User:Richie Luke/literature

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Using Differentiated instruction in a mixed-ability classroom towards students' success.

Everybody is different from each other. Everyone has different likes, ways of behave, ways of seeing things. People come from different backgrounds, they also have had different life experiences. People dress up differently from each other and even people learn things in varied ways. Those differences are normal and that is what gives us an essence as human beings. In the classroom just as in different environments, such differences are quite evident. Students learn differently one to another, they have different interests, different knowledge that bring with them into the classroom, they all have a different profile. So, teachers have to deal daily with all these students’ features while doing their job. They are simply immersed in a mixed-ability classroom.
Teachers face a big challenge when dealing with a mixed-ability classroom. They have to figure the way out to make that all students learn the same, or at least the desirable knowledge to pass the unit, the exam or the course. Teachers realize about students’ needs, they are also aware of their students’ strengths and weakness. Then how to integrate them all, so everybody can take advantage of the contents and the knowledge provided by either the teacher or any other means? Differentiated instruction is an approach that can be used to solve the problem teachers deal with. Teachers can modify content, process and product through differentiated instruction.
The three elements involved in differentiation are based on students’ readiness, interest and learning profile (Tomlinson, 2001). Differentiated instruction is an alternative to reach the educative objectives and to approach closely to the students’ needs. It is a set of strategies used to ensure that students succeed in their attempt to get or learn the knowledge they are supposed to have in their different seasons of their lives. Differentiated instruction will help the teacher in his pedagogy and methodology but also will do that the students feel motivated and engaged toward his/her academic growth.
rentiated Instruction in a mixed ability classroom

Content is what teachers want students to learn

Content is one of the three elements of the curriculum that can be differentiated. Tomlinson (2001) says “content is the input of teaching and learning”, (p.73). In addition, content is what teachers want students to learn and what they teach. Content can be seen in two ways as Tomlinson (2001) puts it, “ in differentiating content teachers adapt what they teach and second they adapt or modify how teachers give students access to what they want them to learn”,p.73. Content refers to the concepts, principles and skills teachers want students to learn, the information that students receive, Willis and Mann, 2000. According to a student's readiness level, learning profile and interests or the combination of these elements is how content can be differentiated. All these aspects have to match students’ needs.

Teachers differentiate content based on student’s readiness, (Tomlinson, 2001). This term refers to the students' capacity to do something. The elements to consider when talking about readiness differentiation of content are the complexity of the activities students perform; it must be thought of the complexity, the independence and pacing, Tomlinson (2001) states. Another way of differentiating content is through student's interests, Tomlinson, 2001, p.73. Students learn better when they enjoy what they do, teachers assume. Teachers have to try to find topics that interest them strongly, Winebrenner, 1992, p.3. Students work much better on things that they really care for, the things they are interested in. In that sense, teachers arise awareness toward what they have to teach and they have to find ways of making this content interesting for students.
The last way teachers can differentiate content is by students’ learning profile, Tomlinson, 2001, p73. This concept refers to the students' preferred leaning style. According to Tomlinson (2001), " when a teacher differentiate content based on learning profile they ensure that a student has a way of coming at materials and ideas that match his preferred way of learning" p.73. By knowing this, teachers realize what type of materials they can use to teach certain topic, paying attention on their students' different learning styles. Visual students learn better the information when they can see and observe what they are receiving as input, auditory learners need to hear information that help them learn, kinesthetic learners learn better when they can touch and manipulate objects, Bremmer, n.d. Teachers have to be aware of these aspects in order to provide the students knowledge properly.

Teachers give students access to skills and knowledge using several means. They include since texts, lectures, demonstrations, until field trips as Willis and Mann (2000) point out. Such means are the vehicles by which knowledge is transmitted to students. Some other strategies used for differentiated content are concept-based teaching, curriculum compacting, which was designed to help learners to maximize their use of time of learning, using varied text and resource materials, learning contracts, minilessons, varied support systems, note taking organizers, highlighted print materials, digest of key ideas, peer and adult members. All these strategies have been proposed by Tomlinson (2001), in her book " how to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms".
Content represents what students have to know at the end of certain period of constant study. According to Tomlinson and Eidson (2003), “ content is typically derived from a combination of sources” p.4. They claim that although the national, state and local standards provide guidance in the curriculum, teachers determine what is really important for students. Teachers ought to be aware of what is really meaningful for them. Moreover, teachers have to know what of all the content presented in the lessons students will use the rest of their lives. What they will be able to do with that knowledge, what it is supposed they have to understand. Teachers have to be able to transmit content that are significant for the students. In this sense teachers have to know both the subject they are teaching and his/her students. All students are taught the same curricula however, the content might be different. Levi, H. (2008) states “what to limit the students to certain content when they can go further”. In the same study she mentions, “Students who are below grade level will become successful with a smaller amount of content or content at an appropriate level for the learner” p.162

