Intermediate District 287 & Northeast Metro 916 Grants and Research Office (GRO)

  1. What is differentiation?
    The definition of Differentiated Instruction that will guide the work of the Multi-District Differentiated Instruction Initiative is based on the following premises:
    • defines a specific set of practices within the larger set of best practices in instruction,
    • practices within a classroom or group,
    • serves all learners in the group and
    • provides appropriate levels of challenge for all learners in the group.

    The definition is based on the premises that differentiated instruction is the purposeful and continuous modification of assessment, instruction, and curriculum, based on the teacher’s ongoing assessment of the students’ levels of readiness, interests, learning profiles and learning environments in order to ensure academic growth for all students.

  2. What research and best practice support differentiation?
    The research supporting this initiative has been drawn from a broad field of studies regarding student achievement. Results from studies on instructional design, assessment development, grouping practices, and classroom management have all shaped the understandings that have evolved. An annotated bibliography directs the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the research that has guided this initiative.
  3. How can district policies support differentiation?
    In preparing for this initiative, a first step is to look to the district Mission statement for direction. Mission statements generally include some statement calling for educational practices that meet the needs of all students, or challenge all students or enable all students to reach their full potential. A way to operationalize the Mission statement is to use the “readiness checklist” prepared by the Multi-District Differentiation Initiative Group. The readiness checklist suggests the steps to take to develop support for differentiation at a district-wide level.
  4. What on-going staff development is provided for differentiating instruction?
    Through the Grants and Research Office a multi-district, multi-year Professional development model has been established. This model recognizes the need to offer many avenues for teacher and administrator development.  Entry, intermediate, and advanced offerings will include on-line learning communities, summer institutes, and lesson study groups.
  5. What should parents know about differentiation?
    Parents should be provided with the vocabulary and rationale of differentiation. The Classroom Indicator checklist may be shared.

    CAROL ANN TOMLINSON AND SUSAN DEMIRSKY ALLAN, (2000) LEADERSHIP FOR    DIFFERENTIATING SCHOOLS AND CLASSROOMS, (ASCD) include Q & A for Parents about Using Differentiation to Accommodate Academic Diversity in the Classroom (pgs 148-149).

    Notable among this list is the questions “What evidence of differentiation can I expect to see?

    The answer they provide is: Sometimes the use of differentiation is subtle.  Parents may see student work come home and have no way of knowing how a teacher matched a particular assignment with their child’s needs. Probably the best way of knowing how differentiation is used in the classroom is to ask the teachers. She will be able to point out particular assignment that your student worked on and tell you how the match was made between your child and the learning activity.”
  6. How can principals and others recognize differentiation in a teacher’s classroom?
    Classroom indicators of differentiated instruction are articulated on the checklist provided by the Multi-District Differentiation Initiative Group. The checklist provides indicators of a teacher’s disposition and skills in implementing differentiation, the classroom environment and management procedures needed for differentiation to be successful, and instructional and assessment practices that facilitate differentiation.
  7. How do we know if differentiation is effective?  Is it supporting student learning?
    Much of the research base on differentiation arises out efforts to modify learning to match student differences encountered by teachers. Classroom Indicators of Differentiated Instruction provides a checklist for teachers and administrators to monitor progress towards mastery of this initiative.

    Ongoing monitoring of standardized assessments provides evidence of growth in student achievement.  Differentiated instruction is matched to the nature of the learners’ readiness, interests, learning profiles.
  8. How do we make differentiation part of curriculum adoption?
    As curriculum is reviewed and adopted there should be a concern for how it will impact all learners and how teachers can adapt the materials for instruction.  Differentiation can be the lens through which content and supporting instructional materials should be viewed.  Furthermore, differentiation can be seen as interventions for students in a comprehensive adoption and assessment plan.

DIAL Task Force