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Differentiated Instruction: Education for all. Nate Frank, I.C. Philosophy.

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“What we call differentiation is not a recipe for teaching. It is not an instructional strategy. It is not what a teacher does when he or she has time. It is a way of thinking about teaching and learning. It is a philosophy.”

~ Carol Ann Tomlinson (2000)

problem defined a paradigm shift
Problem Defined – A Paradigm Shift?
  • “Society demands schools produce students with the complex intellectual skills that are needed by the ‘knowledge society’” (1976 b.g.)
  • Industrial Age to Information Age

“unfettered information flow”

3. “We can no longer accept the unequal student outcomes that have characterized American schools for generations.”

~ M. McLaughlin and J. Talbert

spring grove high school
Spring Grove High School

PSSA Math Scores – Six Years

School Gr. # Proficiency Adv. Prof. Basic Bel. Bas.

spring grove middle school
Spring Grove Middle School

PSSA Math Scores – Six Years

School Gr # Proficiency Adv. Prof. Basic Bel Bas

central york high school
Central York High School

PSSA Math Scores – Six Years

School Gr. # Proficiency Adv Prof. Basic Bel. Bas. Yr.

central york middle
Central York Middle

PSSA Math Scores – Six Years

School Gr. # Proficiency Adv Prof Basic Bel Bas Year

are we only teaching 50 of the kids
Are We Only Teaching 50% of the kids?
  • High School emphasis on responsibility – Are children mature enough to make the responsible choice?
  • Is this an acceptable excuse for overburdened teachers to “give up” on a child? “If he doesn’t care, then how can I?”
  • I, personally, was not mature enough to make the choice to excel academically until 11th grade. Before that, my parents made the choice for me. I was going to go to college.period.
  • “High school diploma is worth $280,000”
  • If I misbehaved or made a poor choice in school, my parents came to the school and shadowed me
  • I made numerous bad choices outside of school!
  • Parents, socioeconomic status, geography, etc. greatly impact a child’s chances – Is this fair? What can teachers do about it?
what happens to the students who don t succeed in school
What Happens to the Students Who Don’t Succeed In School?
  • The total adult correctional population includes incarcerated inmates as well as probationers and parolees living in the community. On December 31, 2000, there were:
  • 3,839,532 men and women on probation,
  • 725,527 on parole,
  • 1,312,354 in federal and state prisons, and
  • 621,149 in local jails.
  • At the end of 2000, 91,612 women were in state or federal prisons, representing 6.6% of all prison inmates.

93.4% of inmates are male! Are we serving our boys?(U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 08/28/01, p1)

effects of selective education
Effects of “Selective Education”
  • EducationIn 1997, state prison inmates' educational levels were:
  • 14.2% had an 8th grade education or less;
  • 28.9% had some high school education;
  • 25.1% had a GED;
  • 18.5% were high school graduates;
  • 10.7% had some college education; and
  • 2.7% were college graduates or had advanced degrees.(U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000, p48, Table 4.1)
  • Is this fair?
traditional system
Traditional System

My son is a first year student at the exclusive Small World Learning Academy

His teachers are currently using the traditional model of teaching prevalent in our nation’s high schools

two week unit on crawling for all 11 month olds
Two-Week Unit on Crawlingfor All 11-month olds
  • Instruction Begins: Direct Instruction on knowledge, history, and application through lecture
  • Observations - it is recorded that my son is having trouble focusing – the teacher says “He’s so distractible!” and “He has NO attention span!” She has to quiet him often.
  • Several students are paying close attention and satisfying the teacher. Her thoughts on the lesson are mixed. She’s concerned about a few students, but happy others are doing well. Overall, she’s exhausted.

Review Day: After the two-week lesson is complete, the teacher spends a day reviewing crawling and telling students how they can do well on the test. “Anyone can pass if they just pay attention and try!” she says.

Summative Assessment Begins:

My son starts off well -

10 points – used arms to raise head off of ground – Teacher praises!

summative assessment problems begin
Summative Assessment: Problems Begin:

My son is unable to move his arms and legs forward into a crawling motion - 20 points

He gets frustrated and begins to roll over - 10 points

The teacher encourages him to keep trying – “You can do it!”

assessment over failure
Assessment Over - Failure!

My son fails miserably – 10/30 = 33%

10 out of 12 students pass – 2 of whom were so exceptional that they tried to stand up and walk!

The one-year-old room is contacted about the two “trouble” students

A discussion begins over how these two can be isolated so they don’t hold the rest of the

class back.

Teacher justifies failures (they didn’t study or try), but still does not feel quite right...

solution differentiate silly
Solution? Differentiate Silly...

I’m different than the other kids. Please teach me to my strengths, interests, and abilities. My mommy and daddy would really appreciate your caring concern.

By the way...Can I take

a re-test?

traditional high school something isn t quite right
Traditional High School:Something isn’t Quite Right
  • The example with my son is an extreme exaggeration (we’d never treat babies that way!) and barely fits as analogous to our current school; however, the time between age 0-2 is the greatest growth spurt humans encounter. The second largest growth spurt occurs in adolescence between the ages of 13-18. Is it really that absurd of a comparison?
  • Current Practices to Ponder:
    • Tracking – Terminology (Career, Consumer, Concepts)
    • The hope of Alternative Education
    • Inclusion Classes – Lack of co-teaching
    • Competition in Schools – Grades? G.P.A.? Class Rank? Real World? What if teaching profession operated this way?
    • Individual Teacher Islands – “What’s your name again?”
    • Can all kids learn? Reading? Spanish? Computers? Algebra II?
d i defined
D.I. Defined

“Differentiated instruction is a teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum lockstep, teachers should modify their instruction to meet students’ varying readiness levels, learning preferences, and interests. Therefore, the teacher proactively plans a variety of ways to ‘get at’ and express learning.”

~ Carol Ann Tomlinson


DefinitionDifferentiating instruction is doing what’s fair for students. It’s a collection of best practices strategically employed to maximize students’ learning at every turn, including giving them the tools to handle anything that is undifferentiated. It requires us to do different things for different students some, or a lot, of the time. It’s whatever works to advance the student if the regular classroom approach doesn’t meet students’ needs. It’s highly effective teaching. ~ Rick Wormeli


What is fair…

…isn’t always equal.

why we differentiate
Why we differentiate

“In the end, all learners need your energy, your heart, and your mind. They have that in common because they are young humans. How they need you, however, differs. Unless we understand and respond to all those differences, we fail many learners.”

~ Tomlinson (2001)

philosophy of differentiation
Philosophy of Differentiation

“Students for whom teachers have differentiated instruction learn well…They see classmates as being at different points on the same journey, and differences from their own point on the journey are not seen as weak – just different. They are not threatened by difference; it’s seen as strength. These students consider themselves beginners at some things, experts in others, and this variance is natural.”

– Rick Wormeli

components of a differentiated classroom
Components of a Differentiated Classroom
  • Changing Roles of Teachers

(and students)

  • Tiering

Lessons and Assignments

3. Student Choice and Anchor Activities

  • Criterion-Referenced Differentiated Assessment Pre-Tests

Formative Assessments Summative Assessments

changing role of teachers
Changing Role of Teachers
  • “When teachers differentiate instruction, they move away from seeing themselves as keepers and dispensers of knowledge and move toward seeing themselves as organizers of learning opportunities.”

DI teachers move away from the role of

“Sage on the Stage”

and build expertise in the role of

“Guide on the Side.”

~ Tomlinson

why change
Why Change?
  • We can’t “just” be content experts – “outsource” teacher jobs to expert professionals
  • Current situation – 5 min. social / lecture for 30 min. / last 5 min. social – Kids need to talk! Let’s use it to our advantage.
  • Collaborative Problem solving - Structure entire class around academics – no wasted time
  • “Varied routine” “Caring concern”
  • Teacher moving around room interacting with kids – Individualizing the content for each child
  • Teach kids how to interact and how to function without the teacher present
why collaborate
Why collaborate?
  • C.A. – Teaching oxymorons
  • Begin class – “My son’s name is oxymoronic. What is his name?”
  • Would you rather work alone or in a group
  • “No talking!” or “You may problem solve with classmates.”
  • “Stay in your seat!” or “Use the classroom resources to assist you.”
connect the islands
Connect the Islands
  • “students do better academically in a school where their teachers take collective responsibility for the success of all students” (V. Lee and colleagues – National Longitudinal Study of 1988)


  • Children learn at an early age that they are being sorted, ranked, and classified according to ‘ability” in the daily competition for schools’ rewards: teacher approval, smiley faces, privileges, honors, bumper stickers, top grades, membership in the top groups...The paradigm currently prevalent in schools,...promotes competition and excellence. But if one is to ‘compete’ and to ‘excel,’ the implication is that others must lose, even fail...In order to compete abroad, we must cooperate at home.” ~ James Mahoney
the teacher
The Teacher

“In her classroom our speculations ranged the world. She aroused us to book waving discussions. Every morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts, new ideas cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies. When she went away a sadness came over us, but the light did not go out. She left her signature upon us, the literature of the teacher who writes on children’s minds. I’ve had many teachers who taught us soon forgotten things, but only a few like her who created in me a new thing, a new attitude, a new hunger. I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that teacher. What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person.”

~ John Steinbeck “Like Captured Fireflies”



Grade Level Readiness

Early Readiness


To adjust a lesson, assignment, or assessment to a developmentally appropriate level based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile; most often done by increasing or decreasing the complexity, not the workload or difficulty of a task

4 Premises of Tiering:

First premise: One must start tiering by expecting every student to demonstrate full proficiency with the standard and nothing less.

* Essential Understandings Drive!

4 premises of tiering cont
4 Premises of Tiering cont.
  • Second premise: One must realize that most of the material we teach has subsets of skills and content that we can break down for students and explore at length.
  • Third premise: There will not always be a high, medium, and low tier, so don’t get caught in the cycle of “blue birds” “red birds” and “buzzards!”
  • Fourth premise: We don’t tier every aspect of every lesson. When giving the same assignment, we might just extend the time period for some without adjusting the level of complexity.
bloom s taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy

Cognitive Domain

  • Knowledge: collect describe identify list show tell define examine label name retell state quote match record copy Examples: dates, events, places, vocabulary, key ideas, parts of diagram, 5Ws
  • Comprehension: compare distinguish interpret predict differentiate contrast describe discuss estimate group summarize convert explain paraphrase restate trace Examples: find meaning and interpret facts
  • Application: apply classify change illustrate solve demonstrate calculate complete solve show experiment act administer collect compute construct determine develop produce report teach transfer use Examples: use information in new situations and solve problems
  • Analysis: analyze arrange divide infer separate classify compare contrast explain order correlate diagram discriminate illustrate infer outline prioritize subdivide Examples: recognize and explain patterns and meaning, see parts and wholes
  • Synthesis: combine generalize modify invent plan substitute create formulate integrate rearrange design speculate adapt collaborate compile devise express facilitate reinforce structure substitute intervene negotiate reorganize validate Examples: discuss "what if" situations, create new ideas, predict and draw conclusions
  • Evaluation: assess compare decide discriminate measure rank test convince conclude explain grade judge support appraise criticize defend persuade justify reframe Examples: make recommendations, assess value and make choices, critique ideas
multiple intelligences
Multiple Intelligences

Eight Ways of Being Smart

  • Verbal-Linguistic: reading, writing, telling stories, memorizing dates, thinking in words.read, write, talk, memorize, work at puzzles.reading, hearing and seeing words, speaking, writing, discussing and debating.
  • Math-Logic: math, reasoning, logic, problem-solving, patterns.solve problems, question, work with numbers, experiment.working with patterns and relationships, classifying, categorizing, working with the abstract.
  • Spatial: reading, maps, charts, drawing, mazes, puzzles, imaging things, visualization.design, draw, build, create, daydream, look at pictures.working with pictures and colors, visualizing, drawing.
  • Bodily- Kinesthetic: athletics, dancing, acting, crafts, using tools.move around, touch and talk, body language.touching, moving, processing knowledge through bodily sensations.
  • Musical: singing, picking up sounds, remembering melodies, rhythms.sing, hum, play an instrument, listen to music.rhythm, melody, singing, listening to music and melodies.
  • Interpersonal: understanding people, leading, organizing, communicating, resolving conflicts, selling.have friends, talk to people, join groups.sharing, comparing, relating, interviewing, cooperating.
  • Intrapersonal: understanding self, recognizing strengths and weaknesses, setting goals.work alone, reflect, pursue interests.working alone, doing self-paced projects, having space, reflecting.
  • Naturalist: understanding nature, making distinctions, identifying flora and fauna.be involved with nature, make distinctions.working in nature, exploring things, learning about plants and natural events.
Scaffolding -- Providing extended and direct support to students, then slowly pulling pieces of this support away until the student is autonomous regarding the skill or content

