Is differentiated instruction necessary to meet the needs of all levels of learners within the environment based on learning styles, interests, and readiness levels? Differentiated instruction involves daily assessment, either formal or informal, lots of planning, and a classroom of learners working together as a community (Tilton, 2001). Differentiated instruction is a learner-centered instructional design model that acknowledges that students have individual learning styles, motivations, abilities, and, therefore, readiness to learn.
Differentiated instruction adapts learning to the students’ unique differences. It is a must for teachers to learn as much about each student as possible. Understanding students helps guide teachers’ decisions to match appropriate materials and strategies to each learner’s needs. The strategies and activities are student-centered, based on readiness, planned with flexible grouping designs, and changed as needed to meet the needs of all learners. These personalized experiences give students access to all of the information and skills they can assimilate in their learning journeys (Chapman & King, 2005). This approach meets the academic and related needs of a wide array of diverse learners in schools (Edwards, Carr, & Siegel 2006).
Effective teachers in a differentiated classroom have always considered their students’ uniqueness (i.e, academic needs, talents, interests, learning styles) in planning, teaching, and evaluating lessons. Tomlinson (1999) describes other features of this approach, among them the engagement of students through different learning modalities; each student’s competition with self; flexibility in various aspects of the school day; teacher as diagnostician; multiple approaches to all aspects of lessons; student-centered lessons; combination of whole-class, group, and individual instruction; more qualitative then quantitative research; and a proactive rather than reactive attitude.
As Dunn (1984), one of the early learning style researchers, wrote, "Learning style is the way in which each person absorbs and retains information and/or skills; regardless of how that process is described, it is dramatically different for each person" (p. 12). Each student processes and absorbs new information in a different way. A person's learning style, or the way he or she begins to concentrate, process, or retain new and difficult information, influences largely the way he or she works, teaches, leads, or does just about anything. Learning styles can affect academic achievement and attitudes toward learning. Dunn (1995) describes how children learn according to their visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning style that develops through interactions of biology and experience. He states that a child processes new information in ways that are related to environmental, emotional, sociological, physiological and psychological elements. He maintains that uniform teaching...