Differentiated instruction helps students to process what it is learned

Teachers do not have to teach students in the same way because they all learn differently. The activities we provide for students learning must address differing students, abilities, learning styles and interests, Levi, 2008, p.162. Now what is this concept of differentiating process? Process is how students come to understand and own the knowledge, skills and understandings, Garderen &Whittater , 2006, p.14. This concept refers to how students understand or assimilate what teachers teach them, like concepts, facts or skills. This element of differentiation is the one which integrates all students’ differences for example, their abilities, learning style, their background and previous knowledge. By differentiating process all students have to reach the educational goals or complete the same sort of practice in the topics seen in class. As Tomlinson (2001) states, “process means sense-making or opportunity for learners to process the content or ideas and skills to which they have been introduced” p. 79. She claims that processing is an essential component of instruction because without it, students could lose information, input or ideas. In this sense, some strategies to permit students to process the information they receive can be used.
When students are taught a new topic, they try to assimilate the information they receive. In fact Tomlinson (2001) explains this idea her book “ when students encounter new ideas, information or skills they need time to run the input through their own filters of meaning” p.79. Additionally, the same author claims that is likely that students have this process of sense making and also easier for them when activities are interesting, when these require that students think a high level, cause the students to use a key skill to understand a key concept. Interest becomes like the engine that moves us and also students to do something. Interest ignites motivation to learn, Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006, p.19
Just as the other element of differentiation, process can be differentiated in response to readiness, interest and learning profile. When differentiating process according to students’ readiness, teachers have to adjust the degree of difficulty of certain task to the actual student’s level of understanding and skill. Differentiating process according to students’ interest is when the teacher gives students the opportunity of choosing aspects of the topics that help them link a personal interest to learn certain lesson. A viable way to help students is allowing them to assume the responsibility of their learning when deciding what to learn based on their interests, Bremmer,n.d. Finally, differentiating process through students learning profile is when teachers allow students to learn certain lesson using their preferred learning style.
Teachers can use different strategies to help students differentiate process. As Gregory and Chapman (2002) explain in their work, “some of the elements and characteristics of and strategies for differentiated instruction are, flexible grouping, questioning for critical thinking, problem based learning, contracting, and learning center”. Along with these strategies, Tomlinson (2001) also provides some other strategies to be implemented when differentiating process such as, learning logs, journals, graphic organizers, creative problem solving, cubing, learning centers, interest centers or interest groups, learning contracts, literature circles, role playing, cooperative controversy, choice board, jigsaw, model making and labs. Additionally Tomlinson (2001) points out that parallel tasks and tiered assignments help a lot when differentiating process, p.80.

Students demonstrate what they learn by creating a product

The third element that can be differentiated is product. Differentiating products is a way students achieve and keep the understanding of certain lesson in a long term. When teachers assign students some activities related to creating a product (product assignments), teachers are leading students toward the success of the knowledge taught in the lesson. Products help students to “catch” the topic seen in class, or certain knowledge or skill. As Tomlinson (2001) in her study puts it, “products are important not only because they represent your students’ extensive understandings and applications, but also they are the element of the curriculum students can most directly “own” p.85. Additionally, doing products is a way students might feel motivated besides of the satisfaction they bring to learners once finished.
Besides, a way of assessing students is through product assignments. Sometimes a student show more evidence about what he or she knows regarding a topic by creating a product than in a written test. Teachers can combine the way they assess students, perhaps sometimes is a good option to replace a written test by a good product assignment (Tomlinson, 2001). This allows students to create, apply and demonstrate what they have learned in a lesson, at the end of a unit, or at the end of the curse or semester. Students can remember what they learn by creating a product so they express it on the creations.
Student are aware of different aspects including making decisions by creating products. Differentiated products challenge students at all level to make decisions, be responsible for their own learning besides of giving them the opportunity to demonstrate what they know through products that are representative of their unique learning preferences, interests and strengths, Anderson, 2007, p.51. The learner has a commitment when differentiating products. He/she is responsible for his/her own learning so as Gregory & Chapman (2002) put it “products are the means by which students will communicate understanding. If the product that the students present is well done or explains what the student wanted to communicate by doing it then it shows understanding on the part of the student.
Students can find a great variety of product possibilities. Since products assignments should be done based on students’ readiness, students’ profile and students’ interest, is the teacher who helps students to determine what sort of products they can work with. The creation of the product depends on several factors too. This is not only for students to have fun but to extend what they have been learning throughout the semester. So, it is the teacher’s responsibility to guide students during the process of designing the products. Among the possibilities proposed by Tomlinson (2001) the more foremost are design a web page, develop a solution to a community problem, design a game, conduct a series of interviews, interpret to multimedia, write a musical, design and conduct an experiment, collect and analyze samples, design and teach a class, do a demonstration, present a news report, make learning centers, design a new product, write or produce a play, develop an exhibit, conduct a debate, develop tools, develop or create musical instruments, compile a booklet or brochure, present a radio program etc.p.89
In addition, products show creativity, interest, motivation, understanding, and they also depict their creator learning style. Creativity is highest when skills of a given domain combine with a student’s own interest and creative thinking processes, Tomlinson & Allan, 2000, p.20. Students connect with instruction building their learning by assuming the responsibility for their own mode of learning, which implies their own selection of activities, making decisions, products to do, and performance outcomes, Anderson, 2007, p.52. So, differentiating products is a viable alternative to lead student toward success. They construct their learning at their pace, they show what they know in their product, they engage with the assignments, they feel motivated, they show interest. Finally, differentiating product becomes something the student can be proud of and more importantly, what they create remains on them by being significant learning.


