EDU605: DI Blog

Final Project and Presentation

This final project and presentation was a culmination of much hard work over the course of the last 8 weeks.  I so enjoyed this class, my fellow classmates,  and the support I received from the instructor.  I feel I am walking away with a tangible product that I can use in my professional work context.  I have acquired a vast amount of knowledge about differentiated instruction and feel confident that I will apply it, as well as teach other school age professionals how to implement the many strategies around differentiated instruction that I have learned about.  I truly feel prepared to take on any group of students (child or adult) and know that I will take the time to get to know them, and use instructional methods that will help each individual succeed.  Please find my presentation below:

Differentiated Instruction Powerpoint

Unit 8: What is differentiated Instruction?

When I began this course I was under the belief that I knew a lot about differentiating instruction, and about the strategies to successfully implement this approach in my programs.  While I did come with some knowledge and practical experience, I have definitely learned so much in this class.  I feel I will now be able to teach this approach to instruction to other professionals in the field with confidence and conviction.  I believe that differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether staff differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping will make this a successful approach to instruction in our afterschool programs.

During Unit 1 I created a mind map of what I thought differentiated instruction was and I have revisited that mind map in Unit 8.  During this course I had taken notes for each unit.  To create my new mind map I went back and reviewed my notes and all of my discussion boards, and reflected on the ideas and strategies that really resonated with me throughout the course.  I then took these ideas and put them around my original mind map as they are the connections to the original ideas and thoughts I had about differentiated instruction.  It was interesting to see that I was on the right track from the beginning of the course, but I was able to expand my thinking to include concrete strategies that will be effective in my real world situation.  Tomlinson (2001) states, “at its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn” (p. 1).  That is my true hope for differentiating instruction in our afterschool programs-I want each child to know their needs are being met and ensure all staff have the tools needed to reach that goal!

Here is my revised mind map after completing this course:

Unit 8 Differentiated Instruction Mind Map
Differentiated Instruction Mind Map Unit 8

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Unit 7: Scaffolding in Teacher-Student Interaction

Each individual’s learning map is unique, and therefore a “one size fits all” curriculum and instructional practice will not reach every learner.  Scaffolding and differentiated instruction are ways of providing instruction to students based on their learning needs (Tomlinson, 2001).  Scaffolding entails cognitively supporting learners as they progress toward a goal, gradually shifting responsibility from the teacher to the student as the student becomes more able.  Afterschool programs are no different than the classroom setting in which teachers must adapt and differentiate their lessons to ensure that they are reaching all students based on their interests, readiness and learning modes.  In fact, scaffoldingwith afterschool programs predominantly serving multi-age groups, I see the need for scaffolding for students even more as they work on projects with various age peers.  When staff provide instructional scaffolding they can systematically build on a student’s experiences and knowledge as he or she learns a new skill thus enhancing learning and aiding in the mastery of tasks.  Scaffolding allows the staff person to build a bridge from the learners’ current knowledge to the information being taught .  Some strategies used in afterschool programs to scaffold lessons include fishbowl activities, think-a-louds, tapping into prior knowledge, and asking open ended questions to check for understanding.

This week I read an article in the library database about scaffolding in education.  The article was titled “Scaffolding in Teacher-Student Interaction: A Decade of Research”.  The article walks the reader through the characteristics of scaffolding.   Van de Pol, Volman, and Beishuizen (2010), describe scaffolding in their review as “an interactive process that occurs between teacher and student who must both participate actively in the process” (p. 274) .  They also analyze several studies on scaffolding on teacher–child interactions . Image result for teacher student relationshipThe results of studies that were found on students’ metacognitive and cognitive activities and their affect point largely in the same direction, i.e., that scaffolding is effective (Van de Pol, Volman and Beishuizen, 2010).  However, they state that the main challenge for scaffolding research appears to be its measurement.  Thus, a need for such an instrument that can facilitate the analysis of scaffolding as a dependent variable and the check on the intervention of scaffolding as an independent variable is apparent (Van de Pol, Volman and Beishuizen, 2010).  I really found this article very interesting and sparked further interest in learning more about how I can measure the impact we have on students success by using scaffolding strategies.

After reading this article, and others, about scaffolding I believe that through scaffolding, the learner is engaged in an active process of learning and that it can minimize the learner’s level of frustration.  Scaffolding is one of the principles of effective instruction that enables teachers to accommodate individual student needs (Kame’enui, Carnine, Dixon, Simmons, & Coyne, 2002).  I am excited to further explore this with colleagues in the field so we can better meet the needs of all of our students.

I found the video below to be a great resource for new staff to explain the concept of scaffolding:


Kame’enui, E. J., Carnine, D. W., Dixon, R. C., Simmons, D. C., & Coyne, M. D. (2002). Effective teaching strategies that accommodate diverse learners(2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Van de Pol, J., Volman, M., & Beishuizen, J. (2010). Scaffolding in Teacher–Student Interaction: A Decade of Research. Educational Psychology Review, 22(3)

Unit 6: Differentiating Content, Process and Product

Differentiating instruction means creating multiple paths so that students with different ability levels, learning styles, and interests can all be successful in learning and in demonstrating what they have learned (“Thinking about DI,” n.d.).  To implement differentiated instruction, an educator looks at content, process, and product to see how each area can be differentiated to meet the needs of each student in their learning environment.

Image result for differentiation through content process and product

Content, as stated by Tomlinson (2001), is “the  “input” of teaching and learning. It’s what we teach or what we want students to learn (p. 72).  We can differentiate the content in two ways, we can adapt what we teach, or we can adapt or modify how we give students access to what we want them to learn. (Tomlinson, 2001).  Currently in my own professional context I am able to differentiate my instruction in the afterschool essentials course around student interest.  Students in the class are required to complete 11 online modules for this particular course.  Seven of the 11 are mandatory as they are based around the core competencies for afterschool professionals.  I allow students to choose the other 4 modules based on their level of interest or their need to improve their skills in that particular area.  While the way the material is taught (online) is not a choice, the content is chosen by the student, and I am available to provide some scaffolding around the content in person once they have digested the online material.  The goal when differentiating content is to offer approaches to “input” (information, ideas, and skills) that meet students individually where they are and vigorously support their forward progress (Tomlinson, 2001).

Process is how students make sense of the information. This processing or sense-making is an essential component of instruction because, without it, students either lose the ideas or confuse them (Tomlinson, 2001).  Processing also helps students assess what they do and don’t understand.  When we offer clubs in our afterschool programs we Image result for differentiation through processalways give our students time to reflect and digest the learning activities before moving on to the next step of a project/activity.  Taking this time to process also gives teachers the opportunity to monitor students’ progress, and assist students who need that extra help.  Reflection is a powerful skills and some of the strategies I have used to do this in both in my afterschool program and in my workshops with adult learners are learning circles, think-pair-share, and journal writing.  These sense-making strategies help students process and “own” ideas and information in ways that work best for them (Tomlinson, 2001). Differentiating process also allows students to access the material they are learning in multiple ways. For example, students can conduct research on the internet, read books about a topic, or even interview a local expert.

Lastly, “products are important not only because they represent your students’ extensive understandings and applications, but also because they are the element of curriculum students can most directly “own” (Tomlinson, 2001).  I find this to be the easiest piece to differentiate for students.  A good product causes students to rethink what they have learned, apply what they can do, extend their understanding and skill, and become involved in both critical and creative thinking (Tomlinson and Allen, 2000).  In my professional context I have often allowed for varied working arrangements (working alone or as part of a team to complete the product), and provided many opportunities for choosing  a menu of options for demonstrating their learning.  For example, when doing an engineering club we gave children the option to present their final project as a poster demonstration, a power point presentation, or by designing and building an actual structure that reflected what they had learned.  Giving students these choices allows them to work in ways that address their own readiness levels, interests, and learning modes (Tomlinson, 2001).

Following is a video I found that I plan on sharing with afterschool professionals to further their understanding of the concepts discussed in my blogs:


Thinking about DI: Content, Process, and Product.  (n.d.)  Maryland Learning Links. Retrieved from:

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools & classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Unit 5: Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence and 4MAT

Developed by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983, the theory of multiple intelligence states there are eight ways that people understand and perceive the world.

These intelligences are:MI theory

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

The point of differentiated instruction is that “teachers provide specific ways for each individual to learn as deeply as possible and as quickly as possible without assuming one student’s road map for learning is identical to anyone else’s” (Tomlinson 1999).  Being able to identify our student’s learning preferences and tapping into these different pathways of learning within our differentiated learning environments will allow students to become more motivated and engaged in their own learning.

