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Differentiating Instruction, K-12

Catherine Zink


Course Description: Knowledge and practical strategies of how to

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


    1. Gain understanding of the imperative nature of differentiation in the classroom.
    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.


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

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

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

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

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

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.


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


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


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


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


What is Differentiation?

Video: Carol Tomlinson on Differentiation: Responsive Teaching

*Video: Misconceptions of Differentiation

 video: Curriculum vs. Instruction

video: Reactive vs. Proactive

Neuromyths Quiz

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

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

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
  • 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

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. 

Differentiating Across the Curriculum

Article: Tools for Social Studies Differentiation

Differentiating Instruction with Menus: ScienceAssignments:

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


  • 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 lok like in the classroom?

Course Assignments:


  1. Video (2) Reflection - 20%

Students reflect on Carole Tomlinson’s description of Differentiation and the “Misconceptions about Differentiation.”


  1. Lesson - 30%

Students share a lesson idea demonstrating differentiated instruction through content, process, product, or environment, and in response to readiness, interest, or learning style.


  1. Evaluate Your Mindset – 20%

Students reflect upon an individual time, lesson, or interaction during which “fixed” or “growth” mindset was a factor.


  1. Instructional strategy – 20%

Students choose an instructional strategy, research (if necessary) and share an example of how they will use it in the classroom.


  1. Video Reflection – 10%

Students reflect on the process of grading while implementing Differentiation and the idea of 3P grading.

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