Differentiated instruction is a feasible alternative of teaching that can be implemented in the classroom, since content, process and product can be modified in order to maximize students’ potential. Furthermore, by using differentiated instruction teachers make the students feel highly motivated, engaged and willing to learn things. With this approach students do not have to adjust to contents but the other way around, contents are adjusted to the students’ features such as learning profile, interest, readiness etc. Plus, a plethora of activities can be conducted for each one of the elements that are part of differentiated instruction.
Teachers may take a look to this model of teaching, because it also involves a lot of reflection and sort of attitude adjustment toward teaching. Teachers who are using differentiated instruction know that they are teaching in a more informed way, taking into account every single aspect of the students and the curricula. Differentiated instruction represents a great and recommendable tool of teaching in order to fulfill the objectives set in the institutions where a great diversity of classrooms is found. So today’s teachers have to turn their sight towards these new models that have come to aid and support teaching styles, ways of learning and all the pedagogical aspects related to the process learning-teaching. This proposal might be the answer that teachers are looking for not only in their personal satisfaction as educators and instructors but also that satisfaction and fulfillment of individuals well- prepared who will face this changing and challenging world in all sort of fields.


Anderson, K. (2007). Differentiating instruction to include all students. Tips for teaching, 51 (3),49-54

Bremner, S (n.d.). Teaching mixed ability classes. Retrieved from

Garderen, D. and Whittatter, C. (2006). Planning differentiated, multicultural instruction for secondary inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38(3), 12-20.

Gregory, & Chapman (2002). Differentiated instructional strategies second edition: one size doesn’t fit all: California. Corwin press Inc.

Levi, H. (2008). Meetings the needs of all students through differentiated instructions, helping every child reach and exceed standards. Preventing school of failure, 81(4),161-164.

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD

Tomlinson, C. & Allan, S. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and classrooms. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD

Tomlinson,C & Eidson, C. (2003). Differentiation in practice: a resource guide for differentiating curriculum, grades K-5. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD

Tomlinson,C. & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction understanding by design. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD

Willis, S & Mann, L (2000). Differentiated instruction: finding manageable ways to meet individual needs. Retrieved from

Winebrenner, S. (1992).Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

annotated bibliography

Anderson, K. (2007). Differentiating instruction to include all students. Tips for teaching, 51 (3),49-54 In this article, Anderson explains the aspects that have to be taken into account in order to differentiate instruction. The main objective of this article is helping educators develop abilities on teaching by using the model called differentiated instruction and reflecting on their own the differences among students. This article is very important for teachers because it examines areas related content, process, plus some suggested activities to implement when differentiating. This article will form the basis of my research because it contains essential information to know in order to be able to identify aspects of D.I. Also, it suggests different activities and strategies that can be useful in order to enhance teaching.

Bremner, S (n.d.). Teaching mixed ability classes. Retrieved from
In this article Bremner stresses the importance of the use of mixed ability strategies to achieve students’ success. The aim of this article is to suggest strategies for teaching mixed abilities classes within the framework for a curriculum for excellence in Scotland. The research focuses on the application of several strategies which might help to distinguish students’ preferred learning styles and get advantage of that by applying the suitable strategy. This article is valuable because it provides ideas of the application of strategies and how to make differentiated instruction. The major limitation is that it does not provide more details of the findings, so more reaserch must be conducted. This article will help me in my action research because of the menu of activities provided in here.

Garderen, D. and Whittatter, C. (2006). Planning differentiated, multicultural instruction for secondary inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38(3), 12-20. In this article, Garderen and Whittatter makes a comparison between the model of differentiated instruction and the universal design of learning. They propose alternatives and strategies for the implementation of both modes of teaching. The main aims of this article are to provide strategies to plan a class based on the models. This article is an important tool in the teaching field of since it presents theory about the approaches. . Also, it manages different examples of formats to follow when teaching in order to implement the modes properly. This article will support my research by providing theory about differentiation and by supplying valued strategies for my investigation.

