Differentiated Instruction in 21st Century Classrooms

Catalog Description:
It is becoming increasingly important for schools to respond to the needs of a diverse student population. Otherwise known as “responsive teaching,” differentiated instruction is a set of beliefs about the qualities of effective curriculum and instruction. Proponents of differentiated instruction strive to ensure that curriculum and instruction fit each individual, that students have choices about what to learn and how, that students take part in setting learning goals, and that the classroom connects with the experiences and interests of the individual. Differentiation is a refinement of high-quality curriculum and instruction approaches. It empowers educators in providing different avenues of learning for students to reach the same destination. In this course, participants will learn how to study student differences and adapt their teaching strategies to fit the vast diversity of students in the classroom. This course will highlight the theories of multiple intelligence/learning styles, formative assessment, and the use of high- and low-tech strategies to differentiate instruction.

Allow 5 - 7 hours per session for completion of all requirements.

Participants are expected to have regular access to computers. In addition, participants should be proficient with using email, browsing the Internet, and navigating to computer files.

Goals and Objectives:
During this course, participants will learn skills and strategies to:

  • Identify the general principles of differentiated instruction.
  • Differentiate instruction through content, process, product, affect, and learning environment.
  • Adapt lesson plans to fit individual learners' readiness levels, interests, learning profiles, and strengths.
  • Use ongoing assessment to differentiate instruction.
  • Use strategies of differentiation to engage learners and to provide high-quality instruction.
  • Use technology tools to help differentiate instruction.
  • Explain how differentiated instruction is aligned to other instructional models (e.g. Project-based learning, second language acquisition, inclusive practice, flipped instruction, blended learning, etc.).
  • Develop lesson plans, instructional materials, and assessments, which include the elements of differentiated instruction.

Course Outline:

Orientation: (1-2 hours)
Participants will prepare for the course with an introductory reading and icebreaker activity. Participants will read tip sheets for participating in online discussions, credit information, and complete an orientation survey.

Session One: Differentiated Instruction Overview (5-7 hours)
In this first module, participants will discover what differentiated instruction is (and is not). The roots of differentiated instruction go all the way back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse, where one teacher had students of all ages in one classroom. Differentiated instruction focuses on how students are both alike and different. It requires that teachers study student differences in understanding, learning modalities, and interests and plan accordingly to allow for different learning rates and to structure tasks of varying complexity. It also requires that teachers are clear about the essential skills, key concepts, and principles that all students must master.

Session Two: Knowing Students and Connecting with Them (5-7 hours)
Effective differentiation starts with knowing the students' academic strengths, interests, and perspectives. The resources in this module focus on strategies for connecting with students and building relationships with them. The module will highlight Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Multiple Intelligences theory, personality, and learning styles and how these ideas influence the practices of high-quality teaching and learning in a differentiated classroom.

Session Three: Assessing Students in the Differentiated Classroom (5-7 hours)
Ongoing assessment in an effectively differentiated classroom is the foundation of successful instructional planning. The goal of this module is to provide a framework for thinking about assessment as an invaluable element in classroom practice. We'll take a look at various kinds of assessment; the when, what, and why of assessment; and how assessment affects instruction. We'll also explore several formative assessment techniques for classroom use. 

Session Four: Tips and Strategies for Differentiating Instruction (5-7 hours)
Strategies are tools used to accomplish the goals of differentiation. It is important to start small with differentiating instruction, adding one or two instructional strategies each school year and working to refine them. During this module, we’ll explore the basic strategies of differentiation. The resources will provide an overview of common differentiation strategies and highlight various strategies that take minimal planning time but can have a big impact in the classroom.

Session Five: Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction (5-7 hours)
A growing number of educators are turning to technology to implement differentiated instruction. Technological tools provide teachers with multiple avenues to proactively respond to student needs. Educators can use technology tools to develop well-crafted learning experiences by building classroom community, implementing formative assessment, and designing responsive instruction. In this module, we’ll explore a number of technologies that can be used effectively in a differentiated classroom.

Session Six: Expanding Your Differentiated Instruction Toolbox (5-7 hours)
During this module, we’ll learn about methods for using differentiation strategies to address common curriculum and instruction issues. Topics include class size challenges, time, the availability of materials, classroom management, and the grading process. We’ll also explore differentiation strategies that can take more planning time but can maximize student learning. The resources for this module include tiered lesson plans, rubrics, and checklists for all grade levels and content areas.


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