Should we differentiate for different ‘learning profiles’?

Filling the pail

The concept of a ‘learning profile’ is critical to the model of differentiated instruction developed by Carol Ann Tomlinson and colleagues. It is this model that is often cited by researchers, alongside the diagrams-of-brains approach known as ‘Universal Design for Learning’ or ‘UDL’. For this reason, it is probably worth exploring the concept of learning profile more fully and to asking whether we should differentiate our lessons in response to these profiles.

According to Tomlinson, learning profiles consist of four elements: Learning style, Intelligence preference, Gender and Culture. I find Tomlinson difficult to pin down on the first two of these. Sometimes, she seems to conflate learning styles with multiple intelligences, yet at other times she is at pains to point out the distinction between them.

Learning styles theories are conceptually different to multiple intelligences. The former suggest that particular students learn best in particular ways. For…

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