Understanding SDI vs. Differentiation

There are a lot of terms and acronyms in special education that are important to understand.

Understanding the difference between Specifically Designed Instruction (SDI) and Differentiation is part of that.

SDI vs Differentiation

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to remember the difference between the two! Let’s look at the differences and why you might want to include one versus the other.

SDI and Differentiation: What’s the Difference?

Before we can talk about the differences, it is important that we understand what each term means and why and when it is used in special education. Let’s start by taking a look at differentiation.

Understanding Differentiation

In every educational setting, there are students that learn in different ways. That is not a unique thing to the special education classroom. When a teacher provides differentiation, he or she is giving students a chance to show what they know in a variety of different ways.

An example of differentiation could be in reporting on a book. The teacher may supply the students with a list of different ways in which they can show what they have learned that includes everything from a written book report to a diorama to a podcast or video.

The goal is not to alter the material or the lesson, but to give the students opportunities to demonstrate their abilities in the ways that work best for them.

Differentiation should and can be used in any classroom setting at any grade level.

So, what then is SDI?

The Lowdown on SDI

Specifically designed instruction is instruction that is designed for the student in question to meet their educational and IEP goals.

SDI is not something that everyone in the classroom uses, but is highly specific to the student.

Typically, teachers look at all areas of a student’s strengths and weaknesses to determine what the SDI should and can be. It is all encompassing and based on the individual student.

An example of SDI could be a highly specific way of introducing and teaching a student fractions based on their needs and educational goals. It would be a focused way of helping that child progress with math skills and designed in a way that focuses on his strengths.

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The Difference Between SDI and Differentiation

Once you understand the meaning of SDI and differentiation it is easy to see the difference between the two. SDI is specific to the individual. Differentiation is used to give all students a chance to demonstrate learning in ways that work best for them.

Differentiation is a method of teaching used with all students whereas SDI is a method of teaching used to address individual goals and needs.

SDI is also IEP specific, so it must be written in the IEP what type of SDI will be used and how it will be measured.

So, if you are providing different ways for all of your students to demonstrate what they have learned, that is considered differentiation.

If you are providing specific instruction and evaluation of learning to one student, that is SDI.

Both have their place and both can benefit students in special education.

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