Recent trends in identification of students with special and varied learning needs have necessitated changes in educational methodologies. Response to Intervention (RTI) is fast becoming the singular process in identifying students that require additional support within the classroom. The RTI process has necessitated changes in the way that general educators present material and support student learning. This has led to a fresh look at the concept of differentiated instruction.
Differentiated instruction can be defined as the process through which teachers "engage students in instruction through different learning modalities, by appealing to differing interests, and by using varied rates of instruction along with varied degrees of complexity" (Tomlinson, 1999). Models for differentiation focus on content, process, and product as they relate to student readiness, learning style, and ability (Luria, 2010; Scigliano & Hipsky, 2010; Carver & Bailey, 2010). Brain based learning constructs have been shown to have a direct impact on pedagogical strategies (Wilmes,et al., 2008; Gray, 2008; Nuangchalerm & Charnsirirattan, 2010; NAIS, 2011).
This project will expand and assess the current models of differentiation as follows: First, the project will individualize differentiation in order to more specifically meet student needs in the area of mathematics. Modules using learner attributes or profiles culled from review of Child Study Team records will be utilized as opposed to general categories. The project will be web-based so that teachers will have access to information as needed. Suggestions for differentiation will include elements from brain based learning concepts, a new construct added to the already established benefit of differentiation.
The project measures three important outcomes: teacher self-efficacy, teacher perceptions of their ability to differentiate, and student improvement as a result of differentiated math instruction. Teacher outcomes will be measured via pre-and post-test surveys. Student outcomes will be measured through benchmark assessments and frequent progress monitoring.