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Annotated Bibliography on Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom

4237 words (17 pages) Essay in Education

08/02/20 Education Reference this

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Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated instruction: A research basis. International Education Journal. 7 (7), p935-944.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

In this paper, Subban discusses what learning strategies can be used to cater for a variety of learning profiles. Taking into consideration that contemporary classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse, Subban provides extensive research in relation to the differentiated instruction model; investigating factors including learning styles and student diversity.

During the paper, Subban investigates Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of Learning and his theory on proximal development (1978). This reflects Subban’s views on the theories being essential for classroom change and redevelopment. Having cited the work of Wertsh (1991), Subban then begins to engage in the implications of Vygotsky’s theories, concluding that these theories may not be effective for teaching and learning in contemporary times.

Subban discusses the idea of a new educational model being put in place to support differentiated instruction. Subban discusses the reasons why it is imperative to consider a new model such as: addressing differences, the dangers of teaching to the middle, brain research and learning styles.

The key findings of this paper were that based on research, there are many theories to support the move of differentiated instruction. The studies conducted have considered student engagement and the impact of differentiated techniques on test scores. However, other key findings include a summary of areas that need further investigation such as the impact of differentiated instruction on teacher efficacy, the teacher’s response to adopting a new model, the differences between differentiation and tracking and the impact of teaching experience on the teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction.

Relevance / significance to your study

The paper discusses the theory behind differentiated instruction, this is useful to my study because is not only sharing the impact on these theories in the classroom; it is also providing the implications of these theories. This would be an interesting area to explore during my study as I can relate these implications to my own placement experiences.

The paper also presents a rationale for a new educational model; I could explore this model further, researching the reasons why this model is essential in contemporary education and the implications this model may bring for experienced teachers. In addition, the paper discusses the strengths of differentiated instruction; however, the research conducted did not consider teachers who had been in the profession for longer than five years. Therefore, this may be an area I could explore further as I could conduct research comparing the thoughts of teachers who had been in the profession longer.


Tomlinson, C (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. 2nd ed. USA: ASCD Publications. p1-128.


Summary of key ideas within the source:

In this book, Tomlinson discusses various techniques to ensure that all children make progress using differentiated instruction. During the book, Tomlinson is able to talk about why differentiation is important and how teachers can alter their teaching styles to accommodate differentiated instruction.

During the book, Tomlinson provides resources for the teacher to use to aid them in implementing differentiation in their classroom e.g. checklists, classroom instructional arrangements and scaffolding figures.

Tomlinson also explains the positive correlation between an effective learning community and a differentiated classroom. This is due to Tomlinson conducting her own research on a number of schools, implanting the idea of differentiated instruction and comparing it with classrooms who show little or no differentiation.

The key findings in the book are clear; there is a difference between classrooms with little or no differentiated instruction and differentiated classrooms. Another key finding is that learning happens best when a learning experience pushes the learner beyond his or her independence level; this is aided by differentiation.

Relevance / significance to your study

Tomlinson found that differentiated instruction is a blend of whole-class, group and individual instruction. This is relevant to my study as I would like to explore the concept of ‘blending learning’ further and how this impacts children’s learning.

Tomlinson explores the effects on how differentiated instruction can be used to accommodate the needs of students with a wide range of abilities, this is something I am interested in and would like to explore further. The book refers to techniques used to differentiate activities to advanced learnings, from my own placement experience; I feel that this is usually overlooked. This would make a good discussion point in my study as I could research the effects differentiated instruction has on advanced learners.

Tomlinson explores the effects on how differentiated instruction can be used to accommodate the needs of students with a wide range of abilities, this is something I am interested in and would like to explore further.


Hall, T, Vue, G, Strangman, N, Meyer, A. (2004). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Effective Classroom Practices Report. 1 (1), p2-23.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

This journal article aimed to explore the challenges teacher’s face when reaching out to their students who span the spectrum of learning. This spectrum of learning includes readiness, personal interests, skills, knowledge and perspective. The article examines information on the theory and research behind differentiated instruction and its intersection with Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Throughout the article, differentiation is described as being able to “recognise students’ varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests; and to react responsively” (p3). This is used as a framework throughout the article, aiding the discussion and research between differentiation UDL.

The article explores UDL further and discusses the connections with differentiated instruction both in theory and with specific lesson examples. Tables are provided throughout the article to evidence the principles behind differentiated learning and the universal design for learning. Additionally, the article identifies methods and materials that may be used to support the implementation of differentiated instruction in concert with the principles of UDL.

A key topic in the article is the discussion of the implications of differentiated instruction such as; shifting away from traditional views, mastering new technology and traditional reliance on print media.

