For gifted learners, an appropriately differentiated classroom will provide material, activities, projects or products, homework and assessments that are complex, abstract, open-ended and multifaceted enough to cause gifted students to stretch in knowledge, thinking and production. These classrooms provide consistent expectations for gifted student to work with fuzzy problems, make great mental leaps and grow in ability to exercise independence (Tomlinson). The ideas below identify some characteristics of a differentiated classroom essential for gifted learners.
- The pace at which they learn. They get their work done quickly and seek further assignments or direction.
- The depth of their understanding. They ask probing questions that tend to differ from their classmates in depth of understanding and frequency.
- The interests that they hold. They have interests in areas that are unusual or more like the interests of older students. They often get "hooked" on certain topics.
Verbs are critical and represent the cognitive process.
Compare & Contrast
- Flexible grouping is consistently used.
- Students work alone.
- Students work in pairs.
- Students work in groups.
- Groups/tasks are readiness-based, interest-based, learning style-based or a combination.
- Students self-select peers with whom to work.
- Whole group for introducing new ideas, planning, or sharing learning.
- Criteria for evaluating student work are presented before students begin actual work.
- Students earn equivalent credit for differentiated work. Assessment is predicated on student growth and goal attainment.
- A variety of options are available though which students can demonstrate or exhibit what they have learned.
Samples That Are NOT Considered Differentiation
- Assignments are the same for all learners.
- Assignment adjustments consist of varying the level of difficulty of questions for certain students.
- Some students are graded harder than others.
- Those who finish early get to play enrichment games.
- Students are given extension assignments (extra math problems or extra book reports) after finishing “regular” work.
- Students are getting high grades so no differentiation is needed.
- Instruction stresses retention and regurgitation of fragmented bits of information.
- The focus is on coverage-based curriculum.
- Independent projects are assigned.