Ed Focus Initiative

Differentiation and RTI

Differentiation of Instruction

The EdFOCUS approach to Differentiation is to help schools provide different teaching-learning activities appropriate to the various learning needs of individual students - both those who are struggling and those capable of advanced work. It is not another name for tracking, since the “differentiation” is by the activity within a unit and not placing students according to their ability. Effective differentiation is planned-for ahead of time - as part of every Unit Plan.

The EdFOCUS approach helps teachers provide some activities as a whole-group to provide common information; these maintain the sense of “community” and invest every student with equal importance. But students then need differentiated activities to process the new information, to practice the new learning and, finally, to apply what they have learned.

EdFOCUS shows teachers how to differentiate by one or more proven strategies:

  • the time allotted
  • the amount and type of teacher assistance
  • the length or number of the passages or problems
  • the level of difficulty or complexity of the materials and problems - beginning simply but building developmentally [to ensure that the cognitive integrity of the standard is met]
  • the concreteness of examples used and the number of repetitions
  • the amount of practice included
  • the level of sophistication or level of nuance required in the response
  • the structure of the response
A major element of differentiation is the final product or evidence of mastery. EdFOCUS shows teachers how to plan for a variety of products - each suited to the needs of students. For example, the same Unit Plan might include several options for students to show mastery, including a written summary, a verbal explanation, a labeled diagram, the analysis of error, teaching to another student, or creating an original product.