March 24 - Differentiated instruction, curriculum, assessment

Helping Teachers Make Sense
of It All: Putting Differentiated
Instruction and Response to
Intervention Together
Susan Demirsky Allan
[email protected]
Developed with Yvonne
Goddard, Texas A & M
The Tendency Toward New
• The “flavor of the month” frustration
• Many initiatives may be connected but the
connections need to be made explicit by
those who put them forward.
A Simple Concept
Education is most effective when
children are regarded and
treated as individuals with
different levels of readiness,
learning profiles and interests,
and that teachers have a
professional obligation to help
all students be successful.
Response to Intervention
The National Association of State Directors
of Special Education (NASDSE, 2006)
defines RtI as “the practice of
(1) providing high-quality
instruction/intervention matched to student
needs and
(2) using learning rate over time and level of
performance to
(3) make important educational decisions” .
Differentiated Instruction
• Teachers proactively plan varied
approaches to what students need to
learn, how they will learn it, and/or
how they will show what they have
learned in order to increase the
likelihood that each student will learn
as much as he or she can, as
efficiently as possible (Tomlinson,
Response to Intervention
• Response to intervention was originally
conceived as a means to identify students
with learning disabilities more accurately
and much sooner than the traditional
discrepancy formula.
• Educators saw it’s possibilities with all
struggling learners and it was broadened
beyond special education.
Differentiated Instruction is a
Grass-Roots Movement
• Differentiated instruction began with teachers
and building/district administrators who were
frustrated by the lack of strategies and tools to
meet the needs of all their learners.
• It’s roots are in gifted education and special
education but the strategies are applied to all
• Universities are following and beginning to
provide needed training but teachers and
administrators were and are the leaders!
Is there evidence that they
• Early research on differentiated instruction
focused on components –student readiness,
learning profile etc. and showed
effectiveness in those areas.
• Recently (Goddard & Goddard, 2007)
demonstrated that teachers’ rating of major
components of the differentiated instruction
model as important in their classrooms was
a positive predictor of higher test scores in
math and reading on statewide
They Are Two Aspects of a
• RtI and Differentiation are generally seen as
two separate initiatives.
• I believe that they are complimentary and
substantially overlapping as aspects of good
quality teaching.
• RtI can be seen as a subset of Differentiation
– one that focuses on the struggling learner
and on areas of weakness.
• Both represent a cultural shift in how we run
The question that looms is,
“How might we make
teachers’ lives more
straightforward by seeing
these as two aspects of a
whole, quality classroom?”
Response to Examples
Within Classroom Tier I
Classroom teacher uses tiered lessons delivered by
using within-class cluster groups that focus on the
same key concepts but provide additional
scaffolding for some students (e.g., manipulatives)
and greater complexity for others (e.g., a more
open-ended or complex task).
Tier 2
Providing reading specialists who work either
within the regular education classroom or with
small groups outside the classroom, between-class
cluster grouping, secondary honors and AP courses,
keeping students in on-grade classrooms with an
additional support period.
Combination of the Tier 3
Scheduling students for significant amounts of time
above plus
to receive intensive instruction in special education
structural changes
or gifted classes, alternative education schools, or
that may be
alternate placements.
beyond usual
Where do they diverge?
• There are three key areas of divergence:
– Focus on student strengths vs. weakness
– Tier 3
• Students who have significant impairments and/or
low incidence conditions that require very
specialized treatments.
• Students who are highly gifted and may not be able
to find learning partners within the regular
– Documentation/Record keeping
requirements and the role of Assessment
Differentiation isn’t...
Assigning more math problems
or more reading at the same
level to high achieving students.
Focusing on student
weaknesses and ignoring
student strengths.
Building on Their Strengths:
The Blind Side
The Role of Assessment
• It’s long been understood that
formative assessment is a critical
part of good quality classroom
• In all aspects of differentiation,
knowing a student’s current level of
“readiness” is crucial in order to
appropriately target instruction.
• This is a natural fit with Response to
Important Caveat
The increased level of documentation
only becomes a requirement if it is
likely that the student may end up
with a special education
Although RtI is defined as being broader
than special education, extensive
documentation requirements are not
required as part of general education.
What Will the Classroom Look
• First and foremost, it will look like a
differentiated classroom.
• Teachers are “student-centered”.
They are able to discuss learning
readiness, styles and interests or
have developed a record system as
an aid.
What Will the Classroom Look
• Instructional plans provide regular
variations that are keyed to high
quality curriculum and address a
range of learners.
• Assessment –both formative and
summative -- is regular and used to
inform instruction.
What Will the Classroom Look
• Teachers are “persistent” – if one
strategy doesn’t work for a student,
they move to Plan B.
• (Warning: You will be tempted to say
“Duh!” on this one!) Teachers
demonstrate that they like students!
How Professional Development
Needs to Change
• Professional development should be
focused on the full scope of classroom
instruction and the range of strategies
available to teachers.
• It must be practical. If it is not, it won’t
be used!
• Both external and internal experts
must be challenged to present a full
range of methodologies for all
A Natural Fit
Teaching is challenging.
While we can’t make it easy, we don’t
need to add to the difficulty.
It will be of great use to provide a
unified vocabulary and a unified
mindset to support teachers.

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