Differentiated instruction is “a systematic approach to planning curriculum and instruction for academically diverse learners” (Tomlinson & Eidson, 2003). This approach to instruction enables educators to react responsibly to learners needs so that all learners are able to make meaning of what is being taught. By making small changes to classroom elements (e.g., content, process, product, affect, classroom environment) based on learner characteristics (e.g., readiness, interest, learning profile) learners become engaged and respected for their learning and cultural differences.
Additionally, differentiated instruction challenges educators to create rigorous and relevant lessons as they strategize about how to adjust content, process, and/or products to maximize learner growth and success. Each lesson should emphasize deep content understanding, increase expectations for all leaners, encourage discussion and the generating of ideas while accommodating a range of abilities, interests, and prior experiences. In other words, differentiated instruction is about getting to know the students in your classroom and helping them to realize and reach their academic potential!
Tomlinson, C. A., & Eidson, C. C. (2003). Differentiation in practice: A resource guide for differentiating curriculum, grades 5-9. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.