Skip to main content

How children learn best is determined by a multitude of factors, including learning style, personality, cultural background, schema, and background information. Teachers have a responsibility to reach all learners, adapting the curricula to create innovative delivery techniques, meaningful examples and appropriate assessments. In particular, teachers must adapt curricula to meet the needs of students with different learning styles and diverse cultural backgrounds.

Adapting Curricula Is Not Just a Special Needs Issue

Although more and more classrooms include students with identified special needs — whether cognitive, physical or behavioral — curricula adaptation is appropriate for all students. Although individualized instruction for each student is not possible or practical, it is in the students’ best interest that teachers recognize the responsibility they have accepted to teach to all types of learners, not just those who fall within the vague parameters of “grade-level” or “average.”

Adapting Curricula for Diverse Learning Styles

In 1995, Neil D. Fleming, Director of the Education Centre in Canterbury New Zealand, wrote an article titled “I’m different; not dumb; Modes of presentation (V.A.R.K.) in the tertiary classroom.” In this article, Fleming described four distinct modes of learning:

  • Visual learners prefer to use images, maps and graphic organizers to access and understand new information.
  • Auditory learners learn best through listening (from lectures) and speaking (from group discussions).
  • Read-and-write learners learn best through words, taking notes and reading.
  • Kinesthetic learners understand information best through tactile representations and hands-on activities.

Teachers who adapt curricula for students with different learning styles also use one or more types of adaptations of content, process or product to ensure each student has fair and equitable access to materials, concepts and assessments.

  • Adapted content — When, for example, students are learning research skills, they select a topic interesting to them. When studying reading elements, they select books that appeal to their own tastes.
  • Adapted process — Students may access materials online, in appropriately-leveled books, interviews or primary artifacts.
  • Adapted product — Students demonstrate mastery or understanding in a product compatible with their learning style. They may write a report, create a video, record a podcast, or, if appropriate, sculpt or draw.

Acknowledging that students have a variety learning styles — and may have more than one style — provides students an opportunity to offer proof of understanding or skill development in the manner most natural and authentic.

Adapting Curricula for Multicultural Classrooms

In addition to learning styles, students bring a variety of cultures and backgrounds to the classroom. In order to make learning meaningful for each of these students, teachers make use of authentic examples of diverse cultural norms. By including more familiar examples, teachers create a sense of identity for those students who may be unfamiliar with the generic ideas, characters or individuals presented in widely used publications and texts.

For example,

  • Educational experiences should allow students to explore information, issues and themes from multiple cultural and national perspectives.
  • Students should be able to identify with the people and situations in the examples and stories used in instructional materials.
  • Historic figures, whether factual or fictional, should be presented as realistic, well-rounded people in a culturally accurate framework.

Learning to Adapt Curricula

Graduate students who earn a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Mississippi College are prepared to “Adapt curricula and instructional strategies to meet the diverse and changing needs and learning preferences of students.” Upon completion of this program, you will have the skills and background necessary to make learning more exciting and relevant to all of your students in every subject area and lesson.

Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.


VARK: I’m Different; Not Dumb — Modes of Presentation (V.A.R.K.) in the Tertiary Classroom

Teach: All Students Are Created Equally (and Differently)

Education Week: Response: Differentiating Lessons by ‘Content, Process, or Product’

Related Articles


200 S. Capitol Street, Clinton, MS 39056