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How to Differentiate Instruction for STEM

January 9, 2019

/ by

Jeff Hersh


Teachers today know the need to adjust instruction to meet the needs of all types of learners, and not just create one level of expectations. This means they need to identify what the individual student’s baseline of knowledge and skills is, discover their learning methods, and create differentiated assignments to meet those needs.


Fortunately, when it comes to STEM, the teaching methods effortlessly fit into a differentiated instruction model. STEM encourages students to come up with multiple solutions for the problems presented. It’s the act of problem solving, trying different and practical functions that is the cornerstone of STEM. It’s not about answering one be all answer, but rather the learning comes directly from the journey of discovery and trying different tactics. The open-ended nature of STEM allows for multiple solutions. A student only has so many ways to solve a typical math problem, but with a computational thinking task there are many ways to find answers.


STEM gives students ownership over their learning. The assignments are driven by a learner-centered model. This means that at its’ core, STEM is differentiated, because the student dictates the path of how they learn. What’s more important is the skills developed on their own will continue to influence future learning, and they are not just learning a theory or lesson, but rather technological skills that include research and practice. They are building on skills and seeing results in real time. This is an invaluable piece of their overall education.


If students are expected to achieve at the same level, there are always going to be a percentage of learners who only reach for the minimum and create a level of disinterest. Fostering an intrinsic motivation to learn is the crux of STEM. It offers teachers a clear path to differentiated instruction to reach and keep students of all levels engaged and motivated. It creates a learning environment that rewards intrinsic curiosity and a drive towards enrichment and functional skills.


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