The Importance of Differentiation in Schools

Not every child learns the same way, so why would we expect teachers to teach using only one technique? This is where differentiation comes in. Differentiation in schools refers to the variety of teaching practices and lesson adaptations an instructor uses to educate students who have diverse learning needs — without breaking up the classroom.

Essentially, by introducing differentiation in the classroom, teachers are endeavoring to reach every student by adapting their methods to fit the individual. Assignments are customized to match the skill level and learning ability of the individual student or group of students. It’s the opposite of one-size-fits-all teaching.

Here are some ways differentiation in schools addresses the individual needs of students:

Making a personal connection with students

Some students will struggle with certain subject more than others. For example, if a child is struggling with reading comprehension, organization, turning homework in on time, or paying attention to the assignment or the lesson, the first step shouldn’t be to isolate the student. The first step should be to build a personal connection with them by learning about their interests and piecing together what learning style works best for the student.

By making a personal connection, the teacher can get a better sense of how to make the particular lesson, homework assignment, or subject relate to the student.

Making the learning experience unique for all students

Altering the details and parameters of an assignment for individual students is not the same thing as showing favoritism — even though some outside of the education system may not be able to perceive the difference, which sometimes causes confusion over differentiation.
Say you have three students, each at a different level of learning but all in the same classroom:

  • Student A understands the assignment perfectly, engages appropriately, and earns high marks
  • Student B comprehends most of the coursework, engages moderately, and earns average marks
  • Student C comprehends very little of the work, engages little or not at all during class, and earns poor marks, perhaps even acts out in the classroom due to their frustration with the learning experience

It would make little sense to hold each student to the same standard.
Student A should be given the option of extra credit or further coursework in the form of suggested reading material or advanced subject matter, but it should not be perceived as a reward. When Student B gets answers wrong, they should be reviewed in depth so that they understand their mistakes and can resolve them next time; when they are silent during lessons, the teacher should take steps to engage them in conversation, either in a group setting or in a small-group or one-on-one environment.

Teachers should feel free to rearrange the assignment for Student C (and Student B, if necessary). The instructions can be laid out differently or the timeline adjusted. Instructions can be repeated, rephrased, and adjusted. When you’re meeting the needs of every individual, you’re being fair.

Calvary Lutheran School has your child’s cognitive development and happiness in mind. We focus on nurturing children academically, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially. Contact us at 816-595-4020 or schedule a tour to learn more about our academic program.