Section 4: Using this System for Planning and Instruction
Using Data to Plan Differentiated Instruction
Teachers and School Leaders are aware that students learn in different ways and require instruction that addresses their individual strengths and needs. After reviewing and reflecting on OGT data, Teachers and School Leaders can modify instruction and planning to address student needs and to inform instructional decisions.
This section defines differentiated instruction and provides you with examples of using OGT data to create differentiated instruction plans in your classes and schools. You can use your current curriculum, scope and sequence, and instructional plans when differentiating instruction. Also, Teachers can use guiding questions as aids in creating lesson plans that use differentiated instruction by clicking on the links to the Planning templates for Grade 9 and 10 Teachers, Grade 11 Teachers, or Intervention Teachers.
“In a differentiated classroom, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process, and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs” (Tomlinson, 7).
Teachers and School Leaders, no matter how experienced, face new challenges each year. Each student processes information in distinct ways, and educators must continually modify their approaches to meet every student’s needs. The most effective way to do this is through differentiated instruction. Let's begin by defining exactly what differentiated instruction is, and what it is not.
Differentiated instruction is
- a teaching method that aims to maximize each student's growth by meeting each student where he or she is and building on his or her particular strengths, interests and learning style;
- a way to address the needs of students with a variety of skills and interests within a single lesson plan;
- the use of multiple pathways to meet the same learning goal.
For example, in a unit designed to build students’ understanding of character, a teacher may have the class read a short story. In response to the short story, some students may write a movie script based on the short story, while others may write new short stories building on the lives and experiences of other characters from the original story.
Differentiated instruction is NOT
- putting students into groups and giving each group the same learning task;
- giving students with high performance a complex task, such as a writing assignment, and giving students with low performance a much simpler task, such as looking up vocabulary words;
- giving each student a different open-ended task and hoping for the best.
The key to differentiating instruction is to start small. Try one differentiation strategy first and then build from it as you and your students become more familiar with the ways that differentiated instruction works.
Before beginning to differentiate your instruction, you should set up your own guiding principles for planning and instruction. Take time with your colleagues to think about instances of effective differentiated instruction you have used in your own classrooms or observed in others’ classrooms. Consider the following questions to formulate a list of the basic, underlying principles of effective differentiated instruction that will guide your efforts:
- In your own classroom experiences and in working with other teachers, what are some of the things that teachers who are skilled at differentiating instruction do?
- Are there topics that, in your experience, work better with the whole group than in small groups or pairs?
- Have you built instruction around student interest, and, if so, what interests did you focus on and what exactly did you do?
- What criteria have you used for creating flexible groupings in your classroom?
- What are the different forms of classroom-based assessment that you use? Are there any that are particularly successful with certain groups of students or for assessing progress in certain standards?