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In instruction, differentiation helps educators create an environment where each student can learn and thrive at their own pace.

3 simple strategies to supercharge student growth


Differentiating instruction helps educators create an environment where each student can learn and thrive at their own pace

Key points:

Differentiation is an essential part of effective teaching. As educators, we recognize that each of our students is on their own unique learning journey. Some are following their interests, others are preparing for a future career, while many more are just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.

Any teacher hoping to meet their students where they are and help them grow into active learners cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all method of instruction. Differentiation must play a key role in their teaching philosophy.

However, teachers are busy people with an ever-growing list of responsibilities. How is an educator supposed to differentiate instruction while juggling multiple demands on their time? By using the three practical, teacher-tested ideas below, educators can allow students to take ownership of their learning journey. Let’s explore Low Floor High Ceiling, Different-AI-tion, and PEWC:

A1. Low Floor, High Ceiling: Low-Floor, High-Ceiling activities allow any student to participate and find success, regardless of how much they may struggle. However, they also challenge students to improve and grow, no matter how advanced they are. One example of a Low Floor, High Ceiling activity is to task students with constructing a literal mascot for their knowledge. Have them use everyday materials to build a character that represents something they are learning about. Once complete, they’ll explain the symbolism behind their construction to deepen their understanding of the subject – and they’ll do it in their own way, expressing their understanding at a level that makes sense to them.

A2. Different-AI-tion: Artificial Intelligence tools can save teachers valuable time and allow them to differentiate in wonderful new ways. Leverage the power of AI with power differentiation activities like an AI Level Adjustment. Simply take the text of an assignment and have an AI tool like ChatGPT adjust the reading level or the challenge level up or down to meet the needs of the classroom — or create leveled challenges that students can progress through as they gain mastery. Assignments can even be adjusted so they cover the same standards, but directly integrate student interests like sports, pop culture, or videogames!  

A3. PEWC: There are four broad ways to teach that are always differentiated, just by their very nature: Project-Based Learning (PBL), Engineering, Writing, and Creation. PBL allows students to use what they’ve learned to make an impact on open-ended challenges that extend outside the walls of their classroom. Engineering requires students to optimize and challenges them to grow. Writing encourages students to approach an assignment with their own creative voice, and Creation allows them to express their understanding, perspective, and skills on whatever task is in front of them. By infusing PEWC activities into the classroom, teachers can deepen their differentiation immediately and effectively.

Differentiating instruction doesn’t need to feel overwhelming for teachers. By employing techniques such as the “Low-Floor, High-Ceiling” approach, integrating AI into lessons, and applying the PEWC principles to classroom activities, educators can create an environment where each student can learn and thrive at their own pace. Be sure to check out this free webinar from Van Andel Institute for Education to discover even more learning strategies for the busy educator.

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