There could be two answers here: a) it is good for your students, and b) many accrediting bodies have it as a requirement for your school’s continuing acceptance in their recognition.
The term “equitable” can be useful when it comes to explaining differentiation. Doing something equitably means that your students get what they need, and when they need it in terms of instruction. This is where differentiation comes in. You can think of differentiation as being similar to you and four others looking at a road map for a large city. You can all find where you are, you can choose five different routes to get to where you want to go, and all five of you get there even though you all chose different routes.
Differentiation means that you plan your lessons to meet the varying learning needs and styles of your students. You can differentiate the content of your lesson, the process through which you deliver your lesson, and the product the students use to demonstrate their learning. It does not mean that you must have 25 lesson plans if you have 25 students. You can do these separately, or cohesively.
Depending on your school’s choice of curriculum, differentiation of product may feel like a challenge to you. Specifically, certain curriculum sets have strict standards for what students produce, especially pertaining to final exams, writing essays, and such. How do you balance this critical element for your students – prepare them for these events – while maintaining the philosophy of differentiation?
In your interactions with colleagues, both at your school or in your teacher training, you may have heard the phrase “teaching to the test” used in a negative light. Of course, that philosophy certainly can be negative.
However, if you consider the phrase in a different light, “teaching to the test” actually is an appropriate term for the "start with the end in mind" style of lesson planning discussed earlier (i.e. start with how the students need to be able to demonstrate the learning, then design the teaching and learning strategies backward from there).
There is no doubt that at your school, you will have students with special educational needs in your classes. Each school (and even school systems) has its own guidelines, and capacities, to assist students in this manner.
No matter what the school or curriculum, you will see common aspects (even though these aspects may have different names). You will see situations concerning accommodations, modifications, and Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
With that in mind, your key point is to know what the curriculum set expects students to be able to produce – for instance, a large essay to be evaluated externally. As the teacher, you must know how to connect (and more importantly, have the STUDENTS be able to connect) the differentiation to the eventual standardized product your students will have to produce. To further the large essay analogy, students may organize their rough drafts in different ways based on their preferred style – written, story-board, mind- mapping with numbered progressions, note cards, and so on – but all will have to coalesce around the formal written essay.
There are many ways to work with differentiation. Your capacity to do so will grow over time. Don’t be afraid to give some choice to the students, appropriate to age and grade – it doesn’t mean that you are giving up your responsibilities. When students feel like they have some ownership over their learning, you are more likely to gain favorable results.