Relevance / significance to your study

This article refers to the philosophy behind differentiation and provided principles that have been identified to shape differentiation. This is relevant to my study because I would like to explore the reasons why differentiation is important in the classroom. The article also makes reference to Tomlinson’s (2014) theory on responding to the needs of all learners; this will benefit me as it will enhance my theoretical understanding on how differentiation is used for all abilities.

The article provides a useful overview of UDL, this is a topic I would like to explore further; researching a UDL curriculum and how it differs to the current curriculum. By exploring this UDL, it would give me an opportunity to enhance my own understanding of this and will aid me in being able to conduct useful research which will support the importance of differentiated instruction.

This article would aid my study well, as it provides useful discussion points on the implications of differentiation; referencing the UDL and providing the research behind these implications.


Kyriakides, L. (2007). Generic and Differentiated Models of Educational effectiveness: Implications for improvement of educational practice. International Handbook of School Effectiveness and Improvement. 1 (1), p41-56.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

This article examines the effects whether or not there is strong evidence for differentiated teacher effectiveness along three key dimensions: differentiated effectiveness in promoting progress of different groups of students according to their background characteristics; differentiated effectiveness in promoting progress of different groups of students according to their personal characteristics; and differentiated effectiveness in relation to the type of objectives that can be pursued within or across subjects.

Throughout the article, Kyriadkides investigates these three dimensions, analysing their effectiveness in detail. He also provides extensive research behind the advantages of being a differentiated teacher and also provides insight into the implications of being a differentiated teacher can cause.

The article cites the work of Brophy and Good (1986), which supports Kyriadkides ideas that effective teaching demands orchestration of a wide array of skills that must be adapted to specific contexts. Within this research, Kyriadykes is able to consider casual relations between teacher behaviour and student achievement and concludes that this is usually always demonstrated within an effective teaching environment.

Relevance / significance to your study

One of Kyriadkides key findings was that many characteristics of effective teaching vary according to student background (e.g. socio-economic status (SES), prior achievement, gender) and personal characteristics (e.g. children’s thinking style and personality). This is significant to my study because I would like to examine whether or not these characteristics impact effective teaching.

This article provides a useful overview of how to become an effective teacher; I would like to explore these points further and examine how differentiation can benefit teachers in a contemporary school. I could use these effectiveness studies to examine the magnitude of teacher and school effects, paying more attention to the extent to which teachers and schools perform consistently across different school groupings.

Kyriadkides discusses that the concepts of teacher and school effectiveness have been developed in a generic way, drawing up a “one size fits all model”. This would benefit my study as I could explore this further and consider the implications such as teachers’ strengths and weaknesses in their professional practice.


Delisle, J. (2019). Differentiation Doesn’t Work. Available: Last accessed 30th April 2019.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

Delisle discusses the reason why differentiation does not work in a modern-day classroom, he uses theory to explain why differentiated instruction is seen as ‘unsuccessful’. Throughout the article, Delisle describes differentiation as a ‘promise unfulfilled’ due to the way that students are deployed in classrooms. He also goes on to suggest that differentiation provides teachers with an impossible task; being able to aid every child in reaching their potential.

Delisle describes that the terms “differentiated instruction” and “differentiated curriculum” are used interchangeably, this means that educators cannot differentiate their lessons if they do not know what they are differentiating. The article suggests that differentiation may be successful if teachers are given proper guidance on how to conduct it in their classrooms.

Although Delisle provides theory supporting differentiation, it seems that his views on differentiation are based on statistics taken from teachers attempting differentiation in the classroom. Therefore, although differentiation is fine in theory; in practice, differentiation is harder to implement in a contemporary classroom.

The key finding of Delisle’s research was that differentiation might have a chance to work if educators are willing to return to the time where children of similar abilities were placed in classes with other children whose learning paralleled their own. Delisle goes on to conclude that differentiation will continue to be a losing proposition for both children and teachers.

Relevance / significance to your study


Throughout the article, Delisle provides evidence of the ineffectiveness of differentiation; this would be significant to my own study because I would be able to use these statistics to conduct my own research and explore the reasons behind why these statistics are present in a contemporary classroom.

This article is relevant to my study because teachers are finding differentiation increasingly difficult to implement it in their classrooms; I would like to find out why this and consider how teachers could be aided in this process.

Delisle cites the work of Schmoker (2010), where he says that differentiation complicates teachers work because they are required to procure and assemble multiple materials. This is relevant to my own study because I have experienced this in placement, and I could use this in order to aid my own teaching experiences.


