Another technique that teachers can use to address differentiation and keep their classroom learning student-centered is project-based learning.
First, a definition: Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. PBL can be done individually or in groups, but here we'll focus only on group PBL to keep with the spirit of collaboration.
PBL is student-centered, as the students generally develop their own problem or question, engage in an extended process of asking questions, researching, and applying information gathered in new and creative ways. Students guide how they work and what they create. After a project is completed, students reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them. Students also give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
Differentiation can be achieved through creative grouping of students. For example, in a novel- or literature-based PBL project, it might be appropriate to differentiate by grouping into reading level. You can differentiate groups for academic ability, collaboration skills, social-emotional purposes, or student interest and passions, among many other options. This allows teachers to more effectively circulate between groups and direct their attention where it is needed most. Teachers can also pull certain groups or individuals aside for mini-lessons.
Differentiation can also be achieved in how students present their finished work. Teachers can allow students to show what they know in a variety of ways. Oral, written, graphic organizer, mind map, etc. By allowing students flexibility in how they work, how they are assessed, and what they focus on, your project based learning is both student-centered and differentiated at the same time.
Why Project-Based Learning (PBL)? (2016). Retrieved from http://bie.org/about/why_pbl
6 Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning (2016). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-strategies-pbl-andrew-miller