Key Principles of a Differentiated Classroom
Differentiation is a teaching concept in which the classroom teacher plans for the diverse needs of students. The teacher must consider such differences as the students':
  • learning styles, skill levels, and rates
  • language proficiency
  • background experiences and knowledge
  • motivation
  • ability to attend
  • social and emotional development
  • levels of abstraction
  • physical needs

  1. The teacher is clear about what matters in the content area.
  2. The teacher understands, appreciates, and builds upon student differences.
  3. Assessment and instruction are inseparable.
  4. The teacher adjusts content, process, and product in response to student readiness, interests, and learning profiles.
  5. All students participate in respectful work.
  6. Students and teachers are collaborators in learning.
  7. Goals are maximum growth and continued success.
  8. Flexibility is the hallmark of a differentiated classroom.

In a differentiated program:
  • differences are studied as a basis of planning.
  • student differences shape curriculum.
  • preassessment is typical.
  • multiple learning materials are available.
  • multiple options for students are offered.
  • students make sense of information.
  • emphasis on concepts and connections is made.
  • there is variable pacing.
  • students aid in setting goals and standards.
  • varied grading criteria are used.
  • excellence as an individual effort is honored.
A differentiated program is not:
  • "individualized instruction"*
  • "chaotic"*
  • "another way of providing homogeneous grouping"*
  • "tailoring the same suit of clothes"*
  • more tasks and assignments but different ways of providing learning experiences

From How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms by Carol Ann Tomlinson