Podcast Whole Child Podcast

Differentiated Instruction Works: How and Why to Do DI

Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching in which educators actively plan and adjust for students' differences so that instruction suits and supports all students' strengths and needs. It is the process of ensuring that what a student learns, how he or she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he or she has learned is a match for that student’s readiness level, interests, and preferred mode of learning. There can be differentiation of content, of process, of product, and of learning environment.

On this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, ASCD's Sean Slade and guests explore what differentiated instruction is, what the necessary components of a differentiated learning environment are, and how real teachers are applying differentiation principles and strategies to respond to the needs of all learners.

Listen to the episode below or download.


  • Carol Ann Tomlinson is the William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. She is author of numerous books on differentiated instruction, including the second edition of The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners (2014) and Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom (2013). For more on successful differentiated instruction, read Tomlinson's recent commentary on Education Week.
    Tomlinson also leads the Differentiated Instruction Cadre for ASCD Professional Learning Services, which works to implement effective professional development and instruction in schools and districts nationwide. Connect with Tomlinson on her website and on Twitter @cat3y.
  • Kristina Doubet is an associate professor of middle and secondary education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. With more than 10 years of experience teaching middle and secondary English, she now prepares future middle and high school teachers for careers in the classroom. She has studied the impact of differentiated instruction on student performance in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms and authored publications on differentiation, curriculum design and formative assessment. Doubet is an ASCD Professional Learning Services Faculty member and serves as a staff developer across the country and abroad for schools and districts implementing the Common Core State Standards, the Understanding by Design® framework, and differentiated instruction.
  • Jessica Hockett is an education consultant in differentiation, curriculum design, and lesson study. She previously worked as a secondary English, social studies, and math teacher in both general education and gifted programming settings and has published a variety of articles and book chapters related to differentiation, curriculum, and advanced learners. As an ASCD Professional Learning Services Faculty member, Hockett has worked with teachers and leaders in more than 50 school districts on differentiated instruction, curriculum development using Understanding by Design®, and development of programs and services for advanced learners.

Together Doubet and Hockett are coauthoring the upcoming ASCD book Differentiation in Middle and High School: Strategies to Engage All Learners which will include a foreword by Tomlinson and be available in June 2015.

Differentiating instruction is not easy and teaching mastery isn't something that happens overnight. Can you recall the particular school year—or a specific class or student you had—when you felt like differentiated instruction really clicked for you and you felt yourself really excelling in your instruction?

Comments (1)

Kaley Hatch

February 12, 2015

As a fifth grade writing teacher, I have a cumulation of 115 students. throughout the day, we rotate through five various groups of students which are grouped by ability and learning styles. In order to accommodate all students each day, differentiated instruction must come into place in every lesson. A technique that I have find highly effective is a method of prediction based interpretation called, “Mind’s Eye View”. Through this lesson, children are given key words from a reading passage. They must then use their schema to group words together to make a prediction about what they think the passage will be about. They then are to place their predictions into a chart that gives them four various ways to display their predictions. They may either write a prediction, draw their visualization, write down their feelings, or write down their questions about the passage or certain key words. This process allows the children to choose which way that they relate to best to describe themselves. From here, they partner/group share on their predictions and charts. Then, they’re asked to write a narrative essay that describes in detail their prediction. Then, students are given the actual title of the actual passage and all schema is discussed. Then, students are given the actual passage. If it is a non-fiction passage, students are presented with videos, pictures, etc. which discuss the topic of the passage. This is a schema building method. Then, students are asked to compare/contrast the differences between their passage and the actual passage. Using this method, all learning styles are met and children tap into their schema, then build on their content knowledge to produce writing pieces that exhibit individual learning styles and abilities with relation to the content they’ve been exposed to. This method has truly changed the way that my students write, their engagement in my classroom, and their individual learning abilities.

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