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March 31, 2007


Steli Efti

Hi Jon, thankx for your participation :) For me it seems like "flexibility" is crucial to the concept of differentiated learning. How can a teacher/ educator learn to become more flexible with his teaching methods and skills?

digital nomad

I think the flexibility Steli mentions depends on the subject.

For instance, you have more flexibility with the arts than you would with math or science.

florence meichel

The main question seems to be : how to change your own paradigm to teach : Learning assessment is not so easy to understand with old paradigms !


Thanks for having me.

Flexibility is key to any classroom, in both the methods that you choose to use as well as the execution of those methods. It is important not to force a given method on a student and to recognize when a particular approach is not effective.

When differentiating, this is where your assessment comes into play. You should assess before you plan, but its also important to assess whether or not your modifications effectively address your students needs throughout the unit. This is also the reason why I'd recommend only modifying one element at a time. This gives you a more clear picture of what works and what doesn't.

Lastly, nothing is static or concrete. This goes for your modifications as well as your tiers or groups. Check for changes and improvements in your students abilities and adjust to continue to challenge them.


Hello everybody, hello steli !
great "conférence" here !
Well it seems that you describe a custom education. the teacher learn from his students about them. He does'nt have a program for a year like a damocles epée..Students and teachers are more "about" to "really" communicate.No stress or judgement.
P.S : sorry for my english, but technology made it, i've learned english !

Joshua Hwang

This sounds like a fantastic perspective to teach from, but I'm having a hard time materializing it in my head. Can you offer a real (personal or not) example of how this type of teaching has been implimented? (Maybe even with your fractions example.)


In this new age of inclusive classrooms and heterogeneous students, it is of the utmost importance to employ data-driven instruction as opposed to the more static methods of old. Teaching to the "middle" just want cut it anymore. Student skill sets are far too diverse and classrooms need to change to meet those needs.

Teachers and students alike will find themselves less frustrated and the non-flexible teacher will continue to bang their heads against the wall!


Kool room! I do understand what it lies behind differentiation but I have my questions about how to establish it and control it. We all agree students need to be motivated to them to learn but the personality and the cultural backgrounds makes so hard to go with the concept of differentiation, specially when we don't count on government to provide enough economic funds or in other cirncunstances when even the teachers themselves are not prepared to work in this kind of enviroment. How and in which ways we could avoid your list of 'Do not' Jon?

digital nomad

Per Antoine:
I can provide an example. It probably would be better to address in a later conversation, so as to stay on topic.

digital nomad

Sorry, I meant to address Joshua Hwang in my previous post.


Teachers need to be taught how to do this when they are going through college. This isn't the way they are taught and many are not cut out for it.

Teachers that are currently in front of students have been taught to teach this old fashioned way so there is going to be a long process of changing their curriculum in college before it can even be implemented in schools. Of course continuing education for teachers and some extra learning that would be required to continue teaching could also mold some of the established teachers, but we still have a long way to go with this type of learning.


Thanks Antoine and Joshua-

Antoine: You can still have a curriculum map for your schoolyear. The important thing is to determine for each month, quarter, etc. is what your "big picture" skills are. You'll use your student data to determine how you'll get there.

Here is a rough example. I'll use "computing fractions" as my skill to focus on. I'll include a little assessment info that I would have to know about each group.

Based on my assessment of students and their ability levels when it comes to fractions, I'll split my class into three groups.

Group 1: I know these students to have some organizational issues and some issues with part-to-whole relationships. They can, however, add and subract basic whole numbers. For this group, I'll have shapes (probably circles) cut into different fractional parts, pie style, with the fraction itself labeled on them. There task would be to assemble these pieces into wholes. The key would be to focus on the language of "this half plus this half make one whole". They could be asked to write down this relationship as an extension.

Group 2: These students have a better understanding of part-to-whole relationships and don't have many outstanding organization issues. They also have a basic understanding of all basic operations.Their task would be to split circles into parts, pie style, and label the parts appropriately. They could be asked to compare different fractions as an extension.

Group 3: This group has a thourough understanding of part-to-whole relationships and can perform all basic operations with some proficiency. Their task would involve some problem solving. How can we add fractions with different denominators? This groups could also be asked to sift through information and extract the important info in order to satisfy a task.

All three groups are essentially doing the same thing at different levels of complexity. This is an example of modifying content.


Thanks for your comment TonNet,

Avoiding the Don'ts only comes with practice. I posted them as things to try to avoid as they defeat the purpose of actually challenging everyone, and ultimately make life harder for you!


Great learning excercise. So much knowledge. Why couldn't I think of any such idea. Love this.


Thanks Jimi,
Differentiation, Response to intervetion...are all relatively new buzzwords and offspring of legislation like IDEA and NCLB. The concept itself isn't new, but there is more pressure now than ever before to reach all students.

Just as this topic is creeping into professional development across the country, you'll start to see it more in college programs. The important thing is to mentor young teachers through the process. Your absolutely right, it will take some time, but we'll get there. We don't have any choice!

Steli Efti

To treat people "different" can cause problems when the focus lies on the weakness and not the strengths of the students. What do you say to educators who are still
afraid to make mistakes while treating their students in a individual way?



I use an analogy of clothes. I wouldn't give a student a shirt the fit two sizes too big just so that they "blend in" with everyone else. I also wouldn't give a completely different shirt. The truth is, its not a good fit and everyone can see that. If I give you the same shirt in a different size, the fit is more appropriate and the student still gets to share some sort of uniformity with his peers (the same analogy works with students as well).

Anecdotes aside, you're going to reach a point where you have to provide what's appropriate and there is no easy way to do it. Differentiating is not so much separating as it is modifying.

Steli Efti

jon - great analogy ;)


This sort of differential learning can be seen in Kumon schools, where you go at your own pace. It's actually worked really well for maths, and they've extended it to English.

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