#diffimooc Week 3: DI decisions

In making decisions on how/when to differentiate instruction many factors play a role in the decisions I make. One of the key factor is assessments: formative, summative, interest based, exit tickets, observation, etc. I try to use multiple ways to assess my students to guide my instruction and to meet my students needs. Last year my 3rd grade team did “walk to math”, we used a variety of assessments to place the students. Every time the students were AIMSweb benchmarked we would again meet and decided if any students should move groups. We used assessment and observation to guide how we grouped the students to best meet their math needs. According to Moon (2005), “In a differentiated classroom, informed decision making involves a teacher focusing on what to teach, how best to teach it, and how to assess the students’ proficiency with what was taught, while giving attention to students’ varying readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles.”

Another factor is flexibility. As an educator I have to allow myself to be flexible if something isn’t working or the students aren’t mastering content or the dynamics of my student groups is negatively impacting student learning. I have to flex, shift, and change what I am doing or how I am doing things in the classroom. That flexibility is very important in my classroom.

Another huge factor in differentiated instruction is understanding the students and their academic needs. Building and fostering a working relationship with students so they understand that you are there to help them succeed academically. Assessment will help an educator understand students needs to a degree, however, really communicating with students, i.e. morning meeting, book talks, conferencing on work, really shows students that there is a reason for them to learn what is being taught in class and showing the students that you are invested in their learning. I found this diagram online from Tomlinson 1999.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 5.23.07 PM

Much of what I have been reading in my UAS course and what I already believe as an educator is related to this diagram. There is a relationship between teacher, students and subject matter. And all the parts are needed to help make learning successful. I have found in my 10 years of education if students feel their teacher actually cares about them and their learning, they will work harder and behave better in class.


Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2014, April 30). A teacher’s guide to differentiating instruction. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Teacher_s_Guide/

Moon, T. R. (2005). The role of assessment in differentiation. Theory into practice, 44(3), 226-233. Retrieved from https://courseweb.pitt.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/Pitt%20Online/Education/IL_2240/BERNSTEIN/Module%2010/Readings/IL_2240_M10_Read_Moon.pdf

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). Differentiated instruction – relationships in education. Retrieved from http://www.richland.k12.wi.us/HS/GT/relationships%20in%20education.pdf

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.



2 thoughts on “#diffimooc Week 3: DI decisions

  1. I really appreciated your comment on flexibility. To differentiate your lessons based on assessment data and knowledge of your students is one thing–it is so common that it is pretty much a “given.” I think every teacher does it. But to be able to differentiate in the middle of a lesson, departing from your original plan because a formative assessment in that lesson tells you it is necessary? That is the mark of a master teacher.

  2. Hey, Ali…
    I LOVE the Tomlinson diagram you include in your post this week. So simple, yet it so accurately illustrates the complexity of the interconnectedness of teacher, student, and content. Differentiation must occur all along the way, and exactly WHAT needs to be shifted/tweaked/differentiated is never as easy to determine as a triangulated graphic may make it seem. Is it the teacher who needs to adjust her instruction? Does the content itself need to be ratcheted down a notch? Is the student working at his/her potential, or are the struggles a result of lack of motivation? Some of what I read makes it seem like it should be so easy! I spent a LOT of money during the years I was in the classroom purchasing “leveled” and differentiated materials. Bottom line, though, is that differentiation really means knowing the kids, paying careful attention to how they are doing at any given time, and mining the data to ensure that what I thought I was seeing was actually what was happening. Tough stuff…but also part of what makes education so fun. The daily challenge of diagnosing and finding what works for each individual child in the classroom.
    Great post!

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