What is differentiated instruction?

Every teacher and teaching style is different, with different methods, practices, and routines based on what works best for each individual and classroom dynamic. Similarly, students are all unique in how they learn best. Factors, such as their skills, ability levels, and learning styles, greatly impact student learning, creating a need for differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction (or differentiated learning) is a teaching philosophy centered around creating classrooms that cater to the unique needs of students. This philosophy encourages environments that provide the best opportunities for growth and learning for students with diverse educational needs.

GoGuardian Teacher™ is a classroom management program that teachers can creatively use to support differentiated instruction. Teacher comes equipped with teacher-friendly features that help enhance learning for students, with options such as:

  • Teacher/Student Chat

  • Activity timeline

  • Screen viewer

  • Tab control

  • Scenes

Teacher helps provide the tools necessary for educators to guide and assist students, allowing them to offer support and intervention to keep learning on track.

1. Teacher/Student Chat

Student engagement and feedback is an essential, but often challenging, part of any classroom environment. The Chat feature of Teacher can be a helpful tool to overcome this barrier, as it provides a discreet way for students to send their questions directly to teachers without the pressures of public speaking. It also allows teachers to directly message students who seem to have ventured off-task with a gentle reminder to refocus. For your students that need enrichment, you can use the Chat feature to ask Depth of Knowledge questions to keep them engaged and practicing higher-level thinking skills during their activities. 

These are just some of the many ways that a direct line of one-on-one communication can foster healthier teacher-student relationships and help impact differentiated learning in classrooms. Because Teacher’s Chat feature does not allow for peer-to-peer communication, there isn’t the risk of misuse that you may worry about with other email/chat programs.

2. Screen Viewer

The screen viewer feature of Teacher is one of its most innovative and teacher-friendly components. It provides a unique way to support differentiated instruction in that it enables teachers to see what sites and searches students are running on their devices in real time. Imagine your class is working from a specific group of web pages, and you notice that a student has been looking at the same page for a long time. This could indicate that a student is struggling to process the material, at which point you can send them a message using the teacher/student chat function to find out if they need more support from you that they may be too embarrassed to ask for.

3. Activity Timeline

Teacher’s activity timeline can be beneficial in supporting differentiated learning. The activity timeline is useful for finding out which students are struggling with distractions and staying on task, equipping teachers with essential knowledge to provide supportive intervention in the ways most beneficial for those students. For example, if you notice a particular student or multiple students spending much of their time in class attempting to access YouTube during lessons, you might incorporate more video clips and multimedia elements into your lessons. 

Another good use case for the activity timeline is for in-person differentiated instruction. Imagine you are taking some of your most struggling students to small group interventions in the back of the room to offer support—you'll have an extra set of "eyes" on the rest of your classroom while using GoGuardian Teacher. 

4. Tab Control

The tab control feature of Teacher can have an impact on differentiated instruction. While the screen viewing and activity timeline features allow teachers to see what students are working on, tab control gives teachers added control in helping students stay focused on working toward learning objectives. This feature enables teachers to close any distracting and unnecessary tabs that students may have open during class (such as Youtube, Facebook, etc.). It allows teachers to open tabs and direct a single student or all student devices to a webpage, which can be useful when you need all of your students to open up a specific page for a lesson. 

With the ability to open links for students, teachers can also customize the lesson for students’ individual needs. Imagine you have a small group of students that need additional vocabulary support or less rigorous reading activity—you can send them directly to a specific link without the other students knowing that everyone is working on slightly altered activities.

5. Scenes

The Scenes feature can be used as a differentiated instruction tool for balancing teacher control and student-directed learning. Using Scenes, teachers can set a specific group of tabs (such as articles, videos, and games/quizzes related to your lesson plan) to open on each students device at the start of class, create a list of allowed and blocked websites, direct all students to a testing website during test times, and set a maximum number of tabs allowed to be open during class. This gives teachers control to create a focused learning environment for students, but it still supports free browsing and encourages students to learn in the ways and at the rate that best suit their needs.

What is the impact of differentiated instruction? 

There is no one-size-fits-all for learning, as all students learn differently, at different rates, and through different means. Differentiated instruction creates classroom environments that support the multitude of ways that students process and understand new information. The results of differentiated instruction are better learning environments that create empowered learners and foster long-term academic success for a greater number of students.