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Differentiation refers to a variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students, with diverse learning needs, in the same course, classroom, or learning environment.

CIE Connection

For chess in education teachers, a key challenge is how to respond when facing a mix of students with different chess experience and skill levels. CIE best practices provide training in how to address this differentiation. Self-paced Internet-based chess instruction tools can be helpful in this regard.

Differentiating instruction gives students multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. Learning content, process, student products, and pace are major factors in differentiating learning in the classroom. (Tomlinson, 1999, 2020). Chess instruction and play naturally provide differentiated pace, as students are rated and paired with other players on their level.  Levels or ratings increase as students acquire skills, demonstrated by play or by other means of real-world assessment. Content, process, and product can be easily differentiated using a combination of traditional, hands on, and on-line chess instruction.  

Experience tells us that for something as simple as teaching how the knight moves, it is helpful to have a variety of teaching methods for different age groups and learning styles.

Differentiation in the classroom or club is commonly done by breaking up the class into groups, perhaps (but not always) based upon chess skill. For example, one group may be led by the instructor, a second group may work as a group or in pairs playing minigames, practicing key positions (such as promoting a pawn against a lone king), while a third group works independently using self-paced instructions from an Internet-based tool.

Further Reading

Cash, R. M. (2011). Advancing differentiation: Thinking and learning for the 21st Century. MN: Free Spirit Publishing.
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2020). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms, 3rd Edition. Alexandria Virginia: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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