In my professional context I am able to look at the best way each student understands and perceives content and build my activities around this.  I ensure that there is always a variety of ways that children can participate in the club/activity so that all students can engage in activities that are appealing to them and help them learn in the way that best suits their “intelligence”.  According to Gray (2002), “when instruction is presented through multiple intelligence, each student is able to acquire those new skills in a meaningful way.  Furthermore, students are able to demonstrate their understanding in various ways that make the learning more personal, motivational, and interesting for both individual students and the class as a whole” (p.184).

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence and the 4MAT cycle both take into account the way a learner processes and perceives information.  4MAT is the interplay of what people perceive and how they process what they perceive (McCarthy, 2010).  By using both the theory of multiple intelligence and the 4MAT model teachers can assess each students style of learning and then tailor their teaching accordingly.  When we can teachImage result for 4mat to all types of learners by differentiating instruction, then students are able to work within their strongest learning style, but still be exposed to new ones.  Our goal as educators is to help students maximize their strengths, but also develop students who are able to be flexible and adaptable in their thinking.  I believe the Gardner’s theory and 4MAT helps teachers avoid the the one size fits all mentality in the learning environment.

Idea of further learning:  I am excited to discuss the 4MAT model with colleagues in the after school field and see how we might implement this model in our programs.  I would love to pilot it at a few sites and see how effective it is within the structure of our programs!


Gray, K. C., & Waggoner, J. E. (2002). Multiple intelligences meet bloom’s taxonomy. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 38(4), 184–187.

McCarthy, B. (2010, April 6).   Introduction to 4MAT [Video file].   Retrieved from

Tomlinson, C. A. 1999. The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Reston, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Unit 4: “Choice Boards” and Learning Menus: Strategies for differentiated instruction

Throughout unit 4 we discussed many strategies for differentiated instruction around readiness and interest.  I am particularly focused in my program on ensuring that children are offered activities and choices that spark their interests.  I was intrigued with the idea of “learning menus” or “choice boards” for use in after school programs.  While I have always given children choices, this more formalized idea of creating a choice board for clubs is exciting and will allow for greater differentiation in teaching in each activity club.  Here is the video I chose:

I am a big believer in the importance of creating a student-centered environment. Interest-based instruction can not only draw on and expand already existing student interests, but can help them discover new interests as well (Tomlinson, 2001).

An excellent way to increase student ownership of learning in the classroom is through the use of choice boards.  I have learned that using choice boards allows students to choose how they will learn.  Students decide which activity they are most comfortable completing first, and once they master it, they can move on to more challenging activities.  Choice boards are easily adapted across disciplines and grade levels, and give students an opportunity to showcase the skills they’ve mastered, practice new content and skills, and extend their learning.  Empowering your kids through choice ensures that they are meeting learning goals, as well as digesting material in ways that best suit their learning styles.  Choice boards or learning menus keep students more engaged, and also seem to let students challenge themselves more.  Tomlinson (2001) states, “plan to encourage your students to “workup”—that is, be ready to match students to tasks that will stretch them” (p. 49).  I believe offering choice boards would do this!

I also learned that choice boards (or learning menus) can be set up in a variety of different ways: By ability, learning style, student interest, readiness, learning preference, or even questioning (Cox, n.d.).  I think this lends itself perfectly to my mixed age groups in after school and would be easy for staff to manage.  Student.Choice

Finally, I learned the board should revolve around a particular concept or learning goal and each activity should be structured to stimulate learning, practice or mastery of that subject. The first step in designing a Choice Board is to identify the core concept or academic goal that the students need to complete. Second, plan the activities so that it provides students with a variety of mediums or methods for learning the concept (PLB, n.d.) .  In each of our clubs we always have learning goals or outcomes for the participants.  Once we identify these we can plan activities that will help them master the learning target, and give them many choices in how they do it.

One question I have will be how well the students and staff will respond to it.  Our “choice boards” right now consist of letting children choice their clubs, but this would be digging a lot deeper within the club and require more effort on the staff person’s part.  I would think that children will love having more choices, but it would take a bit for them to get familiar with it.  I plan on sharing this strategy with many programs that I am currently coaching in the after school field.  I will emphasize how important is it to give students a choice in deciding how they want to learn and present their knowledge. Through this process of creating choice boards, I believe they will see the level of excitement and willingness to learn rise in the programs.


Cox, J. (n.d.).  All about differentiated instruction with menus.  Teachhub. com.  Retrieved from:

Professional learning board (PLB).  (n.d.)  How to use choice boards in the classroom. Retrieved from:

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Unit 3: Beliefs on Differentiation and Strategies for Implementation

I believe that all students differ in their learning needs.   By providing an environment in which students learning styles and interests are taken into account, and where students are engaged, active participants in their own learning, teachers can optimize each students success in the classroom.  When a teacher can respond to student’s individual needs by using general principles of differentiation such as respectful tasks, flexible grouping, and ongoing assessment and adjustment, then there can be maximum student growth and individual success for these students (Tomlinson and Allan, 2000).

Lawrence-Brown (2004) confirms that differentiated instruction can enable students with a wide range of abilities—from gifted students to those with mild or even severe disabilities—to receive an appropriate education in inclusive classrooms.  When teachers use differentiated instructional strategies, including flexible grouping, student choice of learning tasks, and scaffolding, students take on more responsibility for their own learning, and they appear to be more engaged in learning.    There are reportedly fewer discipline problems in classrooms where teachers provide differentiated lessons as well (Weselby, 2014).

In my own experience I have found success in using differentiated instruction and seen the value of it first hand with children in my programs.  When we appeal to different learning styles, talents or skill sets of children we set kids up for success in the real world!

Here is an interesting article about what research says about differentiated instruction:

Regarding Tomlinson’s (2001) idea to “give your students as much responsibility for their learning as possible”, I agree, and believe that student empowerment is about student ownership of learning.   It is helping students take control of their own education.  I also believe the fastest way to empower students is to connect what they are learning to the real world and I try to do this through service learning or project-based learning.  I feel by creating an environment where their effort will impact other people, I can help students recognize the power they can have to impact the world.Student responsibility

As Tomlinson (2001) states, “Not only does fostering student responsibility make classroom management far more effective, it also helps young learners become independent—an important learning goal on its own (p. 38)”.  The more responsibility we can give students, the more they will engage in the classroom, be part of the community, and learn the skills needed to become responsible citizens.

Finally, I’d like to share this video to reinforce how using differentiated instruction can support all learners.  Enjoy!


Lawrence-Brown, D. (2004). Differentiated instruction: Inclusive strategies for standards-based learning that benefit the whole class. American Secondary Education 32(3), 34.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for Differentiating Schools & Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Weselby, C. (2014).  What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom.  Concordia University.  Retrieved from:

Unit 2: How differentiated instruction is being used in after school programs

Our charge this week was to use the library data base to research how differentiated instruction is being used in our own professional context.  While I did not find any articles specifically around differentiated instruction in after school programs, I feel that much of what after school professionals are doing in out of school time programs connects closely with the school day.  The goal is often to make the most of the after school hours by increasing students’ desire to learn.  We do this by:

  • Developing thoughtful, fun, accessible, activities
  • Surveying and building on students’ interests
  • Motivating all students to participate
  • Providing real-world activities that connect to the broader community

In an after school program, we also strive to differentiate our instruction by creating an environment that supports, and is supported by, an evolving community of learners (Tomlinson, 2001).  Since many after school programs are mixed agDI cartoone groups, staff are even more driven to differentiate activities and lessons to ensure that all children have activities that meet their interests, learning styles, and age-appropriate needs.  We need to always be thinking of ways to even the playing field so that students have equitable learning opportunities.

The article I chose to analyze and evaluate for this assignment is “Problem-based and Project-based learning: promoting differentiated instruction”.  Galvan and Coronado (2014), emphasize in this article that “instructional methods like problem and project-based activities allow teachers to apply differentiated learning instruction in their classroom” (p.40).  I thought this article was especially applicable to my professional context as many of the learning opportunities offered in out of school time programs are problem and project-based, and there is often a lot of scaffolding going on with individual students throughout the duration of the clubs each session.

The purpose of the article is to show how educational research and case studies demonstrate the numerous positive effects that problem-based and project-based learning have on the 21st century learner (Galvan & Coronado, 2014).  The argument that the authors are making is that today’s world demands more from teachers.  It demands that they create a more active learning environment that is enriched with various styles of teaching that meet the needs of all sorts of different learners.  There is no more “one size fits all” way to teach.  The authors clearly value the empirical evidence that shows “that fusing problem and project-based learning will heighten the quality of learning in the classroom” (p. 41).  However, they also did a good job of discussing the challenges of project-based learning, and how teachers need to transform their traditional authoritative role to one of classroom facilitator of learning.  I feel this article presented good research and constructed a good argument in favor of problem and project-based learning, which supports my thinking around including this type of learning in after school programs.

