Dismantling the bell curve

The last chapter explored how study groups allow students to "share the wealth".  By having students who have mastered the material work with students who haven’t, study groups provide a powerful mechanism to offset the bell curve of motivation and ability.  However, this approach alone is not enough. It does not allow the most successful students to be challenged sufficiently or the least successful to work independently as much as they need to master the material.  

Well-designed differentiation complements the work of study groups by providing a range of challenges appropriate for every student.


In order to give each student the support he needs, it is essential that each student be able to work at the appropriate level of challenge for him at that moment, whether this means remediation and practice or enrichment work.

Furthermore, the range of student learning styles must be addressed.  For instance, to accommodate visual, auditory, and tactile-kinetic learners, activities that use all three modes should be available in learning any given material.

Cultivating a sense of belonging

When a class does not use differentiation, students are apt to feel like cogs in an educational machine — the class marches through the curriculum whether its individual members are lost, discouraged, or bored.  When a class becomes responsive to their needs, however, they feel that they are being heard, they are truly part of something greater. This sense of belonging is critical in creating the desired classroom culture.