Curriculum differentiation is a teaching model, wherein coarse work is structured to the students aptitude, readiness to learn, interests, acquired skill set and other elements relating to learning profiles. To put it another way, in the differentiated classroom environment, the curriculum is geared to the specific student and their abilities, rather than the more common archetype of a grade level associated criterion administered to all students uniformly.
All students do not learn the same way or at the same rate. This is just as true for students considered to be “gifted” as for any other segment of student populations. Curriculum differentiation however, is a teaching methodology reserved for and associated with gifted students. This does not suggest the preclusion of curriculum differentiation with respect to other special education environments, only that it has become a term more often associated with gifted student vernacular.
The curricular content for a class, be it of a differentiated or standardized variety, must often adhere to state and local criterion, or course-work guideline. The lesson plan in the differentiated classroom is more often than not the same with respect to all students. The real difference comes in how the lesson plan is delivered to students on an individual bases, respective of their individual learning profile. Students with similar learning profiles are often grouped together and assigned a task to accomplish as a group. While the subject matter may be the same for an entire class, separate groups of students of commensurate profile may be offered more challenging aspects and objectives to accomplish.
The differentiated teaching environment is geared more for conceptual understanding, requiring more in depth thought on the part of the student, rather than fact memorization or attention to details. For instance, rather than learning that an air planes wing makes it fly, the instructor in a differentiated classroom might delve deeper into the principles of flight dynamics. In addition, for the more or most gifted students in the class, the additional challenge to calculate lift drag and thrust requirements for a simple model, perhaps a paper airplane design, might be advanced.
A key factor to the success of a differentiated curriculum teaching model is assessment. Students in a differentiated class, are evaluated on an ongoing basis to assess student achievement, growth, and success, with respect to objectives established on the individual student basis. Such assessment may be on a formal a well as an informal basis, include interviews, testing and other formal and informal evaluation techniques.
Curricular differentiation is a generalized teaching model, and there are many variations on its theme. Irrespective of individual nuances and implementational variations, this teaching model is intended to provide an enhanced learning environment for gifted students.