Term of Art: Differentiated Instruction

“differentiated instruction: A form of instruction that seeks to maximize each student’s growth by recognizing that students have different ways of learning, different interests, and different ways of responding to instruction. In practice, it involves offering several different learning experiences in response to students’ varied needs. Educators may vary learning activities and materials by difficulty, so as to challenge students at different readiness levels; by topic, in response to students’ interests; and by students’ preferred way of learning or expressing themselves. Differentiated teaching assumes that classrooms will be grouped heterogeneously, mixing students of different levels of ability in the same class, although the strategy may also be used in classes for gifted students. Advocates of differentiated instruction say that it helps students progress by meeting their diverse, individual needs. Critics say that planning multiple learning experiences is time-consuming and that it requires extensive training. In addition, teachers of mixed-ability classes containing students of widely divergent abilities sometimes find the instructional burden to be overwhelming. Some parents of high-ability students in such classes complain that their children are neglected or not sufficiently challenged.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

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