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Differentiated Instruction
Melissa Harper
April 28, 2014
Dr. Sam Obeng-Dompreh

Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is a method of teaching in which instructors help
students connect course content or curriculum to their experiences in an effort to enhance
learning (Willoughby, 2005). Gateway Community College requires completion of NUR/251:
Nursing Theory and Science III for students in the Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
program. Students must pass this course with a grade of C or better in order to continue the ASN
program. However, nursing students are not satisfied with the course work or delivery of course
content (Ayon, 2014). Students primary complaint is that the delivery of information is
primarily pedagogical and boring and it is difficult to determine how long the instructor will
spend on each topic during classroom sessions. Two recommendations for modification of have
been made to improve course content, instructional strategies, the learning environment, and the
Differentiating Content
Differentiating content is important to keep adult learners remain engaged and motivated
to learn. Varying the course content in NUR/251 is difficult because nursing students need to
pass a state board exam, which is based on the content learned in NUR/251 and other courses in
the ASN program (Ayon, 2014). However, the instructor can determine how the content is
delivered and how students display masery of course content. For instance, the instructor may
use case studies and videos to deliver the content instead of having students read chapter after
chapter on obstetrics or how to insert an IV. These teaching methods cater to different learning
styles and keep students attention by showing real world application of the skills they will be
expected to exhibit in a clinical setting (Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009). Using multimedia to

deliver course content also makes the learning expereince more interesting and provides a visual
frame of reference to support the text students read each week.
The instructor does provide an agenda so students know what topics the instructor will
cover in each session. However, the agenda is part of the course syllabus and is not detailed
enough to to let students know when and how the content will be delivered in each session. This
also creates a problem with classroom organization and time management. Ayon states, We
never know if we will get out of class on time because the instructor does not stick to a time limit
on each section, (2014). Providing an agenda separate from the course syllabus allows the
instructor to allot the appropriate amount of time for each topic. The agend lets students know
what topics will be covered in each hour of class, scheduled breaks, and the time for question
and answer. The agenda allows students to paln ahead and properly prepare for class. The agenda
also keeps the instructor on track and helps the instructor determine if they will have enough
time in that session to cover all of the required content.
Altering Instructional Strategies
The NUR/251 instructional strategies include assigned reading, lecture, student
presentations, discussion, and weekly labs (Ayon, 2014). Wlodkowski states, To be effective
with all students, faculty have [sic] to relate their content to the experiences and ways in which
their students know. Teaching that ignores student norms of behavior and communication
provokes student resistance, (1995). The instructor in this case uses lecture and labs to deliver
course content and determine students mastery of course objectives each week. While lecture
and labs are important in a nursing program the instructor, can employ different instructional

strategies to achieve the desired results based on content, processes, and product (Willoughby,
Aligning instructional strategies with course content seems easy enough but does require
planning. According to Willoughby, instructors can implement several strategies based on
content by:
1. Utilizing pre-tests to assess where students need to begin study of a given topic or unit
2. Encouraging thinking at various levels of Bloom's taxonomy
3. Using a variety of instructional delivery methods to address different learning styles
4. Breaking assignments into smaller parts that include structured directions for each part
5. Choosing broad instructional concepts and skills that lend themselves to understanding
at various levels of complexity (2005)

These instructional strategies help support the course content but make teaching the
content more effective by addressing varying learning styles, identifying individual student
needs, and engaging students in the learning process.
The process of learning is how instructors choose to deliver information and assess
students understanding of course content. Some suggestions for varying the process are:
1. Provide access to a variety of materials that focus on different learning styles and
2. Create activities, which focus on auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
3. Establish stations for inquiry-based, independent learning activities.
4. Create activities that vary in level of complexity and degree of abstract thinking
5. Use flexible grouping to group and regroup students based on content, student ability,
and assessment results (Willoughby, 2005).
Product is what instructors expect from students during each section or at the end of a
course. Products can be presentations, essays, reports, or assessments such as exams and quizzes.

Several suggestions for aligning products with student abilities include:
1. Varying assessment strategies, including performance-based and open-ended
2. Use teacher-assigned and student-selected projects
3. Allow students to choose projects that encompass a variety of learning styles
4. Make assessment an ongoing, interactive process that includes self-assessment
(Willoughby, 2005).
Varying the End Product
Varying the end product may not work in every setting. For instance, in NUR/251,
students must demonstrate how to properly, insert an IV into a patients arm. This is a clinical
lab, which requires hands on participation. The students in this case cannot write a paper on this
topic but must show the instructor from start to finish that they know the procedure and tools
required to complete the task. However, NUR/251 covers other topics in which students can
choose to write an essay, create a PowerPoint presentation, or plan a classroom activity to
demonstrate mastery of the weeks concepts. This allows students to explore concepts in depth
and determine how best to demonstrate real world application of the text.
Altering the Environment
It is in the instructors purview to create a learning environment that includes establishing
inclusion, developing attitude, enhancing meaning, and engendering competence (Wlodkowski,
1995). In the case of NUR/251, the class is a blend of classroom lecture, clinical observation,
and labs. The labs and clinical observation do not allow for alteration due to government
regulations and hospital policies. The classroom therefore becomes the focus for alteration. The
instructor can reduce the amount of content that is presented as a pedagogical lecture and include
problem based learning (PBL). PBL works well in this setting because the students have read
about triage, procedures, patient care, and diagnosis methods. The instructor can start the class

by presenting a problem, breaking students into groups, and allowing 15 minutes for the groups
to come up with a solution. This method allows students to explore solutions they may not have
considered if the instructor had presented a solution and rationale before presenting the problem.
The instructor can also present actual medical cases and the diagnosis then ask students to
discuss the case and decide if they agree or disagree with the diagnosis and methods used to
reached the diagnosis. These alterations produce the same results of students displaying a deeper
understanding of the material but it also allows for the use of critical thinking, problem solving,
and collaboration.
Nursing students in the ASN program are not satisfied with their experience in
NUR/251. Their concerns include classroom organization, course content, and learning
activities. Several recommendations to improve classroom organization, course content, and
learning activities were explored. Providing an agenda separate from the course syllabus allows
the instructor to allot the appropriate time for each topic and avoid running out of time or
running over time each week. The instructor for NUR/251 can implement PBL learning to
encourage critical thinking as a way to vary the classroom environment. The instructor can also
employ different instructional strategies to achieve the desired results based on content,
processes, and product (Willoughby, 2005).


Ayon, M. (2014). Effectiveness of nursing theory and science III course. (M. Harper,
Ginsberg, M. B., & Wlodkowski, R. J. (2009). Diversity and motivation: Culturally responsive
teaching in college. (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wlodkowski, R. (1995). Highly motivating instruction for culturally diverse adult students.
Regis University.
Willoughby, J. (2005). Differentiating instruction: Meeting students where they are. Retrieved