One of the greatest challenges facing educators today is how to put challenging materials in front of students. This challenge is compounded by the broad spectrum of student ability one classroom might contain, what is far too difficult for one student might be an appropriate task for another. This is where differentiation comes in.
In education, differentiation refers to tailoring work to students on an individual or smaller-group level so that students at different levels in the same grade can each be given work that is an appropriately challenging task.
Differentiation is a key part of an effective learning environment. 86% of teachers and 89% reported that differentiation was either extremely or very effective. Unfortunately teachers are finding it difficult to implement differentiation activities into their classrooms with 68% of teachers stating that they used whole class instruction, rather than differentiated groups.
Even though differentiation is an important strategy for supporting student achievement in the classroom only a slim majority of teachers are implementing it into their daily routines. How has this situation come about? Teachers report a number of daunting challenges to their desire to implement differentiation to a greater scale. Barriers they identified included: limited access to differentiated materials, no time to collaborate, difficulty creating resources, and ineffective training.
Luckily, implementing technology into the classroom is a proven way to minimize a number of these difficulties. Programs such as Prodigy, or eSpark give teachers the tools they need to need to quickly assess students. Computer programs can then build out a learning path for individual students which provides them with an appropriate level of rigor without overwhelming students.