Differentiation and the Learning Brain

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 3
Words: 764
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


Differentiation is an approach that influences the different learning and development needs of academically diverse students. Many students in schools are different in terms of social and economic status, literacy, language proficiency, race, ethnic and cultural background, quality of family support, prior knowledge, motivation, level of opportunity, learning preferences, interests, and degree of motivation (Sagepub, n.d). These factors dictate the learning strengths of a student and the various academic challenges that a student can handle comfortably. Neuroscience has revealed that certain distinct variations influence how students’ brains receive, process, and relate to content and assessment (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). This paper will, therefore, analyze how neuroscientific research findings support how the brain learns through differentiation.

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Good teaching practice

Good teaching practice is one issue that influences how students learn. For a teaching practice to be treated as the best, students need to be exposed to environments that are challenging and appropriate to their level of development (Sagepub, n.d). A student learns best when he has choices. A student should be able to interact socially, acquire new strategies for learning, create new knowledge, and receive positive feedback. This state of affairs improves the learning process of a student. An emotionally positive and supportive environment also influences the learning ability of students since it makes them feel appreciated, worthy and respected.

To make the learning process a success, many teachers adjust their curriculum to provide their students with tools that can enable them to cope with differences that are present among students in the classroom environment. Teachers may give students choices of the books that they should read, or incorporate group discussions based on the interests of the students (Sagepub, n.d).

For a teaching practice to be effective, teachers should begin differentiating their students with time-consuming strategies but at a pace that is comfortable for the students. The teachers should build teaching concepts on issues that are familiar to students. For example, a teacher may collaborate with a media specialist who would provide him with a variety of reading sources for those units that have been taught previously in class to enable the students to understand better (Sagepub, n.d).

The learning of the brain

Human brains share certain general characteristics in terms of intake and sense-making. However, individual brains differ in the way in which they process, recognize, adapt to teaching practices, the emotional significance they give to new information, and how they respond to the materials that are available in the learning environment (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011).

The brain discloses a communication network which comprises of other smaller networks. These networks function collectively and distinctively as the students engage in the learning process. These smaller brain systems comprise of recognition network, strategic network, and affective network (Sagepub, n.d). The recognition network enables students to associate the actual meaning of a concept with certain ideas and information to develop a better understanding of the concept. The strategic network allows students to plan, carry out and monitor the actions that they take regarding a certain concept. The affective network assigns emotional value to any new information that a student receives.

Universal design for learning (UDL)

This is a differentiation approach in curriculum design that influences how the brain learns. It relates to flexibility, skills, and the strategies that students use while learning (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). When teachers adopt this approach, they can effectively accommodate their students with the various learning challenges present in schools and other learning environments.

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Differentiation involves the involvement of the learner in the learning process and the interaction of the learner to the strategic instruction that he is given. It suggests that teachers should make it their duty to understand the nature of their students by looking at how they respond to instructions and assessment (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011). They should understand that the learning differences among students are influenced by their biology and their learning environment. The teachers should, therefore, make it their duty to challenge their students’ knowledge, skills, and experiences meaningfully. They should also provide the students with the necessary support to help them succeed academically.


This analysis has demonstrated that differentiation involves understanding the various learning needs of students as determined by their readiness, interests, and learning profiles (Sagepub, n.d). For students to be successful academically, they should be exposed to learning environments that they enjoy. Teachers should provide their students with all the necessary support that would enable their students to succeed. Moreover, they should expose the students to their preferred modes of learning and to areas where they demonstrate a high level of intelligence.


Sagepub. (n.d). Differentiation and the Learning Brain. Web.

Sousa, D., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2011). Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner-friendly Classroom. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.