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September 1, 2000
Vol. 58
No. 1

EL Extra

Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussions around this issue of Educational Leadership.
The study guide may be related to a particular article, a group of articles, or a theme that runs through the entire issue. Our questions will not cover all aspects of the issue, but we are hopeful that they will help you generate a conversation around key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district—and you may even want to think of some of your own. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.

Differentiating Instruction and Standards

In “Reconcilable Difference: Standards-Based Teaching and Differentiation” (p. 6), Carol Ann Tomlinson acknowledges that the predominance of standards-based instruction can often feel at odds with individualized and differentiated instruction. But, she argues, this need not be the case.
First, as a large group, define and discuss differentiated instruction—what it is, how it is used, why it is effective, and to what extent you adopt it as a philosophy, not just a strategy, in your classroom or school.
Next, break into small groups and address Tomlinson’s questions on p. 11. What is the impact of standards-based teaching on the quality of education in your school or district? Are you satisfied that standards are being used effectively? Why or why not?
Finally, Tomlinson says, “There is no contradiction between effective standards-based instruction and differentiation. Curriculum tells us what to teach. Differentiation tell us how.” Examine your school, district, or state standards in light of this idea. Choose one standard, for example, and explore the how: how you might provide materials and tasks related to the standard at varied levels of difficulty, through multiple instructional groups, and with time variations.

Including Everyone

Several articles argue that students of diverse academic levels—from those with special needs to those who are labeled “gifted”—can be effectively integrated into one classroom with the help of differentiated instruction. Discuss how educators used differentiated instruction to make their classes more inclusive.
Examine your school’s or district’s inclusion policy. Are classes heterogeneous or tracked? How do you ensure that all students are appropriately and adequately challenged? Do you see ways of implementing differentiated instruction to make classes more inclusive? What are the drawbacks of such a system?

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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How to Differentiate Instruction
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