RTDI Basics

    • The teacher is clear about what matters in subject matter .
    • The teacher understands, appreciates, and builds upon student differences .
    • Assessment and instruction are inseparable .
    • The teacher adjusts content, process, and product in response to student readiness, interests , and learning profile .
    • All students participate in respectful work .
    • Students and teachers are collaborators in learning.
    • Goals of a differentiated classroom are maximum growth and individual success .
    • Flexibility is the hallmark of a differentiated classroom.

    Source: Tomlinson, C. (2000). Differentiating Instruction for Academic Diversity. San Antonio, TX: ASCD

    A differentiated classroom offers a variety of learning options designed to tap into different readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. In a differentiated class, the teacher uses (1) a variety of ways for students to explore curriculum content, (2) a variety of sense-making activities or processes through which students can come to understand and "own" information and ideas, and (3) a variety of options through which students can demonstrate or exhibit what they have learned.

    A class is not differentiated when assignments are the same for all learners and the adjustments consist of varying the level of difficulty of questions for certain students, grading some students harder than others, or letting students who finish early play games for enrichment. It is not appropriate to have more advanced learners do extra math problems, extra book reports, or after completing their "regular" work be given extension assignments. Asking students to do more of what they already know is hollow. Asking them to do "the regular work, plus" inevitably seems punitive to them.

    SOURCE:  Tomlinson, C. (1995). HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSROOMS. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 

    Four characteristics shape teaching and learning in an effective differentiated classroom (Tomlinson, 1995):

    1. Instruction is concept focused and principle driven. All students have the opportunity to explore and apply the key concepts of the subject being studied. All students come to understand the key principles on which the study is based. Such instruction enables struggling learners to grasp and use powerful ideas and, at the same time, encourages advanced learners to expand their understanding and application of the key concepts and principles. Such instruction stresses understanding or sense-making rather than retention and regurgitation of fragmented bits of information. Concept-based and principle-driven instruction invites teachers to provide varied learning options. A "coverage-based" curriculum may cause a teacher to feel compelled to see that all students do the same work. In the former, all students have the opportunity to explore meaningful ideas through a variety of avenues and approaches. 

    2. On-going assessment of student readiness and growth are built into the curriculum. Teachers do not assume that all students need a given task or segment of study, but continuously assess student readiness and interest, providing support when students need additional instruction and guidance, and extending student exploration when indications are that a student or group of students is ready to move ahead. 

    3. Flexible grouping is consistently used. In a differentiated class, students work in many patterns. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups. Sometimes tasks are readiness-based, sometimes interest-based, sometimes constructed to match learning style, and sometimes a combination of readiness, interest, and learning style. In a differentiated classroom, whole-group instruction may also be used for introducing new ideas, when planning, and for sharing learning outcomes. 

    4. Students are active explorers. Teachers guide the exploration. Because varied activities often occur simultaneously in a differentiated classroom, the teacher works more as a guide or facilitator of learning than as a dispenser of information. As in a large family, students must learn to be responsible for their own work. Not only does such student-centeredness give students more ownership of their learning, but it also facilitates the important adolescent learning goal of growing independence in thought, planning, and evaluation. Implicit in such instruction is (1) goal-setting shared by teacher and student based on student readiness, interest, and learning profile, and (2) assessment predicated on student growth and goal attainment.

    SOURCE:  Tomlinson, C. (1995). HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION IN MIXED-ABILITY CLASSROOMS. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.