Differentiated Instruction For NAD Math Summer Committee 

Why is differentiated instruction important in the delivery of all content areas particularly in math? Here are a few reasons: 

  • It is not a new-fangled fad in education that will soon dissipate if given enough time but rather a philosophy that should be at the core and center of why, what, and how we teach especially when implemented through the filter of our Seventh-day Adventist world view. 
  • It is applicable at all levels— from early childhood through secondary and beyond 
  • It has been practiced in Seventh-day Adventist classrooms successfully by you and others like you—professional educators-- master teachers-- since the beginning of our educational system 
  • Because of that we know there is already a viable and strong foundation that you can reach back to and add to what you are successfully accomplishing in your classroom. 
  • The process of implementing differentiated instruction will be different for every teacher—and we do recognize that some are further down the road than others. There is still something more we can all learn. 
  • And not the least of all—we believe there is a strong spiritual component that by its own nature is embedded throughout this philosophy 

Differentiated Instruction is a concept that makes it possible to maximize learning for all students. It is a collection of instructionally intelligent strategies based on student-centered best practices that make it possible for teachers to create different pathways that respond to the needs of diverse learners. When teachers adapt any area of the curriculum and its delivery to meet the needs of a student or a group of students, he or she is differentiating instruction. 

At its basic concept there are four areas in which a teacher may differentiate instruction: 

Content: What the student needs to learn or how the student will access the information. 

  • Using reading material of varying readability levels 
  • Putting texts on tape 
  • Using spelling and/or vocabulary lists at the readiness levels of the students 
  • Presenting ideas both through auditory and visual means 
  • Using the buddy system 
  • Meeting with small dynamic groups/ flexible grouping to re-teach an idea or skill for struggling learners or to extend the thinking skills of advanced students. 

Process: Activities in which the student engages in order to make sense of or masters the content. 

  • Using tiered activities through which all learners work with the same important understandings and skills, but proceed with different levels of support, challenge, or complexity. 
  • Providing interest centers that encourage students to explore subsets of the general topic in question which is of particular interest to them. 
  • Developing personal agendas (task lists written by the teacher and containing both in-common work for the whole class as well as work that addresses the individual needs of the learner) to be completed either during specified agenda time or as students complete work early. 
  • Offering manipulatives or other hands-on support for students who need them. 
  • Varying the length of time a student may take to complete a task in order to give additional support for a struggling learner or to encourage an advanced leaner to pursue a topic in greater depth. 

Products: Culminating projects that ask the student to rehearse, apply, and extend what he or she has learned in a unit. 

  • Giving students options of how to express required learnings (e.g., create a puppet show, write a letter, develop a mural with labels). 
  • Using rubrics that match and extend students varied skills. 
  • Allowing students to work on their products alone or in small groups. 
  • Encouraging students to give options of their own as possible products as long as the assignment contains the required elements. 

Learning environment: How the classroom functions and how it feels like. 

  • Making sure that there are places in the room where students can work quietly and without distractions as well as places that invite student collaboration. 
  • Providing materials that reflect a variety of cultures and home settings. 
  • Establishing clear guidelines for independent work that matches individual needs. 
  • Developing routines that allow students to get help when teachers are busy with other students and cannot help them immediately. 
  • Helping students understand that some learners need to move around to learn, while others do better sitting quietly. 

On the spiritual level… 

Ellen G. White says, “The teacher should carefully study the disposition and character of his students, that he may adapt his teaching to their particular needs. He has a garden to attend, in which are plants differing widely in nature, form, and development.” Counsels to Teachers pgs. 231-232 

Jesus, the Master Teacher, modeled that. He knew that He was tending to individuals differing widely in nature, form, and development. 

The basic premise of differentiated instruction is that students are different and they learn differently. And let us remember that we teach students not concepts. Jesus knew that and approached each individual He was teaching using a variety of strategies and best practices. 

Ellen G. White goes on to say that, “In all true teaching the personal element is essential. Christ in His teaching dealt with men individually… the same personal interest, the same attention to individual 

development are needed in educational work today.” Education pgs. 231-232 Students differ, just as we do in our spiritual journey, in how they learn best, what is of interest to them and how ready they are for the content.