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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Differentiation for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds To enable differentiation to work, it is important you plan both the activities the students engage in, and how you will monitor how students are moving their learning forward. So differentiation involves both careful planning of the tasks students are engaged in and how they’re responding to those tasks. This insures that differentiation is ongoing throughout the lesson.

Differentiating for Learning as an ongoing process

Dylan builds on the ideas talked about by Chris in the previous step where she discussed the importance of formative assessment in diagnosing students’ starting points.

Once these starting points have been identified Dylan discusses how teachers need to plan carefully the activities the students engage in after as well as how they will use formative assessment practices to monitor and elicit evidence on an on-going basis.

By monitoring how students are responding to tasks teachers can respond and adapt what the student does in order to influence their learning.

Differentiation is therefore not just something teachers plan to do at the start of the lesson, it is an on-going process that occurs throughout the learning by drawing on formative assessment practices.

Sousa and Tomlinson (2011) argue that a great number of teachers plan and teach as though all the students in a given classroom are essentially alike. When it becomes evident that some students are confused, lost, or bored, they claim some teachers quickly try to offer additional encouragement, support or work as a means of addressing the mismatch between the lesson and the learner.

They go on to discuss how differentiation stems from the research-based perspective that students will engage more fully with learning and will learn more robustly when teachers proactively plan with their differences-as well as their similarities-in mind.

They state that when on-going assessment evidence indicates that a student is confused about, has learning gaps in, or has mastered essential knowledge, understanding or skills, the teacher should use that information to plan what comes next in the learning. This approach to differentiation moves us away from seeing and teaching students as a unit towards reflecting on and responding to them as individuals.

In the next step we are going to build on this thinking by getting you to consider learning as a journey and how different learners may need to do different things to achieve the same learning.

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This video is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre