An Introduction to DI

What is differentiated instruction?
Carol Tomlinson provides a concise explanation of what it means to differentiate instruction.

A rationale for differentiation in today's schools

Carol Tomlinson explains why it is imperative that we differentiate instruction in today's classrooms.

Common Misconceptions About DI

Two misconceptions about DI – that there is a disconnect with standards and that DI is only for certain students
Carol Tomlinson explains how learning standards and differentiation are aligned with one another and that DI is not a restrictive approach designed for certain types of students.

A misconception about DI – that it is an 'add-on' activity
Carol Tomlinson addresses a common misconception about DI by clarifying that it is not an extra thing to do in the classroom.

A misconception teachers sometimes have - "I already differentiate."
Carol Tomlinson discusses a common misconception of teachers who lack a clear understanding of DI – they often believe they already differentiate.

Four common misconceptions about DI
Kristina Doubet discusses some misconceptions about DI, clarifying that whole-class instruction occurs in a differentiated classroom, that DI is not a case of high-level versus low-level students, that it is a proactive approach to meeting the varied learning needs of students, and addresses students' differing interests and learning preferences as well as readiness.

The Journey to Differentiation

Suggestions on how to begin differentiating instruction
Carol Tomlinson offers insights to teachers for getting started with differentiating instruction in the classroom.

Next-step ideas on how to increase expertise with DI

Carol Tomlinson provides suggestions for teachers who are already on the journey and are looking for next steps to increase their expertise in differentiating instruction.

Engaging resource specialists in planning differentiated lessons

Kelly A. Hedrick explains the important role resource specialists can play in collaboratively planning differentiated lessons with classroom teachers.

Providing Quality Curriculum


Quality curriculum is focused around important ideas worth understanding
Jay McTighe describes the relationship of Understanding by Design, (a curriculum and assessment design model) and Differentiated Instruction, and explains how curricular units should be focused around important transferable ideas, or understandings.

Using essential questions as a path to understanding
Jay McTighe discusses essential questions and how they can be used to help students examine important ideas and develop understanding.

Building Community

Building a supportive community of learners in a differentiated classroom
Carol Tomlinson describes the benefits of building a "sense of team" for both students and teachers in a differentiated classroom.

Building community in the secondary classroom
Kristina Doubet offers ideas for building a supportive learning community in the secondary classroom, including ways for teachers and students to get to know each other, to help students understand differentiation, and to establish routines.

Instructional Strategies

Using multiple intelligence activities to differentiate on the basis of learning profile
Jessica Hockett offers tips for appropriately using activities based on Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences to differentiate instruction in response to students' varied learning preferences.

Using learning centers to meet students' varied needs
Marcia Imbeau offers some insights into using learning centers and ensuring that they are differentiated for students varied needs.

Continuous Assessment

Effective instruction begins with pre-assessing the students
Catherine Brighton discusses the critical nature of pre-assessment when differentiating instruction and provides some guidelines for effectively pre-assessing students' knowledge, understanding, and skills.

Daily assessment serves as a compass for next steps in the classroom
Catherine Brighton describes two ways to assess student learning on a daily basis and stresses the importance of using the data to plan your next instructional steps.

Determining if students have developed understanding
Jay McTighe explains the need to align assessments within a curricular unit with the learning goals of the unit and describes what constitutes evidence of student understanding as a guide to determining if a student has achieved the expected level of understanding.

Providing students with different approaches to demonstrating what they know, understand, and can do
Jay McTighe provides an example of how assessment of student learning can be differentiated, while focused on the same learning goals.

Some insights into grading in a differentiated classroom
Carol Tomlinson provides guidance on appropriate grading practices and supports the use of the 3-P grading system developed by assessment experts.

Classroom Routines & Management

Using the homework checkers strategy
Marcia Imbeau explains homework checkers, a management technique that supports the use of differentiated homework.

Tips for assigning students to groups and organizing paperwork
Marcia Imbeau shares some tips for identifying which groups or tasks students are assigned to and considerations for organizing student paperwork.

Differentiating at the Elementary Level

An illustration of differentiated instruction in a primary classroom
Monica Harrold describes what a primary classroom can look like when students are working on differentiated activities.

Helping primary students become responsible, self-reliant learners
Monica Harrold describes how to guide students in becoming responsible for their own learning by setting up classroom rules and routines including getting help in the classroom when the teacher is working with other students.

Differentiating at the Secondary Level

First steps for differentiating at the high school level
Kristina Doubet offers suggestions for first steps in differentiating instruction in a high school class, including a quick way to assess student learning and how to determine when it makes sense to differentiate.

Tips for designing tasks that challenge students at different readiness levels and scaffolding for HS students
Kristina Doubet offers ideas for designing tasks that challenge students at various readiness levels and for scaffolding learning for high school students.

Differentiating in Various Curricular Areas

Differentiating instruction in vocational and technology education classes
Kristina Doubet discusses effective techniques for differentiating in project-based classrooms and using anchor activities to extend the curriculum.

Differentiating instruction in foreign language classes
Cindy Strickland offers several practical ideas to foreign language teachers on ways to differentiate instruction for their students.

Differentiating instruction in music classes
Cindy Strickland shares several ideas for music teachers on how to differentiate instruction in both instrumental and vocal classes.

Differentiating at the College Level

A rationale for differentiating at the college level
Carol Tomlinson offers a rationale for differentiating instruction in today's universities and colleges as well as ideas for implementing DI in your classes.

The need to prepare education majors in our colleges to differentiate instruction
Carol Tomlinson highlights the changes needed in our university teacher education programs that will prepare tomorrow's teachers to meet the diverse needs of the students they will encounter.

Thoughts on differentiating instruction at the college level
Kristina Doubet shares her thoughts on the need to differentiate instruction for college students and an example of how education majors often differ in their readiness for designing learning goals.

Leading the Change to Differentiation

Create a vision and rationale to steer the change to differentiated classrooms
Kelly A. Hedrick emphasizes the need for school leaders to set goals for the initiative by creating a vision and rationale for differentiating instruction.

A comprehensive long-range plan is critical to creating effectively differentiated classrooms
Kelly A. Hedrick addresses the key components of a comprehensive long-range plan that will guide and support the implementation of differentiated instruction.

Barriers that teachers may encounter when implementing DI
Catherine Brighton describes barriers that elementary and secondary teachers often encounter as they begin to differentiate instruction in their classes.

Helping teachers move along a continuum of increasing expertise with differentiation
Kelly A. Hedrick discusses how administrators can build on existing strengths of the faculty and consider teachers' varied levels of expertise to provide appropriate support for implementing DI.

Leading the change to differentiation is a tender balance of pressure and support
Kelly A. Hedrick describes how school leaders must clearly communicate expectations while providing support to teachers in the process of changing to differentiated instruction.

Ways to carefully use resources to support implementation of DI in a school or district
Kelly A. Hedrick suggests ways administrators can carefully use limited resources and tools so they support teachers in their journey toward expertise in differentiation.

Tips for supporting teachers' professional growth with differentiating instruction
Monica Harrold provides a few tips for working with teachers to support their professional growth as they develop expertise with differentiating.

Professional Development

Tips for coaching teachers as they learn how to differentiate instruction
Kelly A. Hedrick provides tips for coaching elementary and secondary teachers as they learn to differentiate instruction.

Differentiating professional development on the basis of learning preference
Cindy Strickland suggests a way to differentiate a professional development activity on the basis of learning preference, using Sternberg's triarchic intelligences.

Cindy Strickland describes a way to differentiate professional development for teachers using tiered activities designed for different readiness levels.

Differentiating professional development on the basis of interest
Cindy Strickland shares an activity that she uses to differentiate professional development on the basis of teachers' varied interests.

Using lesson study to support the implementation of differentiated instruction
Jessica Hockett describes how to use lesson study as a professional development tool to help teachers develop their understanding and skills in differentiating instruction in their classrooms.

Experts in the Videos

Differentiation Experts

These experts on differentiated instruction appear in our video clips.

Video Archive

1Catherine Brighton - Associate Professor, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia



Marcia Imbeau - Associate Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, University of Arkansas



Kristina Doubet - Assistant Professor in Middle, Secondary, & Mathematics Education, James Madison University



Jay McTighe - Author and educational consultant



Monica Harrold - Principal, Northside Elementary School, Ann Arbor, MI



Cindy Strickland - Educational consultant and ASCD faculty member



Kelly A. Hedrick - Director of Gifted Education & Academy Programs, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, VA



Carol Tomlinson - William Clay Parrish Jr. Professor of Education, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia



Jessica Hockett - Educational consultant