RTDI Core Beliefs

  • Beliefs Behind Responsive Teaching/Differentiated Instruction

    • Human beings share common feelings and needs, and schools should help us understand and respect those commonalities.
    • Individuals also differ significantly as learners; these differences matter in the classroom, and schools should help us to understand and respect the differences.
    • Intelligence is dynamic rather than static, plural rather than singular.
    • Human capacity is malleable, and the art of teaching is the art of maximizing human capacity; a central goal of schools ought to be maximizing the capacity of each learner.
    • We probably underestimate the capacity of every child as a learner.
    • Students should be at the center of the learning process; actively involved in making sense of the world around them through the lenses we call "the disciplines."
    • All learners require respectful, powerful, and engaging schoolwork to develop their individual capacities so that they become fulfilled and productive members of society.
    • A major emphasis in learner development is self-competition for growth and progress.
    • Teachers and other adults need to help learners accept responsibility for their own growth and progress.
    • Individuals and society benefit when schools and classrooms are genuine communities of respect and learning.
    • Effective heterogeneous classrooms are essential to building community in our schools.
    • Effective heterogeneous classrooms are powerful venues because most students spend most of their school time in such classrooms.
    • All effective heterogeneous classrooms recognize the similarities and differences in learners and robustly attend to them.
    • Excellent differentiated classrooms are excellent first and differentiated second.
    Promoting Effective Differentiation is Difficult if Educators' Beliefs Include the Following:
    • Teachers are tellers and students are absorbers.
    • Time in the classroom is fixed.
    • Curriculum is largely fact based and skill based.
    • Pleasurable learning is a luxury.
    • "Fair" means treating all kids alike.
    • Students don't learn what the teacher doesn't directly oversee.
    • Life is difficult, and teachers must help students prepare for its rigors by giving them a taste of "reality" in the classroom.
    • Sorting of students through grading and scheduling is appropriate and effective.
    • If we'd just homogeneously group students, we wouldn't need differentiation.
    • Intelligence is fixed.
    • Ability and compliance are intertwined.
    • Most students cannot handle responsibility in the classroom.
    • Most students should be able to learn in the same way.
    • Students who differ broadly from grade-level expectations are problematic.
    • Students who achieve above grade level are already fine and we don't need to worry about them.
    • Student deficits are generally at fault when students don't learn.


    Source: Tomlinson, C. A. & Allan, S. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and
    classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.