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Although experts and practitioners acknowledge that the research on differentiated instruction as a specific practice is limited (Allen &Tomlinson, 2000; Anderson, 2007; Hall, 2002), solid research does validate a number of practices that provide the foundation of differentiation. These practices include using effective classroom management procedures; promoting student engagement and motivation; assessing student readiness; responding to learning styles; grouping students for instruction; and teaching to the student’s zone of proximal development which is the distance between what the learner can do with assistance (Vygotsky, 1978). Students come to us with differing levels of readiness, and we must hold high expectations for all of our students. We have to design activities that address the same standards and take into consideration the differing levels of our students. Students must be engaged when we ask them to participate in activities that capture their interest. We must think about our content from a variety of perspectives. All of our students have different learning styles. We need to design learning activities that utilize their preferred style, as well as ones that develop other styles. For English language learners, this means learning activities that rely solely on language, whether verbal or written, are relying on a learning style that may at this point not be yet developed and their strongest means of learning. This means that differentiating instruction makes us think about our content from different perspectives.


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