Differentiated instruction Essay

differentiated instruction / education / capacity / student / Tomlinson

Essay Topic:

The educational evaluation of the tasks and purposes of differentiated instruction and its effect on students.

Essay Questions:

What is differentiated instruction?

What are the major benefits of using differentiated instruction?

What is the main difference between a traditional classroom and a differentiated instruction classroom?

Thesis Statement:

The aim of the differentiated instruction – is personal and academic growth and not sluggishness and degradation.


Differentiated instruction Essay

Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. The benefits of DI

3. Carol-Ann Tomlinson’s opinion

4. DI’s implication in class

5. Conclusion

“…One size does not fit all…”

Introduction: If a person asks what differentiated instruction is all about the best answer without getting deep inside the pedagogical ideas is to say that it is a theory that helps the teacher to reach all the students in a heterogeneous educational surroundings. What is actually does it takes into account that the abilities differ from student to student. The major priority of differentiated instruction is to teach students with different abilities in the very same class or in other words to make a differentiation without actually separating these students from each other. The process of learning can be hard to one student and easy for another one, so differentiated instruction keep the strong ones interested by providing harder tasks and keeps the weak students motivated in order to succeed academically and reach their own best. The core of this pedagogical theory is that students are not compared. Each of them has his own “academic capacity” and this capacity becomes the A grade for the student. At the same time this “capacity” is very individual and the process of comparing loses its very essence. Differentiated instruction assists the students in making the process of learning more flexible taking into consideration the student’s needs, likes and interests; and makes the process of evaluation more objective for its basic statement is “every student is unique”. The aim of the differentiated instruction – is personal and academic growth and not sluggishness and degradation. People even need different ring sizes and what about education?

2. The benefits of DI

DI eliminated the necessity to make the student equal for they are not from the very beginning. What is more important, according to DI is to find the filed in which the student will reveal all his potential. A differentiated classroom opens the door to many opportunities. For instance the students can work both individually and in groups depending on their preferences. The DI teacher does not simply provide the academic material but he makes it an integral part of student’s knowledge through converting the plain material into the “personal discovery” of the student obtained from various sense-making activities. Another point of difference is that the students can perform their knowledge in the way they do it better: in written form, orally, by schemes, presentations and so on.The assignments in a DI class the assignments are not the same for each student, but depend on the level of difficulty that the student can resist [1]. If an advanced learner gets a sufficiently difficult assignment he will not get bored and will stay motivated. A DI student will never do any extra assignments if he coped with his own but will rather be given a benefit that is the reason it is so important to distinguish the academic level of the students and distribute the assignments properly. The theory of differentiated instruction implies that the students do not learn in the similar way and are not academically alike. The same academic surroundings may stimulate and motivate one student and stop another student from progressing. DI keeps in mind all these vital issues and teaches students to come to academic knowledge themselves only assisting them in all the steps of personal and academic growth.

3. Carol-Ann Tomlinson’s opinion

Carol-Ann Tomlinson is an associate professor at the University of Virginia. She is also the author of the book “The differentiated classroom: responding to the needs of all learners” and multiple articles. Tomlinson was a pioneer in differentiated instruction as she recognized it as the reflection of the time when children from six to sixteen were studying together [3]. Tomlinson says: “What we call differentiation is not a recipe for teaching. It is not an instructional strategy”[2]. According to her words differentiated instruction is based on a set of educational beliefs including the notion that even if students are the same age that does not mean that they posses a similar readiness to learn, styles of learning, life circumstances, experiences and interests. Students need and have to work without assistance but this is only possible if the teachers assist them by adjusting and being flexible both with the curriculum and the interests of the class. Tomlinson emphasizes the importance of making every single student feel needed and respected in the class. So, as it has been mentioned above the “academic capacity” of each student has to be enlarged, maximized and optimized through the teacher’s assistance and correct differentiation and evaluation of the personal peculiarities, abilities and learning profiles of the student. Tomlinson considers differential instruction to be the best way to educate students as it adjusts all the materials and activities to the diverse levels and ways of learning. If the student gets the essentials of the class it does not really matter what way he got it: either by working alone or in-group, by the method of deduction or induction, by reading, watching or by listening. What matters is that we get an academically developed personality that is capable of challenging himself.

4. DI’s implication in class

DI is all about choices offered to the students on different phases of the class curriculum. The curriculum of a DI class consists of three parts: content - choices for taking information in, process - choices for analyzing and understanding it and product - choices for helping the students revealing what they have learned so far[4].

The educational changes in my class have been obviously dictated by differentiated instruction. The most important part of it is that the students are now truly challenged by the existing system. Students are provided material at different levels and tasks have different level of difficulty. Everything varies now: the time given to do a task, the level of the task and the way of its fulfillment. The class takes into consideration the interests of all the students and the tasks are distributed according to these exact interests[4]. Students are also motivated by the additional choices of the working alone or collaboratively and choosing the material either in visual or audio modes. The tasks are also either creative or simply reflect the practical part of the chosen issue. DI converted each student into an active participant of the educational process with the possibility to make conclusions and solve problems himself with his knowledge only. It not strange that the individual learning profile started being of such a value for the educational system because each student generally and me particularly have notices the difference in our own achievements.

Conclusion: Differentiated instruction is a revolution in the world of education. Grades by themselves are not important any more. The primary goal of DI is to provide students with the tasks that correspond to their learning abilities and needs and not only appropriate for the subject itself or the grade of the student1. The reason nowadays teachers tend to turn to differentiated instruction has its roots in the desire to reach all the students in the class equally and not to leave anybody “uninspired”. The issue of meeting the individual needs of each student has become vital for the contemporary system of education because the system is afraid to lose the gifted people, whose talents can be oppressed by the orientation on the middle of the class [5]. Differentiated instruction implies that the teachers do not teach but direct the student into the right direction for their growth and development. The system is eager to make poor and middle student achieve their highest potential.

Almost all the teachers truly believe that differentiated instruction is a better kind of education, nevertheless it faces difficulties in real life as it is much harder to change the whole system and start pedagogy in education than to continue using the same old “destructive” educational pattern.

1 “When students are diverse, teachers can either "teach to the middle" and hope for the best, or they can face the challenge of diversifying their instruction. Today, more and more teachers are choosing the second option.”[3].


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