Differentiation, for many educators, represents the Holy Grail of teaching and learning. To clarify, Sparks (2015) notes: “Differentiated instruction” [is] the process of identifying students’ individual learning strengths, needs, and interests and adapting lessons to match them". Most commonly, it has been compared to the Response to Intervention model whereby teachers adapt their instructional strategies in response to current levels of knowledge and understanding.
But where the 'rubber hits the road', teachers report the difficulties in 'individualising' instruction in busy, and incredibly diverse, classrooms. Perhaps though, we need to interrogate our current practice and focus on the learning, and not so much the 'doing'. Put simply, if teachers and students have clarity of learning expectations, and opportunities to build surface level understanding, make connections in and between concepts, and then apply that understanding to new and novel situations, then the learning becomes differentiated. In addition, with a culture of learning, students are more inclined to self-select workshops to test misconceptions, extend, and/or consolidate current levels of understanding. When learning is fluid and dynamic, we see engaged and motivated learners who know where they are in their learning, where they are heading, and the next steps needed to get there.