• The Rationale for Differentiating Instruction

    1. Each student must make meaning of what teachers seek to teach. This process is influenced by a student’s prior understandings, interests, beliefs, and attitudes about self and school. (National Research Council, 1990)

    2. Learning takes place most effectively in classrooms where knowledge is clearly and powerfully organized, students are highly active in the learning process, assessments are rich and varied, and students feel a sense of safety and connection. (National Research Council, 1990; Wiggins and McTighe, 1998)

    3. Learning happens best when a learning experience pushes a learner a bit beyond his or her independence level. When a student continues to work on understandings or skills already mastered, little if any learning takes place. On the other hand, if tasks are far above a student’s current point of mastery, frustration results and learning does not. (Howard, 1994; Vygotsky, 1962) Motivation to learn increases when we feel a kinship with, interest in, or passion for what we are attempting to learn. (Piaget, 1978)

    4. Students learn in a wide variety of ways, influenced by our culture, our gender, and how our individual brains are wired. (Delpit, 1995; Gardner, 1983; Heath, 1983; Sternberg, 1985; Sullivan, 1993)

    5. Self-esteem is important. The surest path to self-esteem for all learners is to continuously be successful at learning tasks they perceived would be difficult. Each time we “steal a student’s struggle,” we steal the opportunity for him/her to develop high self-esteem. (Sylvia Rimm)

    6. The degree to which students perceive they are in control of the learning situation is positively correlated with motivation, productivity, and self-esteem. (Barbara Clark, Growing Up Gifted) All students have a right to learn as much as they can learn. Of all the students in a mixed-ability class, those who learn the least during a school year are the most capable. Many already know much of what is presented in a mixed-ability classroom. If teachers fail to try to discover what students already know before teaching a unit, these students will be held back, waiting for the majority of the class to learn what they have already mastered. (Winebrenner)