About Differentiation Techniques in the High School Classroom


Differentiated instruction is a method used at all levels of education as a means of working towards creating teaching techniques that reach out to all of the students in a particular classroom, despite differences in ability or interest. Understanding the basics about differentiation techniques will help secondary teachers learn the importance of reaching out to each student.

Basis of Differentiation

  • The need for differentiated instruction originated with Howard Gardner's "Theory of Multiple Intelligences." Gardner suggested that there are seven different intelligences which people have to varying degrees. They are linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Differentiated instruction attempts to engage students with different intelligences; in a high school classroom, for example, a math teacher can provide a number of word problems involving algebra to reach out to linguistic learners, while a theology instructor can offer numerous private journal activities for the intrapersonal learners in the class.

Differentiation and Labeling

  • At the secondary education level, labels like "special education," "inclusion" or "gifted" often turn into social stigmas and even barriers to success; however, differentiation helps to eliminate some of those problems. Teachers should focus on the strengths of each student; a student who cannot read at a 10th grade level when he is a sophomore may learn very well in interpersonal or kinesthetic settings; therefore, that particular student can be involved in group projects or allowed to work with manipulatives to engage his strengths.

Establishing Differentiated Instruction

  • Scaffolding is a central process wherein teachers and administrators make sure that lessons follow a clear progression from freshman to senior years. Each lesson should not stand by itself; it should rather have a clear connection to the other parts of the unit, semester and entire learning experience. Furthermore, transparent teaching is important, meaning that students should know why they are doing an activity. Stating that students are working to hone their intrapersonal skills might be a bit too full of jargon for the class, however, you can tell them that they are writing journals in order to get to know themselves better.

Practical Concerns

  • Teaching to seven different intelligences in the span of one classroom period is simply not possible. Therefore, teachers need to focus on addressing the different intelligences when it is appropriate. An English teacher might assign a group project, a journal activity and computer learning games for one particular novel over the course of a few weeks; the intelligences of interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial and linguistic will all be engaged for this particular reading segment.

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