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date: 14 November 2019

Differentiated Instruction and Inclusive Schooling

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Differentiated instruction encompasses a wide range of responsive pedagogies, including individualized types and levels of curricula, teaching methods, materials, and assessment strategies. It has as its roots the impetus for effective inclusive schooling, providing supports directly within general education classrooms for students with the full range of exceptionalities (both significant disabilities and giftedness) and other diverse educational characteristics such as cultural and linguistic background and socioeconomic status. General education classes that effectively include students with higher levels of need require comparably higher levels of supports.

The legal and ethical bases for inclusive schooling are connected with various civil rights movements (including race, disability, culture, language, and gender); it can be viewed as a response to segregated schooling. Schools frequently remove students when traditional educational programs fail, adding on separate programs rather than rectifying the core programs themselves. Such special programs have been routinely promulgated without substantial evidence of their effectiveness over supportive general education classrooms.

Important aspects of differentiated instruction and inclusive schooling include multilevel instruction; authentic and culturally responsive curricula, methods, and assessment; universal design for learning; tiered assignments; assistive and instructional technologies; positive behavioral supports; and a collaborative team approach to instructional decision making and delivery. Debates within and surrounding differentiated instruction and inclusive schooling include both the range of curricula and the level of supports provided in general education classrooms.

Ultimately, differentiated instruction and effective inclusive schooling bring more responsive curricula, methods, and perspectives to increasingly diverse general education classrooms. They are vital for equitable access to educational opportunities.