Understanding quality differentiation

As the need for effective differentiation escalates, Carol Ann Tomlinson explains that teachers and leaders need to understand it as a manifestation of quality educational practice rather than as an occasional add-on

Around the world, differentiation is a regular facet of educational conversation. In some countries, including the US, it has become an expectation and is even reflected on teacher evaluation protocols. Diversity of culture, language, economic status, achievement, and exceptionalities is a hallmark of 21st century classrooms. Thus it is likely that the need to attend effectively to student learning differences will only escalate in the years ahead. Nonetheless, conversations around a concept do not predict effective – or even acceptable – implementation of the concept in practice. While many teachers indicate that they differentiate instruction, evidence generally suggests less than robust understanding and enactment of differentiation in many classrooms. Likewise, school leaders often lack the understanding of differentiation that would enable them to provide intelligent support for teachers who seek to teach with individuals – as well as the whole class – in mind.

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December 2014