Unit Four: Implementing Differentiated Instruction


Shows various tools to use in classroom instruction.

Target Objectives

Learners will be able to design and choose to use appropriate differentiated instruction activities in response to data analysis results.

Unit Objectives

  • Generate teaching materials guided by data analysis results
  • Appreciate the usefulness of differentiated instruction to address various student needs

Bringing It All Together

By now you should have gained some experience with analyzing data from student work and should have an idea of which specific areas with which students need more practice. So now what? Well, now you need to start taking that data into consideration when planning for instruction.

If students are generally successful with interpreting charts and diagrams, then give them different kinds of charts or diagrams to interpret or go on to something else in general while still giving practice to those students who lack mastery. On the other hand, if you notice many students are lacking vocabulary strength, perform more activities involving practice with and exposure to current vocabulary terms.

However, to adhere to the true meaning of DI, you want to strive to give students variations of the same activity to allow students to reach the same outcomes, but in a way that is most beneficial for their learning. For instance, giving each student homework in their area to improve would be a simple way to start differentiating instruction. In the book, “Teachers, Change Your Bait!” Kaufeldt gives an example of a math sheet used to give students individual practice. Media:Ind_math.JPG Similar sheets can be created and used for other subject areas as well to make assigning different tasks more organized for teachers!

Another example of an activity that takes advantage of DI is creating a “tiered assignment.” Diane Heacox describes tiered assignments as, “… differentiated learning tasks and projects that you develop based on your diagnosis of students’ needs. When you use tiered assignments with flexible instructional groups, you are prescribing particular assignments to particular groups of students. Within each group you decide whether students do the task alone, with a partner, or as a collaborative team” (as cited in Kaufeldt 2005, p. 97). Heacox also “describes six ways that you can use tiered activities to reach and teach all learners. 1) Tier by challenge; 2) Tier by complexity; 3) Tier by resources; 4) Tier by outcomes; 5) Tier by process; and 6) Tier by product” (as cited in Kaufeldt 2005, p. 97).

These are two examples of tiered assignments – for a newspaper search and for a novel study. Media:Tiered_examples.pdf

Now It’s Your Turn!

Once you have had a chance to look through these examples, and any others from your or your colleagues’ classroom, try creating your own DI activity or incorporating differentiated materials into an existing lesson plan. Make sure to differentiate the materials based on the needs of students that you discovered during data analysis. If possible, try to make the materials for an upcoming lesson so you can have practice with it and get feedback from your students.

For example, I chose to have students review material in a jigsaw format. The students were in “expert groups” based on what they needed to practice. Though this might be an area in which they struggle, they are working with others (and me) to come up with appropriate responses. Then, they get further practice in explaining their “expert” questions to others during the second grouping of the jigsaw.

Post your example in the discussion area and share your ideas with other participants.


Use any format you choose to reflect upon the following questions.

1. What are your thoughts on putting together differentiated materials? Many teachers think it requires some extra time. Do you think the outcome is worth the possible additional time and effort?
2. What impact do you think DI has on the students? (Perhaps think about how you would feel getting better at something with which you struggle because you had extra practice with it…)
3. In Unit One, you were asked to write down some ways in which DI is useful in today’s classrooms. Please extend on these ideas with your knowledge of data analysis – how can DI be useful in classrooms in light of results from data analysis? Do you think DI becomes more meaningful with the use of data?

Final Thoughts

I hope you have found this course useful! Being able to differentiate instruction is becoming more important in education today due to the great mixture of students teachers are encountering in their individual classrooms. Please leave any feedback on how to improve this course in the discussion area! Thank you!

Resources and References

Kaufeldt, M. (2005). Teachers, Change Your Bait! Brain-compatible differentiated instruction. Crown House Publishing Ltd.: Bethel, Connecticut.

Additional resources and references

Anderson, K. M. (2007). Differentiating instruction to include all students. Preventing School Failure, (51) 3, 49-56. Media:Anderson.pdf‎

Brimijoin, K. (2005). Differentiation and high-stakes testing: An oxymoron? Theory into Practice, 44 (3), 254-261. Media:Brimijoin.pdf

Henning, J.E. (2006). Teacher leaders at work: Analyzing standardized achievement data to improve instruction. Education, 126 (4), 729-737. Media:Henning.pdf

Lawrence-Brown, D. (2004). Differentiated instruction: Inclusive strategies for standards-based learning that benefit the whole class. American Secondary Education, 32 (3), 34-62. Media:Brown.pdf‎

Rock, M. L., Gregg, M., Ellis, E., and Gable, R. A. (2008). REACH: A framework for differentiating classroom instruction. Preventing School Failure, 52 (2), 31-47. Media:Reach.pdf‎

Sternberg, R. J. and Zhang, L. (2005). Styles of thinking as a basis of differentiated instruction. Theory into Practice, 44 (3), 245-253. Media:Zhang.pdf‎

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