With the modern classrooms becoming progressively diverse, educational experts, teachers as well as school administrators are searching for teaching and learning approaches that cater for different learning profiles. A model that is gaining popularity in the educational field is differentiated instruction. This model puts forward a reconsidering of the structure, administration and content within the classroom, where participants in the learning environment become engaged during the process, so as to derive maximum benefit. Beverly (2009) defines differentiated instruction as an approach towards teaching as well as learning for students who have different abilities within the same classroom. For instance, in a sixth grade religious studies class, there are those students who express prior knowledge along with an interest in the subject and are willing to learn. However, there exist another type of students who are unfamiliar with the subject and do not seem to express any interest at all. Nevertheless, the teacher is supposed to engage every student in addition to teaching them concurrently through differentiating the instruction. The rationale behind differentiated instruction is that a teacher ought to vary as well as adapt his/her approaches so as to suit the enormous diversity of students in the classroom (Long, 2012). Differentiated instruction facilitates different methods of students learning within the classroom environment in several ways.
Differentiated instruction is vital in meeting the different needs of all the learners, that is, and it has a learner-centered approach. Tomlinson & McTighe (2010)states “differentiated instruction enables a teacher to recognize the skills, interests, strengths as well as weaknesses of his or her students. Many educationalists perceive the theory of social constructivism learning, and that was proposed by Vygotsky (1896-1934) as being central to the facilitation of instruction to students as well as redevelopment (Thompson, 2007, p.98). The sociocultural theory that draws from Vygotsky’s work has considerable implications towards teaching and education. Long (2012) asserts that the social interaction is imperative in the improvement of cognition. The social interaction between a teacher and a learner may result in the teacher being able to understand his students better, and design an instructional approach that suits them and enable them to comprehend the content.
Differentiated instruction can facilitate the method of flexible grouping by making sure that every student has access to an array of learning opportunities as well as working arrangements. Within a classroom that is flexibly grouped, a teacher can be able to make a plan on the working arrangements of the students by putting them into groups so that he can learn both their strengths, shortcomings, as well as they can learn from each other (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2010, p.113). At times, learners ought to work in the same readiness groups with their fellow students who may manifest various needs in academics. By so doing, that is, working together, the strengths of every student may be revealed (Sweetland & Keyser, 2008). Flexible grouping may bring together students who have similar interests in a particular field, such as mathematics or sciences, and make them reinforce their interests further. In addition, in a classroom that is flexibly grouped, students might make a decision on their work groups, whereas at times it is the teacher who may make the call.
Differentiated instruction accommodates the students with learning disabilities by accommodating them into the learning process. Students who have disabilities in learning are challenging to their teachers as most of them are less involved in learning activities and are not able to cope with the instructions given to them by their teachers. According to Sweetland&Keyser(2008), when these kinds of deficits are combined with relatively serious academic deficits, the outcome may be a student who may be very challenging for education. Differentiated instruction is however able to accommodate students of this nature as it is founded upon for teachers to apply differentiated instruction so as to address many of the learners' needs within the class setting.
Differentiated instructions facilitate different methods of learning by engaging students during the learning process. A central tenet of the differentiated approach is that teachers should engage their students during the learning process (Thompson et al., 2007). Research by different scholars supports the point of view that the school curriculum ought to be designed in a manner that it can engage with the students, and that it should also have the capacity to associate to their lives. In the differentiated model, teachers are supposed to know their students, the background that they come from, as well as their cultural links. By so doing, the teachers can figure out their learner’s strengths, and help them to make progress in their academics.
Sweetland& Keyser (2008) asserts that a differentiated instruction is conceptualized as the response of a teacher towards student’s different learning needs. Teachers ought to know their learners as well as show concern for every student, through tailoring of instructions so as to meet every student’s individual needs. From the professional observation of a teacher towards the learning of a student, learning ought to be modified within three different areas. They include Content: this refers to what the students are to learn from a topic or subject that is, what the teacher intends the students to learn after instruction (Thompson et al., 2007). The teacher should have the capacity to modify the content that he/she wishes to present to learners so that all the students can grasp what they are supposed to learn. Process: in education psychology, this entails the manner in which learners interact with the content, as well as the learning interactions which are determined by means of different learning preferences that students have. The differentiated classroom typically contain a wide range of activities that ought to be addressed within the learning needs of every person. The teacher may differentiate the learning process by activating the learning process, designing learning activities such as modeling and engaging students in grouping activities. Product: the product of learning is imperative since illustrations of learning enables the teacher to make a determination of whether the learners have mastered the content, as well as those who might require extra instruction (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2010).
In addition, differentiated instruction facilitates the methods of learning by catering for the interests, as well as the learning profiles of the students. Differentiated instruction greatly supports the classroom of learners by accommodating the diversity as well as the similarities of the students (Thompson et al., 2007). It facilitates the provision of an environment where every student can be successful and derive utility (Sweetland & Keyser, 2008). Students are different in terms of readiness, interests, in addition to learning profiles. In a classroom that is differentiated, the teacher has an obligation to address these differences in order to maximize the potential of learning amongst all the students (Beverly, 2009, p.56). Differentiated instruction takes into consideration every student’s cognizance by means of allowing the teacher to design their content, and support different learning styles. As a result, opportunities may be created so as to foster group learning as well as offer alternatives for individual instructions.
An imperative feature of differentiated instruction is the manner in which it recognizes the fact that educational needs are not straightforward. In any given subject, students might experience difficulty in engaging in the activities taking place in the classroom, or assimilating new concepts. Differentiated instruction simply provides multiple approaches towards the learning process, in such a way that every student is engaged within the learning process. Efficient differentiated instruction as well assists students to comprehend what their teachers expect them to learn, assess their progress, as well as articulate what their learning strengths and weaknesses are.
In conclusion, differentiated instruction is imperative in the facilitation of the different methods of learning. A strong curriculum ought to utilize differentiated instruction so as to provide students with a chance of achieving a lot in terms of academics. In the contemporary classroom, there is a diversity in the capacity of learners, in terms of their ability to understand the content being taught or the process of learning. Therefore, differentiated instruction is paramount in addressing the diverse needs of different learners within the classroom setting. It is a crucial approach that all the teachers should embrace so as to make sure that there is effective learning in schools.
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