Maybe you have heard of differentiated instruction but don’t quite know what it is. Differentiated instruction is a way of teaching which looks at each individual student in the classroom, and tries to personalize instruction for each individual. That means stepping away from teaching in a classroom in only one way, and incorporating different things for different learning styles and personalities.
The Pros of Differentiated Instruction
1. Each Child is Taught to Their Learning Style
That means that children who learn better with hands on lessons may do more with math manipulatives and less with flash cards or worksheets, for example. One benefit of this is that each child has an easier time learning when taught to their strengths and learning styles.
2. Each Students Has an Individualized Learning Plan
This would be very similar to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Each child will be worked with according to her individual needs. Her strengths and her weaknesses will both be worked on, but in a way which makes it easier for her to learn.
3. Teacher Creativity
Teachers put in a lot of hours both in and out of the classroom. Some of them really like the concept of differentiated instruction because it opens up different ways they can be creative in the classroom and help each student in creative ways.
4. No Child Left Behind
Since differentiated instruction means each child is being taught in a way which he learns easier, there is less incidence of a child being left behind everyone else.
One of the best things about differentiated instruction is that it is flexible. It is not rigid and does not demand any particular thing, except for what will work best with the individual.
The Cons of Differentiated Instruction
1. Tougher Work Load for Teachers
Working with each individual according to his learning style means more work for the teacher, more time taken for each lesson and each child.
2. Time Constraints
When the teacher has a different plan for each student, the teacher is limited in how much she can actually get done in the classroom. She is also likely to concentrate more on the children who tend to be slower at learning concepts. Being creative takes more time. It also takes more energy. Some teachers find it easier to teach to the class rather than the individual.
3. Children Learn at Different Paces
Some children learning at a slower pace may hold the entire class back from going on.
4. Lack of Schedule
Some teachers don’t function well without a rigid schedule to stick to.
Differentiated instruction is one of the things which is a bit controversial in many learning environments. Understanding the pros and cons may be helpful to teachers, parents, and administrators in deciding whether this is a teaching style which would benefit their place of learning.
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Pros and Cons of Differentiated Instruction
Pros of Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. It
means using a variety of instructional strategies that address diverse student learning needs. It places students at the center of teaching and learning and student needs drive instructional planning. Differentiated learning is a way to enhance learning for all students by engaging them in activities that respond to particular learning needs, strengths and preferences (Wikipedia, 2002). Realization that learners vary in their readiness, interests, and learning is crucial to student success. It is very important that students of diverse cultural backgrounds have a variety of instructional strategies to foster education and learning. It is great to have a melting pot effect but at the same time everyone is different and these differences must be addressed. Understanding this point, educators then work towards mastering the same themes and skills in their classroom but utilize different content, strategies, and products to achieve the curricular goals. If everyone is taught at the same level using the same strategies then education becomes robotic and mechanical.
When put in practice, the differentiated learning classroom may appear as chaos but in reality it is a workshop like atmosphere. The teacher becomes more of a facilitator as they travel from group to group, participating with and mentoring students through the activities. The goals of differentiated instruction are to develop challenging and engaging tasks for each learner (from low-end learner to high-end learner). The low-end learner or lower functioning learner needs different strategies and modifications then the average or high-end learner. For example, the low-end learner may need to have the content modified so that it is simplified to meet students' needs at that level. Low-end learners may not be able to attain grade-level appropriate curriculum objectives; however, all learners need the opportunity to be successful at their individual instructional levels. Average learners are typically able to attain grade-level appropriate curriculum objectives, but may need adaptations in content such as more time to complete tasks and hands on experiences to reach their full potential. High-end learners may be above the grade-level curriculum objectives and need to be provided with enrichment activities. These few students may need advanced modifications such as independent study projects. Differentiation is all about options and not about being punitive by just piling on additional work for the more able (Tomlinson,1996).
Based upon research that supports differentiated instruction and students varying
educational differences and needs, how can educators afford not to promote the positives
of differentiated instruction?
Cons of Differentiated Instruction
While research shows that differentiated instruction is, when correctly implemented, extremely effective, there are negative aspects that can halt or stunt its effectiveness. One of the biggest problems surrounding differentiated instruction stems from teacher preservice programs. According to Holloway's September 2000 article in Educational Leadership, teacher preservice programs do not provide students enough training or experience in utilizing