Aldossari, A. (2018). The Challenges of Using the Differentiated Instruction Strategy: A Case Study in the General Education Stages in Saudi Arabia. international Education Studies. 11 (4), p75-83.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

This journal article is a study that identifies the most important challenges facing teachers in applying the differentiated instruction strategy in different stages of education. This study was conducted in Saudi Arabia and the results indicate that the degree of the challenge of using the differentiated instruction strategy was medium overall. The challenges related to students were ranked first, followed by challenges related to the school environment, then the nature of the differentiated instruction, challenges related to teachers, and, finally, challenges related to studying courses.

The research conducted was a response to the wave of modernisation in the education system and the adoption of modern teaching strategies. The results of this study were used to help guide general education departments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia towards the development of classroom environments that use modern teaching strategies.

Throughout the article Aldossari explained the limitations of the study, saying that he considered time limits, locality limit, human limits and objective limits before providing an overall conclusion. Aldoassari used questionnaires to conduct his research but only gave them to experienced teachers. This confirmed the importance of differentiated instruction in the classroom, which is also supported by theoretical literature.

The Key findings of the study were that the main challenges highlighted by the participants related to the students, but challenges related to the school environment and nature of the differentiated instruction strategy had almost similar scores. However, the challenges related to teachers and school courses were considered less problematical.

Relevance / significance to your study

This article is significant to my study because it has been conducted in Saudi Arabia, this is different from other sources I have researched because they have been primarily based in the United Kingdom. International education is something I am interested in, I would like to research further how differentiation is conducted in other countries.

With this in mind, Aldoassi cites educationalists that would benefit my own study such as Gamal (2003) who considers differentiated instruction as ‘contrast instruction’. I would like to explore this further and consider how differentiation is defined in other countries apart from the UK.


Tomlinson, C, McTighe, J (2006). Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design. Virginia, USA: ASCD Publications. p1-47

Summary of key ideas within the source:

This book explores the reasons why differentiated instruction is important in classrooms and tells you how to implement differentiation into practice. Tomlinson and McTighe explain why it matters to teach responsively, taking into consideration teacher-student relationships and attending to the learning environment. Positive relationships contribute to student energy for learning and the learning environment builds a context for learning.

Tomlinson and McTighe provide basic approaches for responsive teaching, stating that differentiation does not advocate ‘individualisation’. Throughout the book, they describe what really matters in learning and provide useful content that proves that differentiation and standards coexist. Tomlinson and McTighe explain that teachers can address the required content standard while remaining response to individual students.

The book cites Wiggens (2004), he developed a template to assist educators in focussing on important content while planning backwards. Planning backwards was a concept introduced at the start of the book which is a three-stage backward design process for curriculum planning. This concept is essentially an approach for effective differentiated instruction.

Tomlinson and McTighe suggest that it is vital for teachers to know what is essential when it comes to content, clarity about what really matters in disciplines enables educators to teach for understanding. This is what Tomlinson and McTighe describe differentiation as being; the more powerful the curriculum, the greater the possibilities for the teacher and children.

Relevance / significance to your study

Tomlinson and McTighe provide a useful overview of how teachers can differentiate when planning lessons. They give ideas, theory and solutions to aid teachers in differentiating effectively. This is relevant to my study because I feel that teachers increased support when differentiating and this book provides opportunities for teachers to learn how to do this.

The ‘backward design’ is something that I am extremely interested in and would like to explore further, I feel that this is a modern approach to differentiation and should be considered when teachers are planning to differentiate their lessons. Tomlinson and McTighe provide information on the advantages of this design, However, I feel that I could research this design further and explore the disadvantages of the design.


Vassiliki, G, Marita, P, Eleni, A. (2011). The efficacy of teaching differentiation on children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) through Literature. Social and Behavioural Sciences. 1 (1), p67-74.

Summary of key ideas within the source:


The purpose of this study was to examine the efficiency of differentiated teaching as a method for helping primary school children with SEN improve their performance in the tasks of creative writing. Vassiliki et al assume that their intervention would help children with learning disabilities produce work which would contain more ‘enriched’ vocabulary.

Differentiated teaching was incorporated into the lesson of literature because this approach was thought to be the best choice to help children with SEN cope with their difficulties in a non-stressful way. Vassiliki et al concluded that the results of their own study were consonant with the results of other studies; these results support the effectiveness of differentiated teaching in helping children with SEN cope with their learning difficulties.

To end the study, Vassiliki et al gave the SEN children a final questionnaire to inquire about their preference to individual creative writing tasks. The results were that the children have a positive view on individual written tasks; showing that in a short amount of time children can eliminate negative feelings they previously had through the teacher differentiating their lessons.

