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September 1, 2000
Vol. 58
No. 1

Web Wonders / Differentiation in the Classroom

  • Students are more effective learners when classrooms and schools create a sense of community in which they feel significant and respected.
  • The central job of schools is to maximize the capacity of each student.
Then differentiation of instruction is the ticket for you! This Educational Leadership includes many suggestion for varying instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students—through differentiation.

The Basics

The Mid-continent Research on Education and Learning (www.mcrel.org/products/noteworthy /noteworthy/barbaram.asp) offers the complete text online of a superior resource: "Understanding the Keys to Motivation to Learn," by Barbara L. McCombs. Find out about "self-regulated learning," "scaffolding," and "constructivism"—all hallmarks of differentiation. See also the ASCD Web site for resources on these same topics.
Math and Science Workshop: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards (www.nctm.org/standards/) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) (www4.nationalacademies.org/nas /nashome.nsf) provide resources for teachers on math and science standards. The sites are exceedingly helpful to both elementary and secondary teachers and administrators as they seek ways to ensure that students are not only meeting the standards, but also have access to resources and strategies that will help them get there.
At the International Reading Association's Literacy Connection (www.reading.org/links/lit_tp.html), find out about the "Miss Rumphius Award" (and Read Across America, RIF, and so on). More about helping all students learn to read in an EL article by Wendy Towle, who describes how teachers can differentiate instruction through Reading Workshops.
At the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ericec.org/), find the origin of many ideas on differentiation. The world of special and gifted education can be found here, through dozens and dozens of articles, presentations, reports, and abstracts. Spend the day; visit often and early; enrich your own philosophy; add to your basket of teaching tools. The Council for Exceptional Children maintains this extensive database of resources.

Differentiation Around the Globe

For a view of differentiation from down under, log on to (www.austega.com/gifted/provisions/curdifferent.htm). Australian educator David Farmer, who developed the video program Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom, presents a handy checklist of teaching tips and strategies for differentiating instruction.
Not to be outdone, the British Columbia Ministry of Education (www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/gifted/toc.htm) chimes in with strategies for teaching diverse gifted children, which, of course, can be applied to teaching all children: acceleration, telescoping, compacting, independent study, tiered assignments, and learning centers. These are all aspects of differentiated classrooms.
The Design for Differentiation Project (www.sricboces.org/Goals2000/) in New York State offers an outstanding professional-development program that encourages teachers to differentiate instruction. As Evelyn Schneider, author of the EL article "Shifting to High Gear," states, the project was initiated to help New York State "raise standards, detrack students, and practice inclusion." Read her article, particularly on the powerful effect of Socratic seminars. Differentiation is working. Back at the Web site, go to "4. Units/Lessons in Progress Year 1" for an astounding array of work by teachers, in varying subject matter areas—and all differentiated. Here's content you can use.
For a treasure trove of differentiation resources, click (www.ascd.org). Not to brag, but ASCD is internationally known as an important resource for addressing the needs of diverse learners. Visit the ASCD Reading Room for excerpts from many related books, such as Understanding by Design, Powerful Learning, Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, and The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. ASCD members can use their member IDs to browse—and search—the full text of every article in Educational Leadership from 1993 to the present.

Carolyn R. Pool has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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