How to Use Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom

In our classrooms today, it has become evident that teachers need to multiple teaching methods in order for students to achieve at their greatest potential. Teaching the same way day in and day out just won't achieve the same results. Each and every one of our students are with their own needs, personalities, and skills. Differentiated instruction can be used to meet the needs of all learners. It is when a lesson, chapter or unit is taught in different ways. Teachers construct their lesson plans using a variety of learning methods in order to meet the needs of all students.

Learn how to increase student engagement and learning by implementing differentiated instruction in your classroom.

How to Implement Differentiated Instruction

According to Reading Rockets, teachers can differentiate their lessons in four ways: content, process, products and learning environment.
  • Content - Content is what you student needs to learn and how they will access the information. Providing a variety of materials and types of instruction will differentiate content. An example is providing access to both printed materials and audiobooks.
  • Process - The process includes the different learning activities that students will use to understand the content. Teachers can differentiate their lessons by using a variety of tasks.  An easy way teachers differentiate the learning process is by providing manipulatives.
  • Product - A product is the assessment that students use to demonstrate their learning. The product can be varied in different ways, including how a student creates the product and what students are expected to produce. Some teachers use a choice board to differentiated students' product creation.
  • Learning Environment - The learning environment is more than just the classroom location. It is also the layout of the classroom, as well as the what is happening in the classroom (quiet, loud, etc.). Remembering to vary the learning environment can be easy to forget, as teachers tend to have a preference for themselves. For example, a quiet teacher may tend to prefer a quiet classroom, but some students may learn better through discussion.
Learn how to increase student engagement and learning by implementing differentiated instruction in your classroom.

Pros and Cons of Differentiated Instruction

As with everything, there are mixed emotions on differentiated instruction. According to an article from Concordia University, some of the pro’s and con’s include:


  • Differentiated instruction is highly effective for students with disabilities.
  • Students take more responsibility to their learning when the teachers using differentiated instruction.
  • Students tend to be more engaged and have fewer disciplinary problems.


  • Differentiated instruction taking more time to plan effectively, which is difficult for many teachers.
  • Teachers may not have access to the resources they need to implement differentiated instruction.
  • There is not enough research that shows differentiated learning has learning gains in proportion to the amount of extra planning.

Teachers looking to use differentiated instruction can start by differentiating one piece of their curriculum. For example, teachers could provide content in both audio and visual formats or differentiate product creation by allowing students to work together in small groups or by themselves. Another way to start using differentiated instruction is to create projects with tiers, so each and every student will be able to complete it the best of their ability. Student engagement will increase - as well as learning!

For more information, check out this related blog post:
How to Develop a Unit Plan

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