Unit One: Understanding Differentiated Instruction


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Target Objective

Learners will be able to identify the meaning, goals, and construction of differentiated instruction.

Unit Objectives

  • State meaning and benefits of differentiated instruction
  • Generate a list of goals differentiated instruction is intended to help
  • Identify the steps or procedures involved in planning for and executing differentiated instruction in the classroom

Let's Get Started

First, write down a few ideas you already have about differentiated instruction (DI) - use your knowledge from previous coursework, professional development sessions, your own classroom experiences, etc. Your response may be in the form of a paragraph, bulleted list, graphic organizer, or however else you see fit!

Do Some Research

Now, read these articles about differentiated instruction.

  • Media:Di_unit_1a.pdf "Differentiation: Lessons from Master Teachers" (2007) by Jennifer Carolan and Abigail Guinn. This article introduces teachers to the idea of DI and addresses some issues as to why some teachers may be hesitant to try DI in their classrooms. Carolan and Guinn (2007) observed classrooms in which DI was occurring and recognized four common features: 1) offering personalized scaffolding; 2) using flexible means to reach defined ends; 3) mining subject-area expertise; and 4) creating a caring classroom in which differences are seen as assets.
  • Media:Di_unit_1b.pdf‎ "Meeting the Needs of All Students Through Differentiated Instruction: Helping Every Child Reach and Exceed Standards" (2008) by Holli M. Levy. This article addresses the connection between DI and national and state standards. Levy (2008) states, “The core of differentiated instruction is flexibility in content, process, and product based on student strengths, needs, and learning styles” (p. 162). Levy (2008) also addresses assessments, student grouping, and tiered assignments (see examples in Unit 4) in terms of DI.

Respond to these questions:

1. What ideas about DI were you already familiar with? What ideas were new to you?
2. How is DI useful in today's classrooms?

Again, your response may be in the form of a paragraph, bulleted list, graphic organizer, or any other thoughtful representation.


Think about how you would respond to the following questions. Then, use the discussion area to exchange ideas about differentiated instruction with other participants.

How would you define differentiated instruction? What do you already do that is considered DI and how do you envision a more differentiated classroom?

References and Resources

Carolan, J. and Guinn, A. (2007). Differentiation: Lessons from master teachers. Educational Leadership, 64 (5), 44-47.

Levy, H. M. (2008). Meeting the needs of all students through differentiated instruction: Helping every child reach and exceed standards. The Clearing House, 81 (4), 161-164.

Go on to Unit Two: Identifying Useful Data

Back to Data analysis for differentiated instruction

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