A Definition of Differentiation

In the context of education, we define differentiation as a teacher’s reacting responsively to a learner’s needs. A teacher who is differentiating understands a student’s needs to express humor, or work with a group, or have additional teaching on a particular skill, or delve more deeply into a particular topic, or have guided help with a reading passage—and the teacher responds actively and positively to that need. Differentiation is simply attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small group of students rather than the more typical pattern of teaching the class as though all individuals in it were basically alike.

From: Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms

by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Susan Demirsky Allan

Differentiation Strategies

Plans for meeting the needs of GATE identified students include implementation of various differentiation strategies within the classroom. These strategies are applied throughout the day, across subject areas. The following is a list of possible strategies:

  • Problem-Based Learning

Students are given a real-world problem from which they must conduct investigations and inquiries to solve the given problem.

  • Ability Grouping

For various classroom tasks and assignments, students will be placed in groups with students of similar abilities to tackle a task of greater depth and/or complexity.

  • Tiered Assignments

A process through which all students are working on a specific skill or concept and the assignments are “tiered” based upon levels of need. Lessons are designed to move from concrete to abstract, simple to complex, more structured to more open, fewer facts to multi-facets, or slower pace to quicker pace.

  • Compacted Curriculum

Pre-assessments will be utilized to identify skills and knowledge that students have already mastered. From the pre-assessments, students will then be provided a continued in-depth study in the same content area.

  • Socratic Seminar

A highly structured process in which students seek a more in-depth understanding of complex ideas through thoughtful dialogue in a group setting.

from SDUSD GATE Handbook