My Thoughts About Differentiated Instruction in Clinical Teaching

I Learn Poster

Recently I started working as an adjunct clinical instructor. In this setting I will work with dental students as they provide dental hygiene treatment to patients. I believe good teachers have an excellent understanding of the content they teach, experience with using that knowledge effectively, and that they take time to really get to know their students. Tomlinson and Moon (2013) stated that teachers should get to know their students and their leaning preferences because each student is different and has unique needs for learning. I feel it is important for teachers to be flexible in their approach to adapt to the needs of their students. Applying this concept to clinical teaching may mean that I spend extra time re-teaching previous instruction, but altering my presentation to accommodate the learning style of the student (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013). Building trust from my adult students as a new teacher and simply being new to the environment in which I am currently teaching is essential. I want them to be receptive to my instruction and trust that I know what I am talking about (Tomlinson, 2013).

coffee:tobacco stain

In class this week we discussed various ways in which differentiated instruction empowers students to make choices about their learning readiness, the process for learning and the product, which demonstrates their learning. One of the strategies that I keep thinking about in regards to the clinical teaching environment is student-teacher goal setting and learning contracts. By starting with an informal assessment of student understanding I can determine what a student knows about the learning target and then differentiate my instruction based on what I know of their learning preferences and their knowledge thus far. Student-teacher goal setting and learning contracts provide an opportunity for students, with guidance of the instructor to set a reasonable learning goal to demonstrate their understanding (Tomlinson, 2001). While teaching in the clinical setting, a student may have a patient with very heavy tobacco and coffee stain in which they are responsible for removing. An example of a student-teacher goal might be a discussion in which the student discusses plausible ways in which the stain can be removed. After they decide upon a course of action, the student carries out the process. In this same discussion, if I have gained the trust of the student they will be more likely to use my suggested approach based on my dental hygiene experience.


Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Tomlinson, C. A. (2013, July 30). Differentiation and the brain: A discussion with carol-ann tomlinson [Video file]. Retrieved September 13, 2015 from

Tomlinson, C. A., & Moon, T. R. (2013). Assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.


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