Differentiated Instruction

The effectiveness of universal design for learning: a meta-analysis of literature between 2013 and 2016

Capp, M.J., The effectiveness of universal design for learning: a meta-analysis of literature between 2013 and 2016 (2017). International Journal of Inclusive Education, Volume 21 (8), pp 791-807. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2017.1325074

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is often promoted as an inclusive teaching methodology for supporting all students within diverse contemporary classrooms. This is achieved by proactively planning to the edges of a classroom by thinking of all the potential needs of students. To examine its effectiveness, a meta-analysis was conducted on empirical research, containing pre- and post-testing, published in peer-reviewed journals between 2013 and 2016 (N = 18). Results from this analysis suggest that UDL is an effective teaching methodology for improving the learning process for all students. The impact on educational outcomes has not been demonstrated. The implications of this study are discussed.

Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction: A Literature Review

Drummond, K., Holod, A., Perrot, M., Wang, A., Munoz-Miller, M., and Turner, H. (August 2016) Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and  Differentiated Instruction: A Literature  Review. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research. Prepared for: Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education.


This literature review provides a summary of policies, programs, and practices that have the potential to help students sustain the positive effects of preschool as they progress from kindergarten through grade. The review focuses on two specific approaches: (1) preschool and K–3 alignment, and (2) differentiated instruction in kindergarten and first grade.

Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction, Washington, DC, 2016.

To explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool, this study examined two types of strategies that preliminary literature searches revealed as promising practices to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3 (referred to as P–3 alignment) and (2) differentiated instruction. To explore how educators use these two strategies, this study conducted a systematic literature review followed by case studies of five programs that used one or both of these two strategies. Key findings: (1) All five case study programs aligned instruction across grades by aligning or coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices, and professional development; three sites also used aligned assessments. (2) Common elements of P–3 programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. (3) Teachers in all five programs reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction. (4) All five programs focused on increasing students’ vocabulary, oral language, and social-emotional skills.

Using Instructional Routines to Differentiate Instruction: A Guide for Teachers

Kosanovich, M. (2012). Using Instructional Routines to differentiate instruction. A guide for teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators plan differentiated instruction using 72 formatted activities called Instructional Routines, which provide a structure for teaching specific foundational reading skills. Included is a table which displays the alignment between the Instructional Routines and the Common Core State Standards organized by the five reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). This resource provides support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).

Literacy Instruction in Nine First-Grade Classrooms: Teacher Characteristics and Student Achievement

Wharton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., & Hampston, J.M. (1998). Literacy instruction in nine first-grade classrooms: Teacher characteristics and student achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 99, 101-128.

Classroom observations and in-depth interviews were used to study 9 first-grade teachers from 4 districts who had been nominated by language arts coordinators as outstanding or typical in their ability to help students develop literacy skills. Based on observational measures of student reading and writing achievement and student engagement, 3 groups of teachers emerged from the original 9. The following practices and beliefs distinguished the instruction of the 3 teachers (2 nominated as outstanding, 1 as typical) whose students demonstrated the highest levels on these measures: (a) coherent and thorough integration of skills with high-quality reading and writing experiences, (b) a high density of instruction (integration of multiple goals in a single lesson), (c) extensive use of scaffolding, (d) encouragement of student self-regulation, (e) a thorough integration of reading and writing activities, (f) high expectations for all students, (g) masterful classroom management, and (h) an awareness of their practices and the goals underlying them. Teaching practices observed in 7 of the 9 classrooms are also discussed. The data reported here highlight the complexity of primary literacy instruction and support the conclusion that effective primary-level literacy instruction is a balanced integration of high-quality reading and writing experiences and explicit instruction of basic literacy skills.

"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl