Differentiating Instruction Leads to Student Success

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Differentiating Instruction Leads to Student Success

What is differentiated instruction? At the basic level, differentiated instruction consists of highly knowledgeable teachers responding to the increasingly diverse classrooms of the 21st century. Students represent diverse cultures and learning styles, and it is clear that the one-size-fits-all approach is not an effective way to teach. The goal of differentiation is to cater to your students’ ways of learning, but in the end, lead all your students to the same academic objective. When a teacher reaches out to a student or a small group of students and varies their teaching to fit their needs, that teacher is engaging in differentiating instruction. Teachers are programmed to treat each student the same as the other, which can make differentiating tough. No student deserves special treatment nor does any student deserve less attention, so how does a teacher successfully navigate differentiation?


What the student’s learning objectives are and how they will get their information.

  • Cater classroom reading to each student’s reading levels
  • Upload classroom texts into audio form
  • Use spelling or vocabulary lists at the correct levels for your students
  • Present the content both visually and in audio form
  • Meet with small groups of students that are having a tough time grasping concepts and re-teach them
  • Change the language of the assignment
  • Assign learning activities that build from easy to medium to hard, but make sure that you are providing respectful activities for all students, whether the assignment is hard or easy. Each student’s work should be equally interesting and focused on the skills.


A series of actions or assignments done by the student in order to achieve the learning objective. 

  • Provide information or where to find information that encourages the student to explore the class topic further if that particular topic interests them
  • Create a personal agenda. This will include notes and future differentiated assignments that you want to provide certain students or groups of students.
  • Use manipulatives or physical objects that are used as teaching tools to engage students in hands-on learning
  • Vary the length of time a student may take to complete an assignment or the quantity of the assignment if you can tell they’re truly struggling with the concepts.


Assignments that ensure that the students fully grasp the concepts of the unit.

  • Give students an option of how to express what they’ve learned. Examples of this include: creating a puppet show, writing a letter, acting it out, writing a song or poem, or creating art or design.
  • Use rubrics that cater to the skill levels of the student
  • Allow students to have the option of working alone or in small groups on their projects
  • As long as the assignment contains the correct requirements, encourage students to create their own assignments or projects
  • Evaluate the students before each unit and teach only what they don’t know
  • Allow students to fix and turn in their assignments again. Some students may get it right the first time, but others may need several revisions.

Learning Space

How the classroom feels and works.

  • Although classroom space may be limited try to make sure there are designated quiet workspaces and groupwork spaces.
  • Outline clear expectations for independent work that matches their needs.
  • Provide materials that show you appreciate a variety of cultures and lifestyles.
  • Share strategies with students that allows them to get help when teachers and their classmates cannot immediately help them.
  • Acknowledge the need for some students to move around to learn, while others do better sitting quietly.
  • Mix groups up over a period of days. This allows students to work with students who may have different interests or learning styles. This also lets the teacher see certain students with different kinds of work and students.

Take a Professional Development Course

CE Credits Online offers a course Differentiating Instruction in the 21st Century. This course is guided by the essential question: How can we create powerful learning experiences to meet the wide range of student needs in the 21st century classroom? It presents differentiation as a solution for answering this essential question and meeting the needs of a diverse student base.

This course will provide educators with the tools necessary to implement differentiation effectively in their classrooms. It provides tips and resources that educators can start utilizing immediately along with two authentic tasks and a final project that ask participants to think deeply about the subject matter and apply it to their students in meaningful ways.

K-12 teachers will be able to:

  • Effectively differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students.
  • Create a learning environment where students thrive.
  • Create authentic performance assessments, both formative and summative, that have clear goals and accurately reflect student learning.

CE Credits Online has been providing online professional development courses to teachers in NYC, LAUSD, and across the country for almost 20 years.

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