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ED594D Differentiating Instruction, K-12

Instructor:  Catherine Zink


Course Description: Knowledge and practical strategies of how to

respond to the needs of students with various learning profiles, readiness levels, strengths and needs. Explore Problem-based learning and Project-based learning as vehicles to differentiate content, process, product, and meet standards.


  1. Gain understanding of the imperative nature of differentiation in the classroom in light of brain research.
  2. Gain understanding of the effects of teacher mindset on differentiation in the classroom.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of differentiation strategies.
  4. Apply knowledge of differentiated plans to content, process, and products to meet the needs of all students.
  5. Apply knowledge of differentiated plans in response to readiness, interest, and learning profiles.
  6. Gain understanding of the foundational elements of differentiation.
  7. Demonstrate understanding of problem-based learning and project-based learning as vehicles to differentiate learning based on multiple factors.
  8. Demonstrate understanding of pre-assessment, formative assessment and summative assessment as it applies to differentiation.

Instructional Methods:

Google Classroom, readings, class discussion, presentations, projects, videotapes, brainstorming, analysis and evaluation, interactive online work, and reflection/journaling.


Cunningham, A. (2008, June 24).Tools for social studies differentiation. Retrieved from

Delisle, J. (2015). Differentiation doesn’t work. Education Week, 34(15), 28.

Miller, A. (2016, January 8). Six strategies for differentiated instruction in project-based learning. Retrieved from

Moon, T., & Tomlinson, C.A. (2013). Assessment and student success in a

differentiated classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Pete, B., & Fogarty, R. (2018). Everyday problem-based learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Roberts, C. (2016, December 14). High and low prep strategies. Retrieved from

Sousa, D.A., & Tomlinson, C.A. (2018). Differentiation and the brain: How neuroscience supports the learner-friendly classroom. Alexandria: VA ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. (2017). How to differentiate instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. (2014). The differentiated classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. (2015). To the contrary: Differentiation does work. Education Week, 34(19), 26.

Westphal, L. (2017). Differentiating instruction with menus: Science. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc.

Tentative Agenda:

Day One



What is Differentiation?

Simulation: Why Should We Differentiate?

Video: Carol Tomlinson on Differentiation: Responsive Teaching

Student share: What are the greatest challenges of differentiating in your classroom?

*Video: Misconceptions of Differentiation

Discussion post video: Curriculum vs. Instruction

Discussion post video: Reactive vs. Proactive

Neuromyths Quiz

How Brain Friendly is Differentiation?  Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 1

            Break into groups: Brain Research and Differentiation, 8 basic principles

How Important is Mindset to Effective Differentiation? Differentiation and the Brain, Chapter 2

  • Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
  • Exercise 2.1, Questions, Responses, Review, and Reflection on Mindset and Differentiation
  • Mindset and Social-Emotional Needs of Students (Neural Networks)

A Model for Effective Differentiation Diagram Differentiation and The Brain

Differentiating in response to: Readiness level, Interest, Learning Profile

  • Differentiation and The Brain, Chapters 5, 6, 7
  • Literature Circles to present information (model differentiation instructional strategy), Fishbowl strategy to observe
  • Class discussion: Examples of current practices in our classrooms

Differentiating through: Content, Process, Product, and Environment

  • How to Differentiate Instruction, Chapters 12, 13, 14
  • Pre-assessment, group students (model differentiation strategy) to present information on content, process, product, or environment
  • Class discussion: Examples of current practices in our classrooms
  • Journal Self-Evaluation: How have I used these in my classroom?

Instructional Strategies for Differentiation

The Differentiated Classroom, Chapters 7 & 8

  • Stations, Agendas, Orbital Studies, Centers, Tiered Assignments, Learning Contracts, Tri-mind, Literature Circles, Jigsaw, Tic Tac Toe Choice Boards
  • Sample Choice Board for Non-Fiction Reading
  • Groups present assigned strategy with lesson application

Video: Getting Started on Differentiated Instruction (Carol Tomlinson)

Article: “High and Low Prep Strategies”

  • Each student shares one Low Prep strategy and one High Prep Strategy they currently use or would like to use in the classroom. Small group discussion.

Differentiating Across the Curriculum

Article: Tools for Social Studies Differentiation

Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Science

  • Small group discussion sharing most interesting strategy gained from Science and Social Studies differentiation reading


Read Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom, Chapters 1 & 2 (3, 4, 5, one chapter per group) for Wednesday – Final product is 20% of grade

Select strategy and begin to plan lesson for Thursday presentation – Final product is 30% of grade

Portfolio of ideas update - Final product is 20 % of grade

Journal comments: Final product is 10 % of grade


Day Two

Day One Review

Problem-Based Learning

  • What is inquiry-based instruction? Everyday Problem-Based Learning, Introduction
  • Traditional models of instruction vs. Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Break into two teams, “Coyle and Talent” vs. “Perkins and Wholeness” to create poster size
  • Journal: Can I cross over?

