Instructional Grouping in the classroom


In a 3-4 paragraph please respond to:

  • How was instructional grouping used when you went to school?
  • Based on current research, what are the benefits and drawbacks of instructional grouping strategies?
  • Discuss how instructional grouping can be used to help teachers differentiate based on instructional input as well as student product.
  • What current trends do you see in Early Childhood regarding instructional grouping strategies?

**You are required to compose a substantive response to the respective questions for this week’s lesson. Scholarly work that is commensurate for a Masters level program is the expectation. This includes the inclusion of references and resources in alignment with APA guidelines.




Points = 5

The response is comprehensive in scope and it is highly responsive to the prompt. Moreover, this posting is fully developed. APA style is correctly utilized including the use of in-text citations and references.

I have attached articles from this week’s lesson

Differentiated Instruction and Implications
for UDL Implementation
Effective Classroom Practices Report
This report was written with support from the National Center on
Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC), a cooperative agreement
between CAST and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special
Education Programs (OSEP), Cooperative Agreement No. H324H990004.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position
of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs,
and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.
The implications for UDL content and lesson plan information in this report
was developed by CAST through a Subcontract Agreement with the Access
Center: Improving Outcomes for All Student K-8 at the American Institutes for
Research. This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of
Special Education Programs (Cooperative Agreement #H326K02003).
Differentiated Instruction and
Implications for UDL Implementation
NCAC Effective Classroom Practices
Differentiated Instruction and
Implications for UDL Implementation
By Tracey Hall, Nicole Strangman and Anne Meyer
Not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies
an approach to teaching and learning that gives students multiple options for taking in
information and making sense of ideas. Differentiated instruction is a teaching theory
based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation
to individual and diverse students in classrooms (Tomlinson, 2001). The model of
differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their approach to teaching
and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to learners rather than expecting
students to modify themselves for the curriculum. Many teachers and teacher educators
have recently identified differentiated instruction as a method of helping more students
in diverse classroom settings experience success. This report examines information on the
theory and research behind differentiated instruction and the intersection with Universal
Design for Learning (UDL), a curriculum designed approach to increase flexibility in
teaching and decrease the barriers that frequently limit student access to materials and
learning in classrooms (Rose & Meyer, 2002). We begin with an introduction to
differentiated instruction by defining the construct, then identifying components and
features; additionally, we provide a sampling of applications. Next, we introduce UDL and
the linkages with differentiated instruction both in theory and with specific lesson
examples. The report concludes with a listing of Web resources for further information
and explicit examples.
This report on differentiated instruction and UDL begins with an introduction to
differentiated instruction in which we provide the definition, a sampling of considerations
and curriculum applications, and research evidence for effectiveness. The second part of
the paper, the discussion moves to UDL applications of differentiated instruction. UDL is a
theoretical approach that is based on research from the neurosciences and effective
teaching practices. This portion develops an understanding of UDL and proceeds to
identify the theoretical and teacher practice levels. Our document concludes with general
guidelines for the implementation of UDL and a list of Web resources that provide further
information about differentiated instruction.
The literature review in this paper is also available as a stand alone document, with
annotated references. Look for it on the Effective Classrooms Practices page of the
National Center for Accessing the General Curriculum’s Web site
To differentiate instruction is to recognize students’ varying background knowledge,
readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests, and to react responsively.
Differentiated instruction is a process to teaching and learning for students of differing
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abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each
student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and
assisting in the learning process.
Figure 1. Learning Cycle and Decision Factors Used in Planning and Implementing
Differentiated Instruction
Identifying Components/Features
According to the authors of differentiated instruction, several key elements guide
differentiation in the education environment. Tomlinson (2001) identifies three
elements of the curriculum that can be differentiated: Content, Process, and Products
(Figure 1). These are described in the following three sections, which are followed by
several additional guidelines for forming an understanding of and developing ideas
around differentiated instruction.
Several elements and materials are used to support instructional content.
These include acts, concepts, generalizations or principles, attitudes, and
skills. The variation seen in a differentiated classroom is most frequently in
the manner in which students gain access to important learning. Access to the
content is seen as key.
Align tasks and objectives to learning goals. Designers of differentiated
instruction view the alignment of tasks with instructional goals and objectives
as essential. Goals are most frequently assessed by many state-level, highstakes tests and frequently administered standardized measures. Objectives
are frequently written in incremental steps resulting in a continuum of skillsbuilding tasks. An objectives-driven menu makes it easier to find the next
instructional step for learners entering at varying levels.
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• Instruction is concept-focused and principle-driven. The instructional concepts
should be broad-based, not focused on minute details or unlimited facts.
