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differentiation assessment, instruction, student learning, teacher preparation

Unpacking Differentiation

I love the notion of differentiation but putting it into practice is not intuitive.  We tend to teach the way we were taught and I am sure that most of us were taught by teachers who stood at the front of the room in a “stand and deliver” manner.  We know now from a cognitive perspective that students need multiple representations and opportunities to learn and express their knowledge. So stand and deliver may have its place but should not be the only space that occupies classroom instruction.

So what is differentiation and how do we reach all learners?  Diane Ravitch defines differentiating instruction as a form of instruction that seeks to “maximize each student’s growth by recognizing that students have different ways of learning, different interests, and different ways of responding to instruction”.  From this perspective we can view differentiation through a sociocultural framework in which all learners receive instruction that is tailored to their individual needs, cultural background, strengths and areas for growth. So if we are going to reach ALL learners we need to differentiate.  Vygotsky would call this “scaffolding”.  What are the conditions we need to create to help students transform AND learn in their zone of proximal development?

In this presentation I unpack Carol Tomilson’s work on Differentiation in which she distinguishes differentiation in the CONTENT, PROCESS, and PRODUCT of what we do in classroom instruction.

You can also read what other teachers think about differentiation and how they would apply these approaches here: Padlet


About Dr. Dickenson

I am an assistant professor of Teacher Education at National University in San Jose.


5 thoughts on “Unpacking Differentiation

  1. I love your presentation on differentiation for ALL students- we often forget to address the “reluctant student” by differentiating instruction, a classroom teacher can do an effective job at engaging this learner. Their invention will become even more powerful if they coordinate their efforts with their local school counselor.
    Harvey Hoyo, Associate Professor, National University- Educational Counseling


    Posted by Harvey Hoyo, Ed.D. | November 4, 2015, 7:48 pm
  2. Thinking back to the days I attended elementary school, the non-book based learning activities are what I remember the most. When there was some sort of project to complete, I believe I learned more and remembered more facts associated with that project than when I had to learn only by reading a text. So from my personal experience, and given there are students with so many different learning style preferences, I agree differentiation is the way to go if we are to reach all students.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Emily Ray | November 6, 2015, 5:25 am
  3. Reblogged this on Teacher Prep Tech.


    Posted by Dr. Dickenson | June 19, 2016, 6:00 am


  1. Pingback: Unpacking Differentiation | skg917 - June 19, 2016

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