Friday, January 28, 2011

Differentiation - what does it look like?

This post is based on the book Differentiation in Practice by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Caroline Cunningham Eidson.

Last year some teachers from school went on a workshop in Rome about differentiation.  It was great to have a talk about this workshop with one of the teachers on her return.  Now I'm reading about what a differentiated classroom looks like.

  1. A strong link between assessment and instruction - pre-assessment is very important and forms the basis on which lessons are planned.  Assessment, both formal and informal, is ongoing throughout the unit of inquiry, so that teaching can be adjusted to ensure students are making progress.  It's important that there is choice - more than one way of students being able to show what they know, understand and can do.
  2. Clear learning goals for all students and a good knowledge of skills and understanding that precede and extend beyond the grade-level curriculum so the teacher can help students make up their learning deficits or can challenge those who need their learning extended.
  3. Flexible groupings - sometimes whole class, sometimes individuals, sometimes based on similar learning needs or interests and sometimes mixed-readiness groups.  It's important students have the opportunities to mix with a wide range of peers.
  4. Flexible use of time, space and materials 
  5. Students are involved in the workings of the classroom - for example making class rules/essential agreements, helping other students, keeping records of their goals, doing various class jobs - all of which contribute to a sense of community.
  6. The emphasis is on individual growth and on students achieving their personal best - each student is stretched - tasks are difficult but achievable.
  7. Teachers have high standards for their own personal growth
  8. Teachers work with specialists to meet students' needs - second language teachers, learning support teachers, gifted education teachers and counsellors are all partners.
Photo Credit:  Colors by Brian


  1. Maggie,
    Good morning from Hong Kong.
    I just wanted to say that I really really enjoy reading your blog. I always learn from it and I often tweet it and share it at school.
    Thanks for all of your hard work!

  2. Thanks Neil,
    I love the way that blogging has enabled me to connect with great educators around the world like yourself, who have helped to push my thinking forward, which has made me a better teacher. Everyone benefits from sharing ideas!

  3. Maggie, I will echo Neil, every time I visit your blog I am challenged as an educator and a learner. I look forward to that!

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