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Please help me out with the meaning of the tag. It was applied to one of my questions, I did not get it, and I see on a closed question it was applied and everyone is commenting "Your Question is so about differentiation!" and neither the OP nor myself have any idea what is going on there.

Is this one of those new ideas that came out about education in the last 30 years or so?

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    $\begingroup$ Have you checked the tag wiki? I feel like that clears it up a bit, but maybe it's worth reconsidering the tag name since so many people seem to be unfamiliar. $\endgroup$ – Aurora0001 Jun 29 '17 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Aurora0001 I started to look it up when I realized that it was well known. But the explanations all sound either like something I was not doing, or like something that is so basic to teaching that it doesn't need a name. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jun 29 '17 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ I thought it was related to calculus, I must admit. $\endgroup$ – Adam Williams Jul 1 '17 at 16:06
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Differentiation is about various strategies to meet the needs of learners with different backgrounds. I have no idea when it became a term of art; I've only been in the field for 12 years, but I've heard no end of it during that period. Differentiation includes things like varying assignments, providing student choice, tiered levels, and self-paced work. It comes from the idea that different kids get somewhat different instruction to better match their individual needs.

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Students learn in different ways, and at any point during the course (or even an individual class meeting) levels of understanding and ability are varying. These two ideas form the reasoning behind "differentiated instruction" (sadly too long for a tag), which is commonly referred to simply as "differentiation."

The lecture-driven, teacher-centered, "sit-and-get" model of instruction does not fit within the paradigm of differentiated instruction.

Books and books are written about this, so I apologize if this is a bit reductive, but at its core differentiation from a pedagogical perspective is a student-centered approach to instruction and assessment. It's less of the students needing to learn based on how the teacher teaches and more of the teacher needing to teach based on how the students learn. The teacher adjusts based on the students, not the other way around.

In simple terms: I see it as a $10 word for what is already simply "good and effective teaching."

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  • $\begingroup$ Ok, well your last sentence confirms what I was already thinking. Thank you for the explanation. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jun 29 '17 at 23:09

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