Friday, February 11, 2011

Differentiated Instruction: What Is It?

Differentiated Instruction and Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities

By Janet W. Lerner and Frank Kline

Editors of Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal

The US. Department of Education (2008) reports that 87% of students  with learning disabilities receive instruction in general education  classes. This number includes both students whose educational placement  is in the general education classroom for most of the day (52%) and  students who are both in a resource room for part of the day and in a  general education classroom for the balance of the day (35%).

General education teachers are often stymied when instruction  designed for the general education student does not meet the needs of  students with learning disabilities. These students need a different  kind of instruction. Differentiated Instruction is recommended to  general education teachers as one method to teach students with learning  disabilities and other special learning needs in general education  classes (Tomlinson, Brimijoin and Narvaez, 2008; Tomlinson, 2001).

It is  interesting to note the many similarities between differentiated  instruction and the philosophy and strategies for teaching special  education students.

The term differentiated instruction reflects a philosophy of teaching  that enables teachers to reach the unique needs of each student,  capitalizing on the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Differentiated  instruction embodies some of the qualities of special education teaching  in the general education classroom.

Advocates of differentiated instruction note that one of the biggest  mistakes we make in teaching is to treat everyone equally when it comes  to learning. With the recognition that not all students are alike,  differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning  that gives students multiple options for taking in information and  making sense of ideas.

Differentiated instruction recognizes that a  one-size-fits-all curriculum simply will not work for all children.  Children process information differently; some form images, others form  words, and others form sentences.

Differentiated instruction takes their  individual needs into account with teaching that responds to their  personal talents, interests, varying background knowledge, and distinct  experiences. In differentiated instruction, the teacher seeks to find  the special methods that will be successful for an individual student to  help that student learn (Lerner & Johns, 2011; Tomlinson, Brimijoin  and Narvaez, 2008; Tomlinson, 2001).

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