Sunday, July 21, 2013

Differentiated Instruction: Your GPS for Student Learning

GPS is an abbreviation for Global Positioning System (Check out this page at  In short it is system of satellites orbiting the earth to help determine "positioning, navigation and timing."  Most of us namely use it for traveling in order to get from point A to point B.

Have you ever attempted a road trip to a new destination without GPS, a map, compass or directions? This is the equivalent of teaching without differentiating instruction. Both end in very few people actually arriving at their destination and leaving the rest frustrated to the point of giving up and going home.

Differentiating instruction is your GPS for student learning.  When you take the time to determine:

  1. positioning of your students (levels of readiness), 
  2. navigation of learning (which route or routes are best) and
  3. timing of arrival (how long it will take to get there) 

you now have a very clear picture of where your students are at so that you can choose the best route for their next step. Rarely do all students have the same starting and stopping points.

Imagine if you will your curriculum, but as a geographical map with multiple roads/routes.  Once determining each student's position you can now drop pin each student on your map.  Now stand back and take a look.  Do all student drop pins gather in one spot? Or are the student drop pins scattered across your curriculum map? Even if the majority of drop pins gather in one spot, odds are students will move at various speeds and often need different routes to reach their destination, thus causing the pins to scatter.

Like satellites orbiting the earth, teachers must orbit their students gathering data in order to chart various routes for student learning. While some routes are shorter than others and regardless of drop pin starting points, all students will gain distance on the curricular path when differentiation of instruction occurs.

For more ways to differentiate instruction and navigate student learning, visit my Top 10 Must Dos to Foster Fans of Learning.