Hallmarks of a Differentiated Classroom

I was going through my in-basket and was about to "file" what I thought was a catalog and but as I quickly scanned the magazine I came across an interview with Carol Ann Tomlinson, the guru of differentiated instruction. Carol Ann was asked to describe the hallmarks of a differentiated classroom. Below is more or less an excerpt of what she said.
  • The first thing I look for are student-teacher connections. Is the teacher really paying attention to the students, does he/she seem to be studying the students to find out what they are thinking e.g. opinions, thoughts, feelings, perceptions etc.... All of the information "feeds into instruction" and drives lesson planning and motivation to differentiate.
  • Another thing I look for is a sense of community in the classroom. Is there a sense of team in the classroom. Baseball is a good analogy. Different players, playing different positions, but all working toward a common goal. It's very important for students to understand and appreciate their differences and be willing to help one another succeed.
  • The third thing I look for is the quality of curriculum being used. You have to differentiate something, but if what you differentiate is boring enough to choke a horse, you've just got different versions of boredom. If the curriculum goal is unclear or murky, then you just end up with multiple versions of fog. If all you are doing is teaching to the test --- like memorizing the telephone book, then you are not providing anything memorable or useful in learning. Teachers need to ask themselves about the quality of what they are teaching. If I really think my students are capable of learning, then I want to give them the most robust materials, not watered-down stuff (p.28).

Dr. Tomlinson's insights have the potential to be helpful to administrators as they give feedback and support to teachers working toward differentiation. Dr. Tomlinson goes on to talk about lesson planning, the differentiated school, high stakes testing. etc.... Click on the link below to go directly to the website and full article.

Rebora, A. (Fall 2008). Making a difference. Teacher Professional Development Source Book. p. 26-31.


lsmith said…
"You have to differentiate something, but if what you differentiate is boring enough to choke a horse, you've just got different versions of boredom."
I just had to comment on this quote from the author and how true the words are. You hear so much about differentiated instruction, but if the curriculum is not engaging students than how much help is it to differentiate your instruction?
Anonymous said…
I agree with Lindsey--the "choke a horse" comment made me chuckle! I was glad that the quality of content was considered as important as the strategies used!
kemeigh said…
I loved the following quote: "Teachers often say they don’t get enough—or any—training or professional development in differentiated instruction. Why do you think that is?

I think the main reason is that differentiated instruction requires a complex change process for most teachers. It’s not something you can show me how to do today and then I can go back and do in my classroom tomorrow. And unfortunately, the professional development models used in most schools aren’t conducive to complex, meaningful change or growth. For most schools, a good professional development program is, “Well, shoot, we used two whole staff-development days.” But something like differentiated instruction takes a lot more than that. You have to have people in the classrooms with teachers and you have to give teachers opportunities to trouble shoot and work together. And you need a leader who’s both approachable and insistent, who commits to the program."
What a great quote to share with our teachers and administrators. It really speaks to true development of professional practice.
Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites

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