Teachers must focus on the concepts, principles and skills that students
should learn. The content of instruction should address the same concepts
with all students, but the degree of complexity should be adjusted to suit
diverse learners.
• Flexible grouping is consistently used. Strategies for flexible grouping are
essential. Learners are expected to interact and work together as they develop
knowledge of new content. Teachers may conduct whole-class introductory
discussions of content big ideas followed by small group or paired work.
Student groups may be coached from within or by the teacher to complete
assigned tasks. Grouping of students is not fixed. As one of the foundations
of differentiated instruction, grouping and regrouping must be a dynamic
process, changing with the content, project, and on-going evaluations.
Classroom management benefits students and teachers. To effectively
operate a classroom using differentiated instruction, teachers must carefully
select organization and instructional delivery strategies. In her text, How to
Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms (Chapter 7), Carol
Tomlinson (2001), identifies 17 key strategies for teachers to successfully
meet the challenge of designing and managing differentiated instruction.
Initial and on-going assessment of student readiness and growth are
essential. Meaningful pre-assessment naturally leads to functional and
successful differentiation. Incorporating pre and on-going assessment informs
teachers so that they can better provide a menu of approaches, choices, and
scaffolds for the varying needs, interests and abilities that exist in classrooms
of diverse students. Assessments may be formal or informal, including
interviews, surveys, performance assessments, and more formal evaluation
Students are active and responsible explorers. Teachers respect that each task
put before the learner will be interesting, engaging, and accessible to essential
understanding and skills. Each child should feel challenged most of the time.
Vary expectations and requirements for student responses. Items to which
students respond may be differentiated so that different students can
demonstrate or express their knowledge and understanding in different
ways. A well-designed student product allows varied means of expression
and alternative procedures and offers varying degrees of difficulty, types of
evaluation, and scoring.
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Additional Guidelines That Make Differentiation Possible for Teachers to
Clarify key concepts and generalizations. Ensure that all learners gain
powerful understandings that can serve as the foundation for future learning.
Teachers are encouraged to identify essential concepts and instructional foci
to ensure that all learners comprehend.
Use assessment as a teaching tool to extend rather than merely measure
instruction. Assessment should occur before, during, and following the
instructional episode, and it should be used to help pose questions regarding
student needs and optimal learning.
Emphasize critical and creative thinking as a goal in lesson design. The
tasks, activities, and procedures for students should require that they
understand and apply meaning. Instruction may require supports, additional
motivation, varied tasks, materials, or equipment for different students in
the classroom.
Engaging all learners is essential. Teachers are encouraged to strive for the
development of lessons that are engaging and motivating for a diverse class
of students. Vary tasks within instruction as well as across students. In other
words, an entire session for students should not consist of all drill and
practice, or any single structure or activity.
Provide a balance between teacher-assigned and student-selected tasks.
A balanced working structure is optimal in a differentiated classroom. Based
on pre-assessment information, the balance will vary from class-to-class as
well as lesson-to-lesson. Teachers should ensure that students have choices in
their learning.
Evidence of Effectiveness as a Classroom Practice
Differentiation is recognized to be a compilation of many theories and practices. Based
on this review of the literature of differentiated instruction, the “package” itself is lacking
empirical validation. There is an acknowledged and decided gap in the literature in this
area and future research is warranted.
According to the proponents of differentiation, the principles and guidelines are rooted in
years of educational theory and research. For example, differentiated instruction adopts the
concept of “readiness.” That is, the difficulty of skills taught should be slightly in advance
of the child’s current level of mastery. This is grounded in the work of Lev Vygotsky
(1978), and the zone of proximal development (ZPD), the range at which learning takes
place. The classroom research by Fisher et al., (1980), strongly supports the ZPD concept.
The researchers found that in classrooms where individuals were performing at a level of
about 80% accuracy, students learned more and felt better about themselves and the
subject area under study (Fisher, 1980 in Tomlinson, 2000).
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Other practices noted as central to differentiation have been validated in the effective
teaching research conduced from the mid 1980’s to the present. These practices include
effective management procedures, grouping students for instruction, and engaging learners
(Ellis and Worthington, 1994).
While no empirical validation of differentiated instruction as a package was found for this
review, there are a generous number of testimonials and classroom examples that authors
of several publications and Web sites provide. Tomlinson reports individual cases of
settings in which the full model of differentiation was very promising and teachers using
differentiation have written about improvements in their classrooms. (See the links to learn
more about differentiated instruction).
Applications to General Education Classroom Settings
The design and development of differentiated instruction as a model began in the general
education classroom. The initial application came to practice for students considered gifted
but whom perhaps were not sufficiently challenged by the content provided in the general
classroom setting. As classrooms have become more diverse, differentiated instruction has
been applied at all levels for students of all abilities.
Many authors of publications about differentiated instruction, strongly recommend that
teachers adapt the practices slowly, perhaps one content area at a time. Additionally, these
experts agree that teachers should share the creative load by working together to develