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Differentiated Instruction

Posted in Ed Tech 101 on May 14, 2014 by

What is “differentiated instruction”?

Differentiated instruction refers to the tailoring of educational experiences to meet individual learner needs. Differentiated instruction can occur on both a macro and a micro level — in the form of individualized course packets, reading assignments, and projects, or in the form of real-time personalization through a computerized learning platform that tailors content to student strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. This kind of instruction has the benefit of allowing teachers to make the most of class time, leaving students neither overwhelmed nor bored and under-challenged.

The need to differentiate instruction can be obvious; some students may have clearly mastered a subject, while others may be anxious and confused. The need can also become apparent when students demonstrate different preferred learning approaches or “access points” into the same material. In this video, former history teacher, Josh Gordon talks about an interesting dilemma he faced with two of his best students, Chad and Eric.

In hundreds of schools today, teachers are making a serious effort to differentiate instruction by assigning personalized course packets and reading material tailored to individual student needs. In this video, former teacher and charter school founder, Dvora Inwood talks about the realities of developing and implementing individualized courses of study for each student in her class.

One way in which technology can help is to provide instantaneous, real-time differentiation of student learning experiences. In this video, members of the Knewton academics team explain how Knewton recommendations steer students along personalized paths towards ultimate learning objectives based on both what they know and how they learn.

If you’re interested in differentiated instruction, be sure to check out the following articles and videos from our academics team.

The Power of a Knowledge Graph by Matthew Busick
Understanding Content for Efficient and Effective Learning by Anne Thomas
The Knewton Knowledge Graph: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach by Jesse Sternberg

The following concepts are also closely related to differentiated instruction and often support its application in the classroom:

Formative assessment
Collaborative learning
Mastery-based learning
Scaffolded instruction
Zone of proximal development