differentiated instructional strategies

Designing Curriculum with Differentiation in Mind

By Nancy Cheevers, Ed. D. Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Northampton Public Schools

Northampton Public Schools’ district goal is to provide high quality instruction to meet the academic and social needs of every learner in our culturally diverse community. While we recognize that differentiated instructional strategies go beyond the curriculum– differentiating the learning environment and making sensible grouping decisions based on readiness and student interest–our district unit template is designed to catalog differentiation through unit instruction and formative and summative assessments.

We’ve organized our unit template to capture differentiation adjustments by content, process, and product across all subjects and grades. This supports continued district-wide discussion, professional development, and collaboration regarding differentiated instructional theory, vertical and horizontal alignment, and the identification of successful classroom strategies. In Stage 3 of the Unit Learning Plan template, we have created a section called “Differentiation by Content, Process, and Product.” This model is based on Carol Tomlinson’s research on differentiated instruction.

Differentiation

Differentiation by Content

  • Differentiation by content is based on knowledge gained from formative assessments and/or knowledge of pre-requisite skills from IEPs.
  • Adjusting includes how students gain access to the content. For example, providing an audiobook rather than a written text. Only if necessary, adjusting what students will know, understand, and/or be able to do as a result of this unit.

Differentiation by Process

  • Process begins when students stop taking in information and begin actively work with it. Adjusting “sense-making activities” focus on content, skills, and/or understanding that help students “own” the material.

Differentiation by Product

  • Products are the summative assessments/curriculum embedded performance assessments that show what students know, understand, and are able to do as a result of unit study. Adjusting products supports the individual growth of each student based on an authentic performance.
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