Differentiated instruction in the Virtual Classroom

Differentiated instruction is a popular approach for teaching and learning which takes into consideration the variety of learner needs. For the implementation of the differential approach understanding of each learner needs or the needs of a small group of learners is essential as opposed to teaching according to a fixed average level whereas all students are perceived as similar. The aim is a maximal development and individual success. This is accomplished by different teaching and group management strategies. Learners work at different levels and reach a different degree of learning acquisition. Teaching should be in accordance with the different learner levels and their learning styles by means of personalisation of questions, alternative grouping, and additional materials.

The application of the Universal Organisation Principles is advisable when it comes to the differentiation of virtual instruction. They represent a learning environment model which involves 3 types of flexibility and alternatives and are completely applicable to VEDAMO e-learning platform:

  1. A variety of ways for content presentation

For instance: Presenting content into different forms – video, audio and presentation. Reading materials with additional resources, e.g. audio files. Presentations at different levels of difficulty. Graphic representation of concepts, mind-maps. Illustrative presentation such as diagrams and simulations.

  1. A variety of forms for learner self-expression

For instance: Assigning tasks based on media, drawing, maps, diagrams, video, presentations or web pages. Providing change for the textual assignments by including plans, mind-maps, tables, diagrams, practice activities such as shared writing and text editing.

  1. А variety of ways for learner interest engagement

For instance: Role plays, discussions, brainstorming, team projects, online experiments, community building.

The aim of this approach is to create learning possibilities for students by meeting a wide range of learning needs. When teaching online it is important to follow the principles of clarity and accessibility of instructions and content, data concreteness, options availability, own tempo, clear-cut expectations, multi-channel presentation,  showing-not-telling approach, and consistent lesson structure. Students taught in courses along this method appreciate the possibility of being able to choose among options which meet their specific learning preferences and learning styles.

Dr. Veronica Racheva is managing VEDAMO’s training programme. Veronica is a PhD in Theory of Education. She graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, she is a CEO of a Bulgarian K12 online academy, based on VEDAMO e-learning infrastructure. She is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, researcher and author of scientific reports.
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