Relevance / significance to your study

This source is significant to my own study because it provides a useful overview of how differentiation can aid children with SEN in being academically successful whilst being in a mainstream school. This is something I would like to explore further because due to my own experience, I found it difficult to accommodate children with SEN in my lessons.

This journal article focused on children with a wide range of disabilities, I think it would be interesting to focus my attention on one particular learning disability (e.g. ADHD) in my own study. In addition to this, I feel that I could investigate the effectiveness of differentiation in regard to students with other difficulties (e.g. family environment).

In my study, I would like to investigate how differentiation could be an effective way to engage children with SEN and children who may be experiencing other difficulties. Vassilki et all suggested that researchers could focus their attention on these subjects, due to the success of differentiation having on SEN children.


Gentry, M (2014). Total School Cluster Grouping and Differentiation. 2nd ed. London: Prufrock Press Inc. p1-50.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

In the book, Gentry discusses the Total School Cluster Grouping Model (TSCG), he emphasised the positive impact that the model provided schools; such as the children achieving higher levels and the teachers being able to recognise more clearly that the children were achieving higher.

Gentry also emphasised that cluster grouping is widely recommended in schools as it is a common strategy used for meeting the needs of high-achieving students.

He also explains that the model has gained popularity because of the move towards inclusive education. Therefore, cluster groups affect the rest of the school due to all high-achieving students being placed in one classroom. However, Gentry explains that cluster grouping should not be viewed as a programme for only gifted students; it is a total school programme.

Gentry discusses other groupings seen in school (e.g. achievement grouping, between-class grouping, within-class grouping, flexible grouping); throughout the book, these groupings are referred too, and Gentry provides a useful overview on the advantages and disadvantages of these. Gentry explains cluster grouping embraces all these elements and provides insight into why teachers should use this grouping method in the classroom.

Gentry concludes that TSCG is a model that has enough extensive research to support its effectiveness in raising the achievement of all children. This model serves as an effective intervention for meeting the academic needs of high ability students. Gentry explains how to implement the model in the classroom, providing useful insight into strategies that can be used.

Relevance / significance to your study

In my study I would like to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of ‘mixed ability grouping’, this is an alternative way to arrange children in the classroom compared to ‘cluster grouping’. I am interested in how grouping arrangements in the classroom impact the effect on differentiation. Gentry provides a useful overview of ‘cluster grouping’ and I could use this source to aid me in my own research on how these two very different groupings impact a child’s learning.

It is important to note that within this source, Gentry explains how to understand cluster grouping in the context of ability grouping. This would be something I could research in my own study; how teachers could benefit from embracing ability grouping and cluster grouping together. In my study, I would like to consider the purpose of mixed ability grouping and consider elements that affect it (e.g. modification of pace, instruction).


Taylor, S. (2017). Contested Knowledge: A Critical Review of the Concept of Differentiation in Teaching and Learning. Transforming Teaching. 1 (1), p1-14.

Summary of key ideas within the source:

The article explores the concept of differentiation in detail, arguing theoretical perspectives and providing reasons behind why there is increased inequality in British classrooms. Taylor discusses that there is no definitive guidance on differentiation and individual teachers have to decide what they consider to be the best practice.

Taylor cites Terwell (2015) which suggests that most teachers are best placed to understand the needs and abilities of their children, however, most assume that all teachers have the experience to differentiate. A key finding in the article is that several aspects of differentiated instruction have an influence on teachers finding differentiation complicated and challenging to implement in the classroom.

In the article, Taylor cites many education theorists; drawing on the conclusion that differentiation is solely the responsibility of the teacher. In most cases, there is not always support for these teachers, even though it is said that in order for differentiation to be effective teachers should be supported by their school leadership.

Taylor discusses that differentiation is failing in schools because teachers require extra time and effort, this is having an impact on teacher’s well-being. Throughout the article, Taylor makes reference to debates that have taken place regarding differentiation. Taylor concluded that although teachers are aware that differentiation has a positive impact on children’s learning; they are not adequately equipped or trained to ensure that differentiation provides successful results.

Relevance / significance to your study

I chose this source because I wanted to investigate further the connection between a differentiated classroom and educators well-being. This is something that I have previously thought about and feel that teachers need increased support in implementing differentiation in the classroom in order for it to support a teacher’s well-being.

Taylor cites the work of Westwood (2013) in the article, she explains that his beliefs on the sustainability of differentiation are due to extensive research regarding the limited support of training given to teachers. I am interested in researching this further, investigating why differentiation increases a teacher’s workload and how this has a negative impact on the quality of teaching.

This source provides a useful overview of these subjects that I am interested in and provides references which I could explore further to aid my investigation.


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