The term "differentiated instruction" gets thrown around so frequently in my school. Could I get someone to explain what they see differentiated instruction being and how you use it? Would it even be fair to say that differentiated instruction can truly be used to reach all of the learners we house in one classroom. I guess I've just been thinking more and more about the achievement and opportunity gap and trying to see how that coined term fits in that whole equation. I work so hard with my students but I find more and more it being difficult given some of the backgrounds my students come from to really reach them in the way that isn't directly spoon-feeding them the answers. I'm not sure if this makes sense or if I'm just at a point of frustration with my school at the moment. Thanks!!

It terms of spoon feeding, this is what I did with one of my students who had difficulty with comprehension. I copied a simple non fiction passage. Then I took out about 5-6 key words in the passage. They had to look at the previous passage to fill in the blanks. I did this about 3-4 times with the same passage, each time leaving different words out. Then at the end they had to respond to simple comprehension questions. I did have success with it, but it is time consuming to copy the passages. You can do it in the classroom and to ensure that they don't copy off of one another, just switch up the order of the blank paragraphs. Differentiated can mean that some students are using manipulatives while others are not. What irks me about all this talk about differentiated instruction, modifications, etc, is that all students are taking a standardized test that is not differentiated. What's the point of differentiating when the test is standardized? ( insert sarcastic tone here)

From my understanding differentiated just means you are changing the product, content, or process of what you are teaching.

Some Examples
Product: Students may have a choice in how they display what they learned about the Revolutionary War (brochure, PPT, journal entry, timeline, etc.).

Content: Or the text you are using to teach the Rev. War is leveled. All the students are learning the same content but you simplify the vocabulary and length of the text but everyone is still learning the same content.

Process: You teach the Rev. War by showing videos, completing a WebQuest, touching/lookiing at artifacts, PPT. You present the information in different ways.

All of the students take the same tests, quizzes, standardized tests, etc b/c they all learned the same thing. Just in different ways. Differentiation is just different ways for the students to all reach the same destination.

If you are minimizing/eliminating content or everybody isn't learning the same content then you aren't differentiating. You are modifying the curriculum.

This means personalized instruction to meet the needs of the learner. The students need to show mastery of the same learning standard, but you may need different strategies to get them there. The big question is how do you differentiate with such a huge range of abilities.

One way is to approach the lesson or learning target in multiple ways. Some kids learn better hands on, others just want to read or be shown the process, so we teach the same thing with multiple methods.

Another way to approach differentiation is projects: Same learning goals, same end results. For example a book project might have a learning target of summary, inference, draw a conclusion. A stronger reader selects a more challenging book, a lower reader, something at their level. Each student is completing the project and demonstrating mastery of the learning target, but the lesson was differentiated to meet the needs of the learners by letting them read content that suited their instructional levels.

I agree with PPs. For differentiated instruction, the teacher can differentiate the content, the process, or the product based on the abilities, interests, prior experience and knowledge her students have and the type of learners that they are.

The content is the same for all students, but the degree of complexity varies according to the learner and the content is presented in multiple ways to address the different learning styles like visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic... of the students. Like PP said, students could read different levels of books on the same topic. Everyone is getting the same "big idea", but more advanced students may delve deeper into it.

The process can be differentiated by introducing to the whole group, then moving into small groups, pairs or even working individually on an activity. The groupings are flexible. Students are not stuck in the same group all the time. (For example, when a student changes from one level to the next level in guided reading, the student joins a new group and isn't stuck in the original group he/she started out in if they are not ready to move up a level.) Students could also be working on the same tasks, but level of support is different for each group.

The product can be differentiated. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or knowledge of content in different ways-through a written response, through an oral response, by drawing, by making a model, by presenting a project, by acting it out, creating a ppt...

I like the wording one of the PP used about differentiation being "different ways for all students to reach the same destination."

It does get confusing because I think people use the term "differentiation" loosely. I found the same PP's wording helpful "If you are minimizing/eliminating content or everybody isn't learning the same content, then you aren't differentiating. You are modifying the curriculum."

Thank you so much for your explanations. So I think I'm understanding the differences a little more. I guess I need to read up more about the achievement gap and opportunity gap and see how differentiation plays into fixing that. I don't see how it can if students aren't able to have their standardized tests differentiated so in a way I don't see it as being fair and giving much opportunities.