The Differentiated Classroom

                                Rowland Unified School District

Gifted and Talented Education

Program (GATE)

Program (GATE)

        Dr. Maria G. Ott, Superintendent


What is a Differentiated Classroom?


Differentiated instruction” is a current term for what many excellent teachers have known for decades in this country. Students are not all alike. They differ in readiness, interest, and learning profile, even when similar in chronological age. Shoot-to-the-middle teaching ignores essential learning needs of significant numbers of struggling and advanced learners. To challenge the full range of learners appropriately requires that a teacher modify or “differentiate” instruction in response to the varying needs of varying students in a given classroom.


A “Differentiated” classroom is one in which a teacher provides a variety of avenues to content (what is taught), process (activities through which students come to understand what is taught), and products (how a student shows and extends what he or she has learned) in response to the readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles of the full range of academic diversity in the class (Tomlinson, 1995).


For gifted learners, an appropriately differentiated classroom will provide material, activities, projects or products, homework, and assessments that are complex enough, abstract enough, open-ended enough, and multifaceted enough to cause gifted students to stretch in knowledge, thinking, and production. These classrooms provide consistent expectations for gifted students to work with fuzzy problems, make great mental leaps, and grow in ability to exercise independence (Tomlinson, in press).