Online Teachers Course

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Online Teachers Course

Practical Information

Diffferentiation is centered upon three core ideas:

  • Flexibility
  • Student choice
  • Modification of content process and products


Flexibility is a central idea for the differentiation method. To address the various needs of the students, teachers employ flexibility in pacing, materials, and grouping. Flexible grouping means that sometimes the entire class can work together, while other times small groups can be more effective. For this, it is central to keep groups dynamic depending on the purpose of the lesson. For example, grouping students together at the beginning of the year is ineffective. Well implemented, flexibility will provide the students with the opportunity to work with others that have similar learning styles, readiness and interests

Student choice 

Choice is a great motivator for students to engage their individual interests. Teachers can provide different options based on student’s interests and learning styles. Those options can include activities, learning centres, independent study, small groups, or others. 

Some strategies to provide more choice in the classroom are: 

  • negotiating alternative tasks, assessments and products 
  • planning open-ended tasks 
  • designing tasks based on student interest 
  • permitting a diversity of modes of communication

The below video provides an insight into how flexibility and student choice can benefit learners.

Modification of content process and products 

In order to understand and facilitate the implementation of differentiation methods, teachers can separate lesson plans into three categories: content, process and products

The below video provides a description and illustration into how differentiating content, process and products can positively influence learners. 

General differentiation strategies in action

Multiple activities and tiered assignments 

Creating multiple, tiered assignments is one of the most common methods of differentiated instruction. This strategy is a form of process or product differentiation that gives students the opportunity to work on the same concepts and ideas, but at different levels of proficiency. 

In short, teachers set a series of tasks of varying complexity which are assigned to students according to their individual needs. All students should be focused on the same content or curriculum objective, but the process or the product is flexible depending on student readiness and ability. Students are able to choose their starting point and can therefore work within their zone of proximal development and, with the support and feedback of the teacher, gradually progress to the more challenging task s at their own rate. 

Create a differentiated learning environment 

This differentiation technique changes up the physical layout of the classroom. The idea is to organize the classroom into flexible workstations. This often requires moving furniture around in order to create space for both individual and group work. For example, teachers can create tables for group work in one corner and a teaching table for teacher-led instruction in the other. Every workstation should be focused around different material. 

The teacher-led table can be focused on more challenging and new material, while student-led areas can be more targeted towards practice work, for example. This strategy offers teachers the opportunity to present the same information in a variety of ways that engage all students, increasing the changes to reach every student in the class.

Build, Act, Write, or Draw (BAWD) 

This technique allows students to show their understanding of a concept. Students can choose to either build a model, act, write, or draw a representation of what they have learned. This technique can be used to either assess prior knowledge or knowledge gained after teaching. It is applicable for any content area, age group and class size and is based on the idea that students differ in how they express their knowledge. Through this strategy, teachers will provide different options for students to show comprehension in a creative way. 

Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) 

In itself, the use of ICT is not a differentiation strategy. However, ICT is a flexible tool that can facilitate a differentiated learning environment and support other activities. ICT is especially relevant for the differentiated classroom because it simplifies self-paced learning for students by giving more time for learners to complete activities and allowing for repetition. It also allows the use of multisensory teaching material, opening multiple pathways for students to understand content, process ideas and develop products.

Differentiation strategies specific to migrant & refugee students  

Differentiating for students who lack basic language skills in the local language can be a major challenge. However, findings from PAESIC’s IO1 report suggests that learning through music, art, role-play, storytelling, and debate can be useful tools in aiding the social integration of migrant and refugee students. Utilizing these different forms of creative learning has been found to support peer-to-peer relationships, hinder stigmatization, and provide affirmation of students’ identities.

Finally, it may be necessary in some cases for schools to establish local-language classes specifically for refugee and migrant youth. The use of in-class bilingual helpers is another strategy to assist students struggling with language. However, research warns that these techniques, though useful for language acquisition, tend to increase the isolation of students. For this reason, it is suggested that teachers prioritize creative learning methods, such as those listed above, along with other forms of interactive learning and play, such as group work, exchanging seats, digital learning, and encouraging mixed-group games on the playground.