Differentiated Instruction is a teaching method that centers on finding out how each child learns information and shows mastery of content by incorporating several different modalities of assessment and content delivery with the hope that each student learns at an optimum level. In a nutshell, its custom content delivery and assessment for each student based upon their preferred learning style.
Differentiated instruction gives students several different avenues to learn content, process ideas, and show mastery based upon their preferred method of learning, readiness level, and individual interests.
This style of teaching is student centered and requires the teacher to adjust their curriculum based upon their current students. This is the opposite of forcing students to adapt to a standard curriculum laid out by the teacher.
One of the most important strategies for creating a differentiated instruction learning environment is pre-assessing the readiness and learning style of each individual student. Pre-assessments can come in various forms such as a quiz, class discussion, essay or game.
Teachers must learn to convey content in a variety of modalities. Some students may prefer to read about a topic or concept while others may prefer to listen. The teacher will need to deliver information in multiple formats including lecture, video, reading assignments, or demonstration.
To assess student learning outcomes the teacher creates a product that the student must create to show they have an understanding of the concept or knowledge. The product may be an essay the student writes, an art piece, or any type of product that the teacher feels will show how much and to what depth the student learned during the unit.
The layered curriculum teaching model was created by Dr. Kathy Nunley, a educational psychologist with over 15 years of classroom experience. Layered curriculum allows teachers to assign various tasks at different difficulty levels within the same lesson plan or unit. Layered curriculum also allows the teacher to convey material for different learning styles such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile learners.
The unit or lesson is layered into three levels: A level, B level, C level. The A, B, and C levels are based upon Bloom’s taxonomy of comprehension levels. All the students must start at the C level and progress upward by showing mastery of each level. For example, if a student shows mastery of the B level but not the A the student receives a grade of B for that particular lesson or unit.
How to Lesson Plan
As previously mentioned it is critical to conduct pre-assessment activities for each unit. Some students may have complete mastery of the skill or information while others may be completely unfamiliar. After a pre-assessment is done then the lesson plan can be formatted based on the results.
Teachers must also have an understanding of the different learning levels indicated in Bloom’s Taxonomy. For example, students who are unaware of the information or concept may be required to show comprehension on the lower level of the taxonomy scale while students who have been exposed to the information may be required to show higher levels of comprehension.
In order to lesson plan the teacher must be aware of how students in their classroom learn and provide different avenues for students to learn. Teachers should develop lesson plans in varying formats to meet the needs of the student based upon preferred learning style.
The last step of the lesson plan is to decide on how students will show they have acquired and processed the information. Teachers must come up with multiple means of assessing students by having them take tests, write reports, create a video, build a product, or give a presentation.
Student Teacher Assessment:
An important role of the educator and the educational system is evaluating the effectiveness of student teachers. These future teaching professionals are responsible for teaching the next generation and should be adequately prepared for their first teaching jobs by undergoing thorough assessment. Student teaching assessment is typically broken into the following categories:
• Lesson planning
• Instructional planning
• Class management
• Colleague collaboration
Student teachers should be evaluated at different times during their teaching experience. There should be a mid-term evaluation at the half-way point followed by an end of term evaluation conducted at the end. It is critical that the collaborating teacher and university/college instructors work effectively together for the sake of the student.
The student teacher should be given copies of all reports and have a detailed briefing on their evaluations. Student teachers should walk away with a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as teachers as well as a plan of improvement.
A rubric is an evaluation tool with a set of standard criteria and learning objectives. Rubrics typically have the following components:
• Focus on measuring a learning objective
• Use of a scoring range to measure student performance
• A set of specific behaviors and learning indicators that indicate to what level the student met the learning objective(s).
Rubrics establish clear objectives for students, which avoids confusion that can decrease the student’s learning as well as the teacher’s effectiveness to convey the concept or information. It is important for teachers to show students examples of excellent and poor work to provide the learner a framework of understanding.
Student feedback during the creation of the rubric is essential for student learning. Once the student feedback is implemented into the rubric it should be practiced on sample assignments to assess its effectiveness in the classroom.
Rubrics serve as learning vehicles in the pre-assessment, assessment, and post-assessment phases. Rubrics are used for student essays, projects, papers, presentations and other types of assignments.
Rubrics are popular because of their ability to convey to the student the reasons behind why they received a “B” grade instead of an “A” grade. They also incorporate student feedback which promotes student ownership of the assignment.