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Instruction

Eric M. Carbaugh, Ph.D. James Madison University

Implementing Differentiated Instruction:

Letting Success Lead the Way

Introduction

I came down with a case of goose bumps the other day. These goose bumps weren’t a re- action to some sappy movie, or because I remembered an over-glorified athletic achieve- ment of my youth. The goose bumps appeared when one of the teachers I was working with “got it.” The light finally went off. “I’m shocked,” she said, “I expected chaos, but this actually worked!” What “worked” was her attempt at differentiating instruction in her classroom.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to visit various elementary, middle, and high schools to assist teachers implementing differentiation of instruction. This can be at times a both daunting and extremely rewarding task when teachers become aware of the numerous benefits to their students. A quality differentiated classroom is a complex environ- ment, evidenced by the following pedagogical tools: • utilizing ongoing assessment to drive instruction • providing students with appropriate challenge • employing flexible groupings • developing clear learning goals • creating a positive classroom environment • engaging students in respectful tasks

Some teachers are quick to voice apprehensions about incorporating these principles in their classrooms. Concerns regarding end-of-year tests often fuel anxiety about deviating from more traditional methods of instruction. Other comments I often hear include; “I already gauge student progress on a continual basis with district-designed benchmark tests,” or “I don’t have time to plan differentiated lessons.”

I am in no way questioning the validity of these comments. Teaching today is a difficult pro- fession. In an age when the results of tests are being used to define success, teachers are faced with a myriad of challenges. These range from the potential for their compensation

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