Ep 39: What Is Differentiation?


TeachThought Podcast Ep. 39: What Is Differentiation?

by TeachThought Staff

Terry Heick speaks with Carole Tomlinson about differentiation.

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Ep 39: What Is Differentiation?


  • Differentiated instruction was originally based on a disproven idea of ‘learning styles’. Earlier Tomlinson urged teachers to group students according to learning styles, whether the student learns better via an auditory, visual, or kinetic manner. Now she has backed up to reverse her former support for learning styles and switched in formative and meta-cognitive assessment and collaborative professional learning. Agile but dishonest in that she didn’t admit her previous support for learning styles.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Not sure, however, that I agree she’s being dishonest in not explaining changes in her work. Differentiation and learning styles are completely different ideas.

      • If I was interviewing Dr. Carol Anne Tomlinson, I’d confront her with the changes to her concept of differentiated instruction. She urged teachers to use learning styles to differentiate instruction into this decade and has only recently changed her tune. Look back and you will hear her urging grouping by learning styles. This is the first I’ve heard of her change away from learning styles as a basis for grouping students in order to differentiate instruction.

  • I have her book, copyright 2001, “How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms” 2nd Ed. In my reading of it since then, I did not get the sense of it being predominantly about Learning Styles. Even if that was a component of it, it shows a certain level of scientific integrity to adjust the model in light of the idea of learning styles now being ‘disproven’.
    In any case, it would be interesting to delve into the educational research to find out what it says about the effectiveness of differentiation (or lack thereof) with respect to academic achievement and/or other standards.

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