A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction (page 3)

— The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
Updated on Apr 30, 2014


Differentiating instruction alone will not automatically improve student performance. Tomlinson (2000) points out that efforts to differentiate are most successful when they are combined with the use of a high-quality curriculum, research-based instructional strategies, well-designed activities that address the needs and interests of students, active learning, and student satisfaction with the lesson. Tomlinson (1999) also notes that moving from traditional instruction to this approach takes time and recommends that teachers introduce differentiation strategies gradually. Schools and districts can support teachers in learning these new skills by designing professional development activities that “provide clear models for…differentiated instruction in action” (p. 115). The consistent, effective use of differentiated instruction also requires considerable amounts of practice and feedback. To increase their repertoire of skills, general education teachers also can consult with colleagues with specialized training in differentiation, such as special education teachers and teachers of gifted students. Keck and Kinney assert that once teachers learn the needs of their students and incorporate strategies to meet those needs into their instruction, differentiation ensures “equity in the learning process” (2005, p. 15). Although it requires attention, skill, and commitment to its use, differentiated instruction is a practical and attainable method of facilitating learning and academic growth in all students.


Good, M. E. (2006). Differentiated instruction: Principles and techniques for the elementary grades. San Rafael, CA: School of Business, Education, and Leadership at Dominican University of California. Retrieved January 18, 2007, from Keck, S., & Kinney S. C. (2005, September). Creating a differentiated classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology, 33(1), 12–15. Retrieved January 18, 2007, from Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Tomlinson, C. A. (2000, August). Differentiation of instruction in the elementary grades. ERIC Digest. Champaign, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. (ERIC Document No. ED443572). Retrieved January 18, 2007, from Van Tassel-Baska, J. (2003, January). Differentiating the language arts for high ability learners, K–8. ERIC Digest. Arlington, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. (ERIC Document No. ED 474306). Retrieved January 18, 2007, from Willis, S., & Mann, L. (2000, Winter). Differentiating instruction: Finding manageable ways to meet individual needs. Curriculum Update. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved January 18, 2007, from

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