“The success of education depends on adapting teaching to individual differences of many learners.”
Chinese Treatise, 4th Century BC, Yeuzheng

Differentiation is the recognition of and commitment to plan for student differences. A differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquire
content, to process or make sense of information and ideas, and to develop products. The goals of a differentiated classroom are to maximize student growth and to promote individual student success. We call this our “no walls, no ceilings” approach to learning. All students, at every grade level, are encouraged and nurtured to learn and grow as much as they can.

Overview of Differentiation for Advanced Learners

Differentiating for high achievers can be defined as:
Varying curriculum and instruction so that students who have already mastered the material
continue to progress and so that students who have a particular area of interest
can pursue it in greater depth or in a personalized way.”

Differentiating the Core Curriculum and Instruction to
Provide Advanced Learning Opportunities
CDE and CAG Publication

Differentiation is not...

What Differentiation is NOT:

  • Differentiation ≠ Different.
  • Differentiation is not just harder, faster, or more
  • Differentiation is not a program in which thinking skills are taught in isolation.

Differentiation IS...

What Differentiation IS:

  • Differentiation is based on, and is an integral part of, the core curriculum
  • Differentiation is the modifying of:
    • what students will know (content),how students will think (critical, creative, and problem-solving thinking skills),
    • how students will access and use resources (research skills),
    • how students will summarize and share their learning (products). Kaplan and Gould, 1995

  • Differentiation includes teacher instruction and should not be assumed to be self-taught by students.
  • Differentiation should be available to any student who demonstrates a readiness for the experience.

What can you do to differentiate for your advanced learners?

ASCD Differentiation Model

Methods for Differentiation

What kinds of things do you do to assist your gifted learners?

Differentiation of Content

Content can be described as the knowledge, skills and attitudes we want children to learn. Differentiating content requires that students are pre-tested so the teacher can identify the students who do not require direct instruction. Students demonstrating understanding of the concept can skip the instruction step and proceed to apply the concepts to the task of solving a problem. This strategy is often referred to as compacting the curriculum. Another way to differentiate content is simply to permit the apt student to accelerate their rate of progress. They can work ahead independently on some projects, i.e. they cover the content faster than their peers.

Differentiation of Process

Differentiating the processes means varying learning activities or strategies to provide appropriate methods for students to explore the concepts. It is important to give students alternative paths to manipulate the ideas embedded within the concept. For example students may use graphic organizers, maps, diagrams or charts to display their comprehension of concepts covered. Varying the complexity of the graphic organizer can very effectively facilitate differing levels of cognitive processing for students of differing ability.

Differentiation of Product

Differentiating the product means varying the complexity of the product ( that students create to demonstrate mastery of the concepts. Students working below grade level may have reduced performance expectations, while students above grade level may be asked to produce work that requires more complex or more advanced thinking. There are many sources of alternative product ideas available to teachers. However sometimes it is motivating for students to be offered choice of product.