In analyzing the evaluation this article, I felt the authors provided an overview of the problem to be addressed, presented evidence of knowledge of the topic of research through references to and descriptions of relevant and current research, and the conclusion drawn were based on research knowledge.  I personally found the article very appropriate for my professional context and could use this article with adult students in my classes.

Miller (2012) says, project-based learning naturally lends itself to differentiated instruction. By design, it is student-centered, student-driven, and gives space for teachers to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways”.  I absolutely agree and I plan on using the information from both the article by Galvan and Coronado, and the article by Miller (below)  to share idea(s) for implementation in my own educational context with staff.  Specifically,  I would like to coach programs to create “learning centers” in their programs, ensure children have a voice and have authentic choices, and also have time for reflection and goal setting.


Galvan, M. E., & Coronado, J. M. (2014). Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning: Promoting Differentiated Instruction. National Teacher Education Journal, 7(4), 39-42.

Miller, A. (2012).  6 Strategies for differentiated instruction in project-based learning.  Edutopia.  Retrieved from:

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Unit 1: Differentiated Instruction

In order to create a safe and supportive environment that meets the needs of all students, educators need to use differentiated instruction in the classroom.   During this first unit of the course we explored what differentiated instruction is, and we created our own mind map of our thoughts.  The process I employed was to use my previous knowledge in my professional context and brainstorm as many phrases and words that I felt applicable to differentiated instruction.  Once I watched all of the videos and read the unit materials,  I was able to go back and add to my mind map, allowing me to create a deeper, more complete picture of what differentiated instruction truly is for teachers and students.

While I feel I did have an accurate understanding (red below), the unit materials (blue below) reinforced my knowledge, and also widened my perspective of the importance of how dramatically differentiated instruction can help teachers maximize the learning of students and help each individual child succeed.   This process helped me understand that differentiated instruction “focuses on meaningful learning or powerful ideas for all students” (Tomlinson, 2001).

Differentiated Instruction Mind Map (2)
Tricia Pawlik-York DI Mind Map

In explaining differentiated instruction to a colleague I would be sure to emphasis that as teachers we need to provide students with many avenues to learn, whether that is with content, process, or using a variety of instructional strategies to reach students at all levels of ability (Welesby, 2014).  Differentiated instruction is also proactive, qualitative and rooted in assessment (Tomlinson, 2001).

Every student has different learning styles and comes to us with a different level of DI photoability.   Differentiated instruction is all about being truly “student-centered”, and giving students more ownership of their learning and growth.  Quite simply it is a student focused way of teaching and learning that is necessary as every classroom has a broad range of learners.  It is being a responsive teacher!   Teaching should be differentiated to help each child capitalize on strengths and compensate for or correct weaknesses (Sternberg and Li-Fang, 2005).

For students, I would explain that every child has strengths and challenges, just like adults, and in our program/classroom we are going to value that and sometimes that means giving some children some extra time, tools or different activities so they can be successful.

As Sternberg and Li-fang state, “understanding thinking styles helps teachers differentiate instruction to maximize the learning outcomes of all learners” (p. 245).  So in my professional context I would certainly begin by understanding both the adult learner styles in my afterschool essentials course, and also the styles of the children in the afterschool program.  Knowing this, as well as their “learner profile” of interests, strengths and challenges, will help me create a catalog of activities that will best meet the needs of the entire group.  I will be able to adapt and differentiate the three elements of  (1) content—input, what students learn; (2) process—how students go about making sense of ideas and information;and (3) product—output, how students demonstrate what they have learned (Tomlinson, 2001).  Overall, this will have a positive impact on student learning and create an open and flexible pathway for every student to learn in my program environment.

Implementation in an afterschool program:  The best afterschool programs engage students in fun activities that create a desire to learn, and they build on what students are learning during the school day to extend the knowledge they already have.  I will create a learner profile on each child in the program, and then design a series of club activities based on student’s learning styles, grouping the students by shared interests.  I will regularly assess learning by meeting with the clubs, as well as individuals, and make adjustments in content and process to meet student’s needs.


Sternberg, R. J., & Li-Fang, Z. (2005). Styles of thinking as a basis of differentiated instruction. Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 245–253.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-ability Classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Welesby, C. (2014).  What is differentiated instruction? Examples of how to differentiate in the classroom.  Concordia University.  Retrieved from: