Brain-Based Learning in Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation is rooted and supported by literature and research about the brain. Evidence suggests that, by instructing through multiple learning pathways, more "dendritic pathways of access" are created. This can be achieved by using several senses (i.e. sight, sound, smell) or by creating cross-curricular connections. When more regions of the brain store data about a subject, there is more interconnection and cross-referencing of data from multiple storage areas in response to a single cue, meaning one has learned rather than memorized.

As Wolfe (2001) argues, information is acquired through the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. This information is stored temporarily, and the brain decides what to do with the acquired data. The more of these stimuli that are activated, the more impact the data has on the brain. This information is pertinent to differentiation, which can activate multiple senses and thus have a greater impact on the brain.

Further, Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences identified eight distinct intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist. This is important when looking at how students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways. He argues that students would be better served if teachers could teach in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means. This might reach more students and improve content retention. Learning preferences extends these ideas by effectively instructing a larger number of students to encourage the development of the less preferred style.