Tiering – Changing the level of complexity or required readiness of a task or unit of study in order to meet the developmental needs of the students involved


12 Strategies for Inclusion and Differentiation by Ellen Arnold

  • Provide students with meaningful activities to work on when they have free time
  • Usually, for individuals to work alone, but okay for pairs or small groups
  • Always related to content and skills being taught
  • Set of activities from which students can pick
  • Engaging and easy to pick up or put down throughout the day or week
westward expansion anchor activities
Westward Expansion Anchor Activities

“During the course of our venture through the West, you will possibly have extra time when you have completed various tasks. During this ‘free’ time, you are going to complete three of the Anchor Activities listed below as part of your journey West. These will be assessed using the Anchor Activity Rubric.”

1. Choose an important event that took place during Westward Expansion and explain how technological improvements impacted this event.

2. Select an important person from the Westward Expansion era. Write a letter to that person asking any questions you would like to have answered.

3. Create a chart and find four similarities and four differences between the Mexican War and our current war in Iraq.

4. Describe how James K. Polk defeated the very popular Henry Clay in the election of 1844. What was his platform and how did he win?

5. Research five ghost towns of the West. What happened to these towns to cause them to ‘disappear’?

6. Construct a Conestoga Wagon and describe the various parts. What supplies were taken on the trip west?

7. Research the Donner Party experience. Write a different ending to this tragic event.

8. Research the wildlife seen on the trip West. How was this habitat different from the habitat in the east?

from Bev and Troy Strayer “Low-Prep D.I. Strategies”

raft science based on multiple intelligences by bev and troy strayer low prep d i strategies
RAFT – Science, based on Multiple Intelligencesby Bev and Troy Strayer, “Low-Prep D.I. Strategies”

Biome Tic Tac ToeYou must choose at least three activities in the Tic Tack Toe design. by Bev and Troy Strayer, “Low-Prep D.I. Strategies”


Cubing is a literacy strategy which uses a concrete visual of a cube with its six slides to serve as a starting point for consideration of the multiple dimensions of topics within subject areas. The students examine the topic using the prompts from the six sides of the cube.

1. Describe It: If applicable, include color, shape, size. How would you describe the issue/topic?

2. Compare It: What is it similar to or different from. It’s sort of like_________

3. Associate It: What it makes you think of. How does the topic connect to other issues / subjects?

4. Analyze It: Tell how it is made or what it is composed of. How would you break the problem / issue into smaller parts?

5. Apply It: Tell how it can be used. How does it help you understand other topics / issues?

6. Argue for / against it. Take a stand and support it. I am for this because_______. This works because___. I agree because________.


Make a list of six

equivalent fractions

for 5/6.

Roll one fraction die

and draw it using

circles, squares, and


Create a story problem

using the fractions

2/3 and 7/8

Roll one fraction die

and decide what you

would have to add to

the fraction to get a

whole. Write the


Roll one die and

use that number

for the denominator.

What would be the

numerator to create a


Create two fractions that

are more than ¼ and two

fractions that are less than


by Bev and Troy Strayer, “Low-Prep D.I. Strategies”

assessment 2
Assessment # 2

Who’s the Best?

differentiated assessment
Differentiated Assessment

Define Each Grade





E or F:

interesting the relative nature of grades
Interesting:The Relative Nature of Grades

“The score a student receives on a test is more dependent on who scores the test and how they score it than it is on what the student knows and understands.”

-- Marzano, Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work (CAGTW), p. 30

This quarter, you’ve taught:
  • 4-quadrant graphing
  • Slope and Y-intercept
  • Multiplying binomials
  • Ratios/Proportions
  • 3-dimensional solids
  • Area and Circumference of a circle.

The student’s grade: B

What does this mark tell us about the student’s proficiency with each of the topics you’ve taught?

Office of Educational Research and Improvement Study (1994):

Students in impoverished communities that receive high grades in English earn the same scores as C and D students in affluent communities.

