Helping Parents Learn about Differentiated Instruction

According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, most parents are eager for their students to learn, grow, succeed and feel accepted in school. Sharing these goals is important. A differentiated classroom may "look different" from what parents expect. The teacher can help them develop a clear, positive understanding of differentiated instruction and how it benefits their children by letting parents know that:

The goal of differentiated instruction is to make certain that everyone grows in all key skills and knowledge areas, encouraging student to move on from their starting points and to become more independent learners.

In a differentiated classroom, the teacher closely assesses and monitors skills, knowledge levels, interests to determine effective ways for all students to learn; the teacher's lesson plan is drawn up with those various skills, levels, and interests in mind.

Differentiated lessons reflect the teacher's best understanding of what will best help a child to grow in understanding and skill at a given moment. That understanding evolves as the course continues, as the child develops, and as parents contribute to teachers' understanding.

When parents come to school and talk about their children, they share their perspectives with the teacher. The teacher views the student more broadly, specifically in relation to students of the same age and in light of developmental benchmarks. The parent, on the other hand, has a deeper sense of the student's interests, feelings, and changes over time. The combination of the wide-angle lens viewpoint of the teacher with the close up lens of the parents results in a fuller picture for everyone.