Modification, Accommodations, and Differentiated Instruction

There is a lot of confusion between modification, accommodation, and differentiation, especially as these terms relate to special education. The intent of all three is that students receive support in the classroom and help students to learn.1


Modification of curriculum means to make a change in what is being taught to or expected from the student.2 Making an assignment easier so the student is not doing the same level of work as other students is an example of a modification.3 Generally, modifying curriculum is not recommended unless it is stated on a student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), since it involves altering student academic expectations.

About the Author

Dr. Pam Bruening

Dr. Bruening, was formerly the Collier County, Florida's, Director of RTI and PBS where she oversaw the planning, implementation, data collection, and monitoring of one of the nation's most accomplished and acclaimed RTI programs. Dr. Bruening holds a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership and Human Resources Development from Nova Southeastern University. She holds a Masters of Education in Reading from James Madison University. More importantly, she is one of the nation's preeminent experts in RTI, PBS, and behavioral initiatives and has incredible experience as an educator, administrator, strategist, and implementer of services.


Accommodations are intended to reduce or eliminate the effects of a student's disability.4 Accommodations do not decrease learning expectations and are noted on a student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Examples of accommodations include reading words out load, extra time for completion of standardized tests, shortening the lengths of longer tests.5

Students who have been made eligible for special education services are permitted, as stated on their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), to receive specific accommodations in the classroom and/or a modified curriculum based on their level of need. The IEP is written by the student's IEP Team which consists of parents and school personnel. The IEP is reviewed regularly by the team and adjusted according to data and the students' needs.

All students, including students who are not eligible for special education services, as well as students who do receive special education services, should receive high quality instruction in the classroom at all times. This should include the use of researched best practices in teaching as well as appropriate differentiation of instruction.6

Differentiation of Instruction

Differentiation of instruction is the process of teaching in a way to meet the needs of students with differing abilities in the same class.7 One way to do this is by providing several different avenues by which all students can learn the same material.8 In differentiating instruction, teachers plan out and implement a variety of approaches to content, process, and product. Differentiated instruction is used to meet the needs of student differences in readiness, interests, and learning needs.



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