One Size Doesn’t Fit All, and It Doesn’t Have To: Implications for Best Practices of Differentiated Instruction
Educators have long contemplated how to best meet the individual needs of their students. The growing diversity of student ability, student background, and student interest in classrooms has led researchers and professionals to coin the term “differentiated instruction”. The main belief underpinning differentiated instruction is the premise that not all students learn or respond to instruction the same way. The following paper carefully explores the key ideas to consider when striving to meet individual learning needs. Specifically, it provides suggestions for identifying the unique learning profiles of students, creating a learning environment conducive to differentiated instruction, strategies that support individualized instruction, and types of assessments that provide educators with a comprehensive picture of student progress. It also provides a concrete example of two educators studying the best practices for differentiated reading instruction, blending these practices with their own beliefs and experiences, and creating a model for their literacy block that facilitates individualized instruction. Students need ample opportunities to gain knowledge and demonstrate their ability to use what they learn in a context that aligns with their individual learning profiles. Guided by this recognition, the paper reveals that teachers must become familiar with the body of research and instructional strategies that facilitate differentiated instruction, and mold these ideas with their own beliefs and practices. The paper culminates with implications for making differentiated instruction personal to a teacher’s classroom. The paper also concludes with a recognition of the current limitations presented to teachers as a result of administrative policy and suggestions for coping with these limitations.