Seven Steps of PBL, Everyday Problem-Based Learning

  1. Develop Questions
  2. Launch Scenario
  3. Gather Information
  4. Organize Information
  5. Create Evidence
  6. Present Findings
  7. Assess Learning
  • How does Differentiation fit into PBL? (Pre-activity discussion)

Break into groups. Groups briefly summarize assigned step content. Teaching groups will assign class “PBL in a nutshell” lesson. Remaining groups work as students to answer the essential question (solve the problem) by following steps 2 – 7.

  • Post activity discussion: How does Differentiation fit into Problem-Based Learning OR how does PBL fit into Differentiation? How would you differentiate: readiness-level, interest, learning profile? What would you differentiate: content, process, product, or environment?
  • How does PBL support differentiation?
  • How were the students learning? What were the students learning? When were the students learning? Why is PBL a positive experience for ALL students?
  • Compare traditional methods of instruction to PBL (post activity)
  • Connecting PBL to 21st Century Skills, Everyday Problem-Based Learning, Afterword
  • Journal reflection: Do I see this in my classroom presently? Do I see this in my classroom next year? How? Why?

Project Based Learning

  • Learning while doing, not doing after learning

Article: “Six strategies for Differentiated Instruction in Project-Based Learning”

  • Power Point Presentation
  • Sample Unit: Black History, how I developed, differentiated, and implemented the unit

Journal: Which of my current units could I transform into Project-Based Learning? What would that look like in the classroom?


Prepare Assessment chapter for presentation

Lesson/project work for Thursday

Journal comments

Portfolio of ideas update

Begin Pre and Post Differentiation Mindset – Final product is 20% of grade

Day Three

Assessing Differentiated Instruction

Assessment and the Brain, Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 4

  • Testing and Stress
  • Negative effects of Cortisol increase on assessment

Quick Share: WHY do we test students?

Purposes of Assessment: Assessment of Learning, Assessment for Learning, Assessment as Learning, Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 4

  • Groups present purposes

How do you assess in your classroom?

  • Gallery Walk: Students place post-it notes on each of 3 large sheets titled “Pre-assessment,” “Formative assessment,” and “Summative assessment” sharing examples of this type of assessment in his/her classroom. Review all posts.

Types of Assessment

Group Presentations Chapters 3, 4 & 5 Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom, Pre-assessment, Formative or Ongoing Assessment, Summative Assessment

Course Assignment: 20 %


Diagram: Types, Purposes, and Examples of Assessments in a Differentiated Classroom, Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 4

  • Gallery Walk revisited. Students post new assessment types they would like to implement in their classrooms upon reflection of presentations of  Chapters 3, 4 & 5 Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom and Types, Purposes, and Examples of Assessments in a Differentiated Classroom Diagram

How can we use the results of these assessments for Differentiation?

  • Student brainstorm
  • Assessment and Differentiation, Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 4

Video: Grading in a Differentiated Classroom: Carol Tomlinson

  • Class discussion: Evaluating Tomlinson’s ideas on grading

Assessment, Grading, and Differentiation, Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom, Chapter 6.

Grading and Differentiation, Differentiation and The Brain, Chapter 4

  • Reflection and journaling

Project work

Journal writing and reviews

Begin Pre and Post Differentiation Mindset work period

Portfolio of ideas update


Day Four

Critical Thinking about Differentiation

Article: “Differentiation Doesn’t Work,” James R. Delisle

Article: “Differentiation Does, in Fact, Work,” Carol Ann Tomlinson in response to article above

  • Class discussion
  • Journal writing: Reflection on articles, pros and cons

Managing a Differentiated Classroom, Differentiation and the Brain, Chapter 8

            A Common View of Classroom Management    

An Alternative View of Classroom Management

  • Approaches of Leaders vs. Managers, Venn Diagram with partner
  • Eight Principles of Leading Students, self-evaluation on Google Classroom
  • Guidelines for Managing a Differentiated Classroom, Power Point

Lesson Presentations

Pre and Post Mindset Presentations

The Story of the Five Monkeys – “That’s the way it has always been done”

“What Do I Envision Now?” Journal Writing


Course Assignments:

  1. Group Chapter Presentation - 20%

Group presentation discussing assigned chapter from Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Demonstrate knowledge of content: pre, formative, summative assessment.


  1. Google Classroom Interactive Journal - 10%

Reflective and evaluative writing on assigned topics. Journal entries will be written in Google Classroom.

Each student is required to thoughtfully comment on two other students’ reflections/evaluations.


  1. Portfolio of Ideas - 20%

Students create a portfolio on Google Classroom containing ideas, strategies, lessons, etc. gathered throughout the course to be applied in his/her classroom.


  1. Pre and Post “Mindset” Presentation - 20%

Students create and present through method of choice                    (poster, monologue, skit, song, etc.,) their perspective on

“Differentiation” before this course and after.


  1. Lesson - 30%

Students prepare a lesson to be taught the last day of class.     Expected content includes differentiated instruction through content, process, product, or environment, and in response to readiness, interest, or learning style.


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