#diffimooc Week 1 Blog: What is differentiation?


Differentiation is teaching students based on their abilities and interests. It is “based on the belief that student learn in many different ways” (Smith & Throne, 2009). One of our jobs as teachers is to try to meet the learning needs of all of our students. When teachers use differentiation they are taking full advantage of every student’s ability to learn (Subban, 2006). We are working to meet every student’s learning potential.

One of the main ideas behind differentiation is to use flexible grouping (Tomlinson, 2001). The previous model of grouping students was not with flexible grouping. With flexible grouping students can move around at their own pace. We use flexible reading groups and meet periodically about various students and move them around in groups. It works out very well for all of the students involved.
Technologies that provide flexible learning and self-pacing would be effective in differentiating instruction. Technology can provide immediate feedback on student performance (Smith & Throne, 2009). Rather than students waiting for a teacher to grade assessments, many programs provide immediate feedback on students’ performance. Technology can be used to support curriculum in the classroom.

Differentiation in the classroom is an important topic in education. The reading this week has been inspirational in getting me to start thinking about ways to differentiate in my classroom. The obstacles that I am dealing with are having a class of 24 students and having a very difficult class behavior wise. If I can find ways around these obstacles, I would like to use technology and other tools to differentiate my instruction more effectively.

Smith, Grace E., and Stephanie Throne. Differentiating Instruction with
Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, Or.: International
Society for Technology in Education, 2009. Print.

Subban, Pearl. “Differentiated Instruction: A Research Basis.” International Education
Journal 7.7 (2006): 935-47. Print.

Tomlinson, Carol A. How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability
Classrooms. 2nd ed. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001. Print.


6 responses »

  1. I’ve found that technology tools, in general, increase engagement. That should automatically help with classroom management. If the students are able to focus on their tasks because the tasks are enjoyable (or at least interesting) to them, then they won’t really have time to cause problems.
    Some options could include allowing students to plug in to receive their content: if they are getting their lessons by listening to a story being read to them (while they follow along) or watching a Khan Academy video demonstrating a math concept, they are focused on the screen in front of them (hopefully with earbuds in). I also really like the use of Socrative for both discussions and assessments, and students really like to see their responses posted (sometimes they prefer being anonymous) and even to vote on what they think is the best response.

  2. I agree. Having students listen to the story being read to them helps with fluency for the beginner readers. It’s also a great way to differentiate and give extra support to students who are having difficulty. Centers are a great way to differentiate in the classroom. I enjoy flexible grouping with students and have my students work with each other everyday. It creates more in-depth thinking and many different solutions to solving a problem. Also it’s a great way to keep students engaged.

  3. I think technology can be a very valuable tool in the classroom if we can get around the obstacles of the attitudes of the students in our classrooms. I know for me that I’ll assign a project and they are supposed to be using the computers to research and I’ll walk around and kids are looking up youtube videos and not even interested in what we are doing. It makes it hard to allow students to use technology when you can’t trust them to do what they are supposed too.

    My school uses the program ALEKS which has many online math classes for students in secondary so they are able to take tests and figure out exactly where they are and then they work on the skills that still need to be sharpened and are tested on these. It seems to really work for the students who struggle in math even with a teacher there to work with them one on one because they are able to click the help button and get additional examples and can see the progress they are making. No longer is it low grade after low grade, but the percentage of how many lessons they have done and they know when they have mastered a skill based on the pie chart.

  4. You touched on a couple of things that stood out to me. Flexible grouping is a key component of differentiation and technology can provide immediate feedback. The two complement each other very well. One of the things I like about grouping kids together is the immediate feedback they receive during their discussions. I also like the immediate feedback kids can get with varying forms of technology. I use clickers and Socrative regularly in my classroom. One of the comments I receive consistently from kids is that they immediately know when they are doing things correctly. It also allows me to see when there is confusion. I get the same information when I walk around my classroom when kids are working together. It is another form of feedback that is often more valuable. Listening to kids describe how they are solving math problems and offering suggestions to each other give me a better idea of how they are interpreting the lessons. They also provide me with new ideas that I file away for future classes.

  5. Meagan,
    I was really struck by the flexible groupings aspect too. I think it is because I believe so much in cooperative and collaborative learning that the idea of flexible groupings resonated with me. I really like your fancy infographic. I ended up going really low-tech with mine.

  6. I agree that technology would allow for immediate feedback, which is something that helps both the teacher and student out. Not only does the teacher get feedback right away that they can use, but the teacher gets to see their work in a way that makes it easier to take home with them. I love how we all have our blog site and a location where we can just get on and go to everyone’s site. Or even having one specific site for students to post in makes it easy to go through. I can see where the accountability piece in the classroom could be an issue, but in flexible groups they can keep each other accountable.

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