Educational Design and Technology

Teaching for Diverse Learning Needs

Librarian sitting on desk, with hat, library schooled t-shirt

All  students have access to the curriculum, and the library media program ensures that every student makes progress regardless of learning style or needs


Definitions        Differentiation is acknowledging that kids learn in different ways, and responding by doing something about that through curriculum and instruction. … differentiating instruction is not an instructional strategy nor is it a teaching model. It is in fact a way of thinking, an approach to teaching and learning that advocates beginning where students are and designing experiences that will better help them to achieve.

              In their book Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design, Tomlinson and McTighe (2006) suggest teachers first need to establish standards for student achievement and then need to design many paths of instruction to enable all learners to be successful. To reach desired learning standards, Tomlinson and McTighe encourage teachers to differentiate for students through the following design elements:

  • content (what students learn and the representative materials)
  • process (activities through which students make sense of key ideas using the essential skills)
  • product (how students demonstrate and extend what they understand and can do as a result of a span of learning)
  • learning environment (the classroom conditions that set the tone and expectations of learning).

[From: Koechlin, C., and S. Zwaan. Everyone Wins: Differentiation in the School Library.Teacher Librarian, 35.5: 8-13, 2008.]

Additional Reading

Gregory, Gayle H., Chapman, Carolyn. Differentiated Instructional Strategies; One size Doesn't Fit All 2nd Ed. Corwin Press, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2007.

Kelly, F.S., T. McCain, and I. Jukes. Teaching the Digital Generation: No More Cookie Cutter High Schools. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2008.

Kelly, McCain, and Jukes contend that the effectiveness of schools needs to be measured in terms of the success realized by each individual student. This requires diverse types of school for an increasingly diverse student population.

Teaching Strategies for Students with Diverse Learning Needs-Kindergarten Through Grade 12. 1996. Nebraska Department of Education, Lincoln, NE.

http://nlcs1.nlc.state.ne.us/epubs/E2000/H080-1996.pdf external link PDF file icon (2.24 MB)

Loertscher, D., and E. Marcoux. Multicultural Resources and Other Tools for Your Professional Journey. Teacher Librarian 36.3: 48-57, 2009.

The teacher-librarian can enrich classroom resources and help teachers with the diverse materials and learning supports needed to ensure differentiation.

Koechlin, C., and S. Zwaan. Everyone Wins: Differentiation in the School Library. Teacher Librarian, 35.5: 8-13, 2008.

Web Resources

Learning Styles: What's Being Debunked

Riener, Cedar. Teacher Magazine.org, February 24, 2010

http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2010/02/24/learningstyles_riener.html external link

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) - independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization formed in 1987 to advance the quality of teaching and learning by developing professional standards for accomplished teaching.

NBPTS Library Media Standard I: Knowledge of Learners - “Accomplished library media specialists have knowledge of learning styles and of human growth and development.”

http://www.nbpts.org/sites/default/files/documents/certificates/nbpts-certificate-cya-lm-standards.pdfexternal link PDF file icon (690 KB)

www.abcteach.comexternal link – lessons, resources, activities and teaching materials for early learners (childhood and elementary). 

www.enchantedlearning.com external link– geared towards childhood and elementary ages.

www.zacbrowser.comexternal link – Downloadable browser specifically designed for children with Autism.  It eliminates pop-ups, adult content, etc. and simplifies or “dials down” the browsing process to ensure it isn't’t overwhelming.

[Photo credit: New York Library Association]

Last Updated: January 27, 2015