varied Requirements for Student
• Consider each Student’s Multiple Intelligences &
Learning Styles Based on Outcomes
• How the Environment is Organized?
– Groupings
– Collaborative / Quiet Spaces
– Routines
– Procedures
– Student Ownership vs. Buy-in
• Flexible Grouping Options
Learning Cycle & Decision Factors Used in Planning
and Implementing Differentiated Instruction