Math was the same: High grades in impoverished schools equaled only the D students’ performance

in affluent schools.

  • The Latin root of assessment is, “assidere,” which means, “to sit beside.”
  • “Too often, educational tests, grades, and report cards are treated by teachers as autopsies when they should be viewed as physicals.” ~ Doug Reeves
  • “It would be ludicrous to practice the doctor’s physical exam as a way of becoming fit and well. The reality is the opposite: If we are physically fit and do healthy things, we will pass the physical. The separate items on the physical are not meant to be taught and crammed for; rather, they serve as indirect measures of our normal healthful living. Multiple-choice answers correlate with more genuine abilities and performance; yet mastery of those test items doesn’t cause achievement.”

~ Grant Wiggins Understanding By Design

criterion referenced vs norm referenced
Criterion-Referenced vs. Norm-Referenced

Criterion-Referenced: Using standards, objectives, or benchmarks as the reference points for determining students’ achievement

Norm-Referenced: Using other students’ performances as the reference point for determining students’ achievement


Used to indicate students’ readiness for content and skill development. Used to guide instructional decisions.

Formative Assessments

These are in-route checkpoints, frequently done. They provide ongoing and clear feedback to students and the teacher, informing instruction and reflecting subsets of the essential and enduring knowledge. They are where successful differentiating teachers spend most of their energy – assessing formatively and providing timely feedback to students and practice.

Summative Assessments

These are given to students at the end of the learning to document growth and mastery. They match the learning objectives and experiences, and they are negotiable if the product is not the literal standard. They reflect most, if not all, of the essential and enduring knowledge. They are not very helpful forms of feedback.

Be clear: We grade against standards, not routes students take or techniques teachers use to achieve those standards.

What does this mean we should do with class participation, homework, attendance, effort, behavior, or discussion grades?

great differentiated assessment is never kept in the dark
Great differentiated assessment is never kept in the dark.

“Students can hit any target they can see and which stands still for them.”

-- Rick Stiggins, Educator and Assessment expert

If a child ever asks, “Will this be on the test?”.….we haven’t done our job.

why do we grade
Why Do We Grade?
  • Provide feedback
  • Document progress
  • Guide instructional decisions


  • Motivate
  • Punish
  • Sort students
10 Practices to Avoid in a Differentiated Classroom[They Dilute a Grade’s Validity and Effectiveness]

1. Penalizing students’ multiple attempts at mastery

2. Grading practice (daily homework) as students come to know concepts [Feedback, not grading, is needed]

3. Withholding assistance (not scaffolding or differentiating) in the learning when it’s needed

4. Group grades

5. Incorporating non-academic factors (behavior, attendance, and effort)

6. Assessing students in ways that do not accurately indicate students’ mastery (student responses are hindered by the assessment format)

7. Grading on a curve

8. Allowing Extra Credit

9. Defining supposedly criterion-based grades in terms of norm-referenced descriptions (“above average,” “average”, etc.)

10. Recording zeroes for work not done

Are we interested more in holding students accountable

or making sure they learn?

Avoid, “learn or I will hurt you” measures. (Nancy Doda)

  • (2006) Differentiated instruction for today’s classroom. Performance Learning Systems.
  • (2005) Midwest conference on differentiated instruction: grades 5-12 Resource Book. Staff Development for Educators.
  • Strayer, Bev and Troy Strayer. Low-prep differentiated instruction techniques. Red Lion Area Schools
    • Thank you to D. Thatcher for these first three resources!
  • McLaughlin, M. and J. Talbert. (2006). Building school-based teacher learning communities. New York: Teachers College Press
  • Wormeli, Rick. (2006). Fair isn’t always equal: assessing and grading in the differentiated classroom. Westerville, OH: Stenhouse Publishers.
great websites for learning more about differentiated instruction1
Great Websites for Learning More about Differentiated Instruction
  • www.sde.com/Conferences/Differentiated-Instruction/DIResources
  • www.learnerslink.com/curriculum
  • www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/teaching_techniques/modified_concerto (article by Wormeli)
  • www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/science/instr/differstrategies
  • www.ascd.org/portal/site/ascd/menuitem.3adeebc6736780dddeb3ffdb62108a0c/