Gregory & Chapman (2002). Differentiated instructional strategies second edition: one size doesn’t fit all: California. Corwin press Inc. In this book Gregory, & Chapman review students’ differences in learning. The authors got the information from prior sources expanding the subject matter and proposing new strategies. They both are educational consultants and they have worked in projects of coordination and administration in different institutions. Their research is focused on all type of students, pointing out the differences found in the different seasons of life. This research is important in the field of methodology and pedagogy because people involved in this area can be aware of suitable alternatives of teaching, and so they can be able to enhance their methods. The main findings of this research are that the all students are different and there are various elements to take into account when teaching. This article will perform an important and essential part of my research; it contains useful information regarding differentiated instruction.

Levi, H. (2008). Meetings the needs of all students through differentiated instructions, helping every child reach and exceed standards. Preventing school of failure, 81(4), 161-164. In this article Levi reviews the concept of differentiation adding other concepts like summative and formative assessment, heterogeneous grouping when teaching. The author uses information gained through prior works to develop their own concept of differentiated instruction. The researcher is focused on emphasizing the activities to be used with this mode of teaching like tiered activities. The article is useful to the teaching field. It shows information that should be taken into account when applying this approach. The main limitation of the article is that some students did not answer the test... The article is useful to my research topic because it shows that differentiating instruction can be linked to others aspects of applied linguistics like assessment.

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed ability classrooms. Alexandria, Virginia:ASCD
In this book Tomlinson provides definitions of differentiated instruction. She defines the concept and also provides examples to one hand to understand it and on the other hand how to apply it. The aim of this article is to point out the concepts in order to understand what differentiated instruction is and what it is not. The article focuses on different activities that through differentiated instruction students must perform. This book is valuable for my research since it gives real examples of the application of differentiated instruction besides of the strategies to use when applying it. This book will form the basis of my research on the theoretical background.

Tomlinson, C. & Allan, S. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and classrooms. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD In this book, Tomlinson and Allan accumulate different contributions of several authors in relation to differentiated instruction.. The main purpose of this book is to provide theoretical framework about diffentiation based on the prior research. In the field of instructors, methods and pedagogies this book is essential because of the compilation of studies about the approach; teachers may consider and they could come up with a variety of ideas and points of view by reading it. In my research, this book plays an important role because of the variety of information that it contains. Also, it provides information of different periods of time, so the aspects of the differentiated instruction development will provide a view of its history and its role in the teaching field.

Tomlinson,C & Eidson, C. (2003). Differentiation in practice: a resource guide for differentiating curriculum, grades K-5. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD This book contains the different aspects and characteristics of differentiated instruction. The book focuses on the application of D.I in different subjects of the curricula such as history, science and mathematics. In this book the authors provide examples of the application of the model. also considers alternate approaches to feedback in programmed instruction. Besides in the book the researches explain how to conduct the curriculum by using D.I. This book will help on my research since they describe, define and give explanations of each characteristic of the subject matter.

Tomlinson,C. & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction understanding by design. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD In this book Tomlinson and McTighe suggest the way of doing instructional planning. The authors provide different teaching strategies linked to theory and practice. They provide methods and techniques that aid in the teaching-learning process.. The book is aimed to teachers who want to enhance their ways of teaching in the mixed-ability classroom. the usefulness of this book for my investigation is significant because will allow me to take some ideas to be implemented and reflected when thinking of differentiated instruction .

Willis, S & Mann, L (2000). Differentiated instruction: finding manageable ways to meet individual needs. Retrieved from
In this article of web page are proposed several strategies for differentiated instruction. The aim of the article is to provide examples of how the differentiated instruction may be applied in different grades. That is why the authors provide strategies and examples per academic level. They provide strategies for the elementary classroom, the secondary level. This article is really useful for my action reseach since it gives actual examples of differentiated instruction conducted in some institutions in the United States. However, the main limitation is that it does not provide the results of the application of the differentiation. The article provides good examples but the results should be presented. Anyway, this article will certainly help me for my research for the information and definitions presented.

Winebrenner, S. (1992).Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.
In this book Winebrenner discuses essential concepts of teaching like teaching vs. learning. This book is intended to teachers who want identify those students who need special attention and provide them alternatives to re-learning what they already know. The author focuses on making the differentiation of teaching content and teaching students. It provides strategies and techniques for teachers to be implemented in the classroom. This book is useful for my research topic because it provides valuable information in relation to students’ needs. There is no limitation in this book for my research and it will certainly be the basis for my action research.


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