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Increasing challenge and ownership of learning: Quadrants

One of the ways of making differentiation explicit and workable is to use a quadrant. This provides four different opportunities for students to take.
[Chris] One of the ways of making differentiation explicit and workable is to use a quadrant. This provides four different opportunities for students to take to move their learning forward. It might be that each quadrant requires students to do activities with increasing conceptual complexity or cognitive demand. So in one video, Sara McNally with a year-one math class used a quadrant with practise, apply, correct, and extend, or PACE approach. In another video, Kate Fiddian with the year-10 science class organised her quadrant around Sankey diagrams and energy efficiency calculations that first covered qualitative and then progressively more quantitative understanding, culminating in the students drawing their own Sankey diagram.
Initially, deciding which task students will work on depends on the teacher’s assessment of how the student’s learning has worked so far. But gradually, as these types of activities are used more often in the classroom, students start to take on this responsibility guided by their teacher.
Chris discusses how teachers can use assessment to identify students’ starting points and plan to increase the cognitive complexity or demand of the learning.
Chris also discusses how teachers can guide students over time to take on this responsibility. An approach Chris highlights that draws on these principles involves using a quadrant structure.
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 issues, 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.
We will see in the next step how two teachers have managed this approach: Sara with her Year 1 (5-6 year olds) class and Kate F with her Year 10 (14-15 year olds) class.


How do you proactively plan with students’ differences, as well as their similarities in mind?
Post your reflections in the comments below.
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