Differentiating Instruction Professional Development Thesis

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¶ … Professional Development

The objective of this work is to describe the importance of the superintendent understanding the 'big picture' of how professional development can improve the school organization. This work will answer the questions of how the superintendent could go about beginning the process of differentiated instruction in the school district and will develop a comprehensive plan for differentiation of instruction. This work will define the role of the public, teachers, administrators and/or others in developing the planning process.


Differentiated instruction is defined as "an approach that enables teacher to plan strategically to meet the needs of every student. It is rooted in the belief that there is variability among any group of learners and that teachers should adjust instruction accordingly." (Corley, 2005, p.1) The work of Heacox (2002) states that classrooms are diverse in relation to the following factors:

1) Cognitive abilities (i.e., multiple intelligences);

2) Learning styles;

3) Socioeconomic factors;

4) Readiness;

5) Learning pace;

6) Gender influences; and

7) Cultural influences (Heacox, 2002).

The stated goals of differentiation are those stated as follows:

1) Development of challenging and engaging tasks for each learner;

2) Development of instructional activities based on essential topics and concepts, significant processes and skills, and multiple ways to display learning;

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3) Provision of flexible approaches to content, instruction, and products;

4) Responding to students' readiness, instructional needs, interests, and learning preferences;

5) Provision of opportunities for students to work in varied instructional formats;

6) Meeting curriculum standards and requirements for each learner; and

7) Establishment of learner-responsive, teacher-facilitated classrooms (Heacox, 2002).


Thesis on Differentiating Instruction Professional Development Assignment

Differentiated instruction involves teachers modifying their instruction to "meeting individual student's readiness levels, preferences and interests." (Council for Exceptional Children, 2007, p.1) There have been four classroom elements identified by Tomlinson which can be differentiated and those four are stated as follows:

(1) Content -- What the student needs to learn;

(2) Process -- Activities in which the student engages to make sense of or master the content;

(3) Products -- the culminating projects that ask students to apply and extend what they have learned; and (4) Learning environment -- The way the classroom works and feels. (Council for Exceptional Children, 2007, p.1)

The work of Tomlinson (1999) suggests specific methods that the teacher can utilize in the classroom to differentiate instruction including those as follows:

(1) Setting up stations in the classroom where different learners can work simultaneously on various tasks. Such stations naturally invite flexible grouping.

(2) Having students set agendas, or personalized lists of tasks to complete in a specified time, usually two or three weeks.

(3) Structuring problem-based learning to have students actively solve problems, either individually or in small groups, much the same way that professionals perform their jobs (this also supports building a community of learners).

(4) Assigning tiered activities to allow learners to work on the same concepts but with varying degrees of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness.

(5) Using entry points (Gardner, 1994) so that learners can explore a topic through as many as five avenues: narrative (presenting a story), logical-quantitative (using numbers), foundational (examining philosophy and vocabulary), aesthetic (focusing on sensory features), and experiential (hands-on).

(6) Using choice boards from which learners can select one of several work assignments that are printed on cards and affixed to the choice boards.

(7) Employing compacting: teachers assess learners' knowledge and skills before beginning a specific unit of study and allow learners who do well on the preassessment to move on to more advanced work.

(8) Chunking, or breaking assignments and activities into smaller, more manageable parts, and providing more structured directions for each part.

(9) Encouraging students to use different tools to perform the same task: paper/pencil, manipulatives, computer.

(10) Using flexible pacing to allow for differences in students' ability to master the key concepts.

(11) Encouraging independent study for students who want to work on their own on topics of interest to them.

(12) Using portfolios as a means for reflecting on student growth over time. (Corley,, p.1)

Various differentiation strategies include those of:

(1) acceleration;

(2) flexible grouping;

(3) mentoring;

(4) curriculum compacting;

(5) literature circles;

(6) contracting;

(7) independent study;

(8) telescoping;

(9) post-holing;

(10) learning centers;

(11) tiered instruction

(12) differentiated assessment;

(13) collaborative learning;

(14) inquiry-based education;

(15) brain compatible learning;

(16) project-based learning;

(17) creative problem solving. (Differentiated Instruction and Resources, 2007, p.1)


One need only examine the various courses offered for Differentiated Instruction in the area of Professional Development in order to grasp the necessity of professional development in the implementation of differentiated instruction in the school and in the classroom. For instance differentiated instruction courses include those which assist teachers in the application of differentiation with their students and specifically in the formulation of lesson plans and delivery of lesson plans in the classroom.

Differentiated instruction professional development courses include that of adjusting instructional techniques to implement differentiation effectively as well as strategies for differentiation of instruction and inclusion in view of differentiated instruction in the classroom. The work of Betty Moore entitled: "Using Assistive Technology, Differentiated Instruction and Professional Learning Teams" explains how the use of assistive technology in differentiated instruction can effective close the learning gap and result in all students succeeding in the learning initiative.

It is the responsibility of the superintendent to make sure that all teachers are on the receiving end of the proper professional development to effectively incorporate and implement differentiated instruction into the school's classrooms.


Assistive technology is reported by Moore (2008) to be a great support in differentiation of instruction by teachers in the classroom. The study reported by Moore (2008) on Differentiated instruction, Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology uses the measure of self-assessment surveys in which teachers reported "an increase in comfort, skill, and usage of Assistive Technology and Differentiated Instruction. Post-data show that gains were made in each of these areas, with the greatest gains over the three years occurring in Assistive Technology." (2008, p.3) Naturally, teachers must be trained to utilize assistive technology in the classroom and this highlights the needs of teachers to have ongoing professional development which will support their use of differentiated instruction in the classroom.


The school superintendent holds a role in the implementation of differentiated instruction in today's schools and specifically in preparing the path for professional development of instructors which supports differentiation in learning in the classroom. The superintendent has the power to afford the necessary funding and training for teachers which they will require in order to effectively implement differentiated learning in the classroom.

Training in the school district is critical in the professional development of teachers who will be implementing differentiated instruction in their classrooms. Training initiatives involve improvement plans or professional development plans for teachers and principals and this will require funding, time for training, and a school environment that is conducive to collaboration among teachers.


In order to understand what is specifically needed in the area of professional development by the teachers in a school district, a needs assessment can be conducted and is suggested in the work entitled: "Empowering Students to Succeed" to be integral to the implementation of differentiated instruction that is successful in assisting and supporting the learning of students and the differentiation of classroom instruction.

For example, it is reported that the school system in the study being reported found in its needs assessment on differentiated learning that the teachers in the study were found "following a series of focus groups involving K-12 staff and administration to have a need to "gain knowledge and understanding of key concepts of differentiated instruction. (ELL Students and Special Needs Students).

The performance indicators stated were "By August 2006, 15% of staff members will have participated in professional developing dealing with ELL and special needs students in the regular classroom." (2008) Therefore, it is important that in the process of differentiated instruction that the teachers and administrators participate in focus groups for the purpose of identifying the specific areas that are in need of professional development to support classroom differentiation in learning.

The goals of a professional development plans include the goals stated as follows:

(1) Increase active participation in ongoing, literacy-focused professional development;

(2) To put into practice research-based instruction strategies that are monitored and evaluated for effectiveness;

(3) Strengthening of teacher knowledge, subject/content matter and classroom management skills in order to ensure all students in reaching high academic achievement;

(4) To address goals for school wide and district wide improvement;

(5) To provide ongoing and sustained professional development for teachers and administrators to meet state standards and raise achievement of students;

(6) The provision of a mentoring program that improve the abilities of new teachers in assisting students in meeting state standard and in retention of new teacher and in making the provisions of guidance and support.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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