Literacy & Curriculum. Differentiated Instructions

Differentiated instructions allow teachers to meet the needs and abilities of students and provide them with effective assignments according to their skills and mental abilities. In this case, learner systems and environmental systems interact dynamically to influence each other. In teaching intellectual skills, teachers need to develop a component that activates the skill in the appropriate situations. In effect, every intellectual skill needs a conceptual front-end or activation component. The principles described earlier for teaching concepts apply to the development of the activation component of intellectual skills more broadly (Tomlinson, 2001). Teacher effort is expended to make sure the students perceive the relevant features of the demonstration, and the students are encouraged to criticize the demonstration and suggest alternative tests. At the point where the students are convinced their misconceptions are incorrect, the teacher provides a correct explanation and leads students in practice in using it.

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Such differences can occur only in the environmental variables that impact instructional episodes, but environmental variables can influence learner variables that, in turn, influence an episode. In general, instructional episodes differ in how they lead learners to activate preexisting knowledge of motivational structures, in the nature and types of information provided by the environment, in how learners are encouraged to process information in the environment and relate it to preexisting knowledge, in the types of performances that are encouraged, and in the nature and types of information provided as a result of the learner’s performance. Although instructional approaches differ in broad philosophy, goals, and procedures, the instructional action occurs in how molecular interchanges between student and instructional environment are programmed (Taylor and Whittaker, 2003).

In order to evaluate analyze the effectiveness of the differentiated instructions, a teacher should test student’s knowledge at the end of the lesson. It can be control assignments or simple tests which help to monitor and analyze the knowledge level and skills of students. An important class of instructional variables is the nature of the response learners are led to make. Research with text or other media-based instruction and with classroom instruction demonstrates that the nature of the response learners is encouraged to make a powerful variable in influencing what they learn (Tomlinson, 2001). The possibility that preexisting knowledge may interact negatively with to-be-constructed knowledge is discussed again later in the section on conceptual change methods. For the present, it is important to note that, although schema activation generally is a differentiated instructional method, it should probably be combined with methods designed to ensure that learners do not use the schemata to distort the presented information. In the instructional phase of an instructional episode, the learner interacts with presented information or some situation in some media and is encouraged to make some response or performance. Activating relevant preexisting knowledge may also provide retrieval cues or promote the transfer of strategies from prior learning. Providing learners with a conceptual model can facilitate the acquisition of problem-solving skills as wells as the learning of declarative knowledge. Students provided with a conceptual model that interpreted programming language functions in terms of more familiar office clerical functions were better able to acquire transferable programming skills (Taylor and Whittaker, 2003).

In sum, differentiated instructions are important methods of learning in the modern classroom as they allow teachers to meet the needs and learning abilities of their students and provide them with differentiated assignments. This approach ensures quality learning and teaching practices.


  1. Taylor, Th. Whittaker, C. (2003). Bridging Multiple Worlds: Case Studies of Diverse Educational Communities. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  2. Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). The how to’s of planning lessons differentiated by readiness. In How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. 2nd ed., pp. 45–51.
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