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Adaptive Instruction for Teacher Education: Inclusive Approaches, Resources and Technology
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Content is what we teach (the curriculum).

Carole Tomlinson states, 

"Differentiating content can be thought of in two ways.  First in differentiating content, we can adapt what we teach. Second we adapt or modify how we give students access to what we want them to learn.

In regards to differentiating content for student need,

Content can be differentiated in response to a student's readiness level, interests or learning profile.  It can also be differentiated in response to any combination of readiness, interest, and learning profile."

(2001, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.)

Planning a differentiated lesson plan and how to include the principles of Universal Design and Adaptive Technology

1.  Focus first on the expectations of the lesson or unit topic.  That is, determine the topic to be covered - what you are going to teach.  In focusing on content distinguish between:

  • What can be called the essential concepts or what are often termed essential enduring understandings. (Focusing on the underlying concepts rather then just content enables one to extend the range of topic so all students can access learning that is within their own range).
  • What is important for the student to know and be able to do.
  • What is worth being familiar with, but perhaps not essential to know in -epth.

2. Determine the skills needed and prior knowledge that is expected.

3. Assess what students can do (skills) and what they know prior to designing lessons,(prior knowledge).  This is termed assessment for learning. Forms, surveys or using probing questions can be used for this purpose.

4.  Design the lesson(s) or unit but pay attention to the information you have in your data base, or profile card, and information from the assessment for learning.

  • Think of ways that you can design a lesson and deliver the content that will be engaging and will differentiate for all students, so that all students can access the information and learn.
  • Determine how you will deliver the content to the students.  Think of ways where you can differentiate as well as the ways adaptive technology can be used to enhance learning.  A lesson that is accessible for all learners is a differentiated lesson and that uses the principles of Universal Design. (Example: Using textbooks with essentially similar content, with some being easier to read than others, and using Kurzweil for students who have difficulty reading will allow all students to access the same or similar information).
  • Determine the process activities, which are those activities designed to assist the students' understandings of what is being taught. Please see the Process section.
  • Then as the lesson or unit progresses, use formative assessment to monitor learning and progress, as well as how effective your lesson plan/design 'is working.' This is termed assessment as learning.  Based on the information you receive at this stage you are able to fine-tune your plans or even change them.
  • Finally, in designing a summative assessment or assessment of learning, again take into account the varied needs of the students in being able to demonstrate what they have learned. See the note on Product in the side menu.

Some Useful Strategies

Each of these can be researched further for future in-depth discussions.

  • Concept Based Teaching
  • Compacting
  • Using Varied Text and Resource Materials
  • Learning Contracts
  • Minilessons
  • Varied Support systems such as
    • Note Taking Organizers
    • Highlighting Print Materials

Can you think of others strategies that can be used to vary and differentiate how the content is delivered? 

How can technology be used in delivery of the content of the curriculum?