Essay: Neuroscience Supports Differentiated Instruction Teaching

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[. . .] Differentiated instruction like normative instruction should furthermore challenge the students' skills and thinking, while engaging them on a broad level and a deep level. Differentiated instruction respects that students learn the most and the best when they connect course content with interests and experiences. The information sticks with them faster and longer when the content relates to a non-academic pursuit and/or a real life experience (or memory). In these ways, differentiated instruction is student-centered and student-based; the instructor cannot contour the course to the needs of the students without the students. Implementation of differentiated instruction techniques necessitates that the teacher get to know the students on more than a superficial level if the differentiated instruction is to be successful and useful. Teachers already know that even students within the same grade, let alone the same class, vary in character traits that directly relate to learning such as internal motivation, level of independence, home life, and interests. Differentiated instruction takes that knowledge that most teachers naturally accumulate as a function of interacting with the same group of students for most of year and puts it to scientific and practical use.

Based on the research of theorists in education, psychology, and neuroscience, Kaufold & Kaufold contend that differentiated instruction is a part of a brain compatible curriculum:

Since children have different environments in which to learn, each child's learning will be different and, in like manner, individualized. To maximize the learning potential of each child, therefore, the learning environment and, in formal schooling- the curriculum- should allow for individual growth and exploration. In other words, to be compatible with what has been learned through brain research, the learning environment and the curriculum should be structured loosely enough to allow the growth process to take place. (Kaufold & Kaufold, 2009,-Page 159)

Difference in home and learning environments is an aspect that differentiated instruction acknowledges. Differentiated instruction was developed as a way to maximize the learning potential of children and of their learning environments. The authors argue for structure in education, yet they simultaneously argue for a structure such as differentiated instruction that is flexible and adaptive as the instructor must be for every child instructed. These authors also bring up the increased pressure on both students and teachers regarding tests scores on local, state, and national levels. (Kaufold & Kaufold, 2009) They also argue that because of the increase of pressure on test scores and because of the increase of pressure regarding standard-based education and data-driven schools that the quality of education and learning has diminished and This is where the concept of the DIFFERENTIATED CURRICULUM comes into play. The ordinary curriculum can be transformed into a differentiated curriculum by adding four distinct components- Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Project-Based Learning and Interdisciplinary Planning. (Kaufold & Kaufold, 2009,-Page 160)

Though, as Kaufold and Kaufold contend, "Learning can be achieved in a high-stakes arena but it takes careful planning and an extended amount of time on the part of the principle and the classroom teacher," (Kaufold & Kaufold, 2009,-Page 160) differentiated curricula can relieve a lot of this pressure from educators, as they can build upon and modify existing curricula to better and more precisely suit the needs of their students. When educators are not stressed, students are not anxious, and learning is facilitated with greater ease. When the learning environment and all its participants are in a state of relaxation, the environmental and student potential is maximized, there is little interference between the students and academic success or the between the educators and teaching success. Differentiated instruction is supported with concrete research and evidence in multiple fields, including neuroscience as demonstrated in the preceding pages.


Kaufold, S., & Kaufhold, J.A. (2009) Connection Brain Research and Differentiation Instruction: Implications for Teaching and Learning. Conference of the International Journal of Arts and Sciences, 1(6), 158 -- 163.

Nathanson, S.A., & Nathanson, M.L. (2004) Thinking about the Brain to Balance Classroom Literacy Programs. The Language and Literacy Spectrum, 14, 48 -- 61.

Thomas, A. (2010) A Neuroscience Approach to Differentiating Instruction. U.S. Department of Education's 2010 Reading Institute, 1 -- 35, USDOE: Anaheim, CA.

Wolf, M., Barzillai, M., Gottwald, S., Miller, L., Spencer, K., Norton, E., Lovett, M., & Morris, R. (2009) The RAVE-O… [END OF PREVIEW]

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