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Differentiated Instruction: The Benefits of Practicing What We Preach
Unformatted Document Text:  1A.) Statement of the Issue: “Creating New Visions for Teacher Education” is the theme of the 2006 AACTE Annual Meeting. Celebrating and effectively responding to increasing diversity among candidates and students is a vision that should be embraced by all teacher educators. Within that context, I am proposing to offer a session where participants will learn about a unique pilot project where differentiated instruction was used to maximize learning outcomes in three courses consisting of candidates who were extremely diverse in terms of their demographics, ability / achievement levels, motivation, professional goals, and personal experiences. 1B.) Literature Review: Differentiated instruction requires a teachers to dynamically structure the content, process, products, and learning environment based on their understanding of students’ readiness, interest, and learning profile (Tomlinson, 2005). Based on a synthesis of available research, Hall, Strangman, and Meyer (2003) described differentiated instruction as: . . .a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms. The model of differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their approach to teaching and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to learners, rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum (p. 2). Differentiated instruction was originally described as a technique that helped teachers adequately challenge gifted and talented students (Olenchak, 2001; Tomlinson, 2001). However, its application has been expanded and it is now accepted as an effective way for teachers to ensure that all students’ unique learning needs are addressed (Piggott, 2002; Stodolsky & Grossman, 2000; Strangman, Hall, & Meyer, 2003). Currently, differentiation is a recurrent theme in professional journals and it is becoming the focus of an increasing number of teacher education courses (Bender, 2002; Council for Exceptional Children, 2005; Hagger & Klingner, 2005; Moll, 2003; Tilton, 2003; Tomlinson, 2005). Many strategies associated with differentiated instruction are also explicitly required in the latest reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Apling & Jones, 2005). Despite the rapid proliferation and success with differentiation in elementary and secondary school environments, there is a paucity of literature describing or evaluating parallel implementation in higher education. This is particularly concerning because it has been suggested that candidates’ ability levels, instructional preferences, and other unique needs can significantly impact their classroom success (Layton & Lock, 2003; Reiff, Ginsberg, & Gerber, 1995; Skipper, 1993). There is also inherent incongruence when teacher educators do not consistently model innovative and effective instructional practices (Lehman, 1991; Midkiff, 1991; Sands & Drake, 1996). However, prior to this pilot project, it does not appear that differentiation was systematically implemented to meet candidates’ diverse needs. 1C.) Contribution related to “Future Teachers, Future Students”: This pilot project involved differentiating instruction for two undergraduate courses (“Planning Instruction for Students with Special Needs” and “Implementing Instruction for Students with Special Needs”) and one graduate course (“Educational Psychology of Exceptional Learners”)

Authors: Schmidt, Tanya.
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1A.) Statement of the Issue: “Creating New Visions for Teacher Education” is the
theme of the 2006 AACTE Annual Meeting. Celebrating and effectively responding to
increasing diversity among candidates and students is a vision that should be embraced
by all teacher educators. Within that context, I am proposing to offer a session where
participants will learn about a unique pilot project where differentiated instruction was
used to maximize learning outcomes in three courses consisting of candidates who were
extremely diverse in terms of their demographics, ability / achievement levels,
motivation, professional goals, and personal experiences.

1B.) Literature Review: Differentiated instruction requires a teachers to dynamically
structure the content, process, products, and learning environment based on their
understanding of students’ readiness, interest, and learning profile (Tomlinson, 2005).
Based on a synthesis of available research, Hall, Strangman, and Meyer (2003) described
differentiated instruction as:
. . .a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should
vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms.
The model of differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their
approach to teaching and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to
learners, rather than expecting students to modify themselves for the curriculum
(p. 2).
Differentiated instruction was originally described as a technique that helped
teachers adequately challenge gifted and talented students (Olenchak, 2001; Tomlinson,
2001). However, its application has been expanded and it is now accepted as an effective
way for teachers to ensure that all students’ unique learning needs are addressed (Piggott,
2002; Stodolsky & Grossman, 2000; Strangman, Hall, & Meyer, 2003). Currently,
differentiation is a recurrent theme in professional journals and it is becoming the focus
of an increasing number of teacher education courses (Bender, 2002; Council for
Exceptional Children, 2005; Hagger & Klingner, 2005; Moll, 2003; Tilton, 2003;
Tomlinson, 2005). Many strategies associated with differentiated instruction are also
explicitly required in the latest reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (Apling & Jones, 2005).
Despite the rapid proliferation and success with differentiation in elementary and
secondary school environments, there is a paucity of literature describing or evaluating
parallel implementation in higher education. This is particularly concerning because it
has been suggested that candidates’ ability levels, instructional preferences, and other
unique needs can significantly impact their classroom success (Layton & Lock, 2003;
Reiff, Ginsberg, & Gerber, 1995; Skipper, 1993). There is also inherent incongruence
when teacher educators do not consistently model innovative and effective instructional
practices (Lehman, 1991; Midkiff, 1991; Sands & Drake, 1996). However, prior to this
pilot project, it does not appear that differentiation was systematically implemented to
meet candidates’ diverse needs.

1C.) Contribution related to “Future Teachers, Future Students”: This pilot project
involved differentiating instruction for two undergraduate courses (“Planning Instruction
for Students with Special Needs
” and “Implementing Instruction for Students with Special
Needs
”) and one graduate course (“Educational Psychology of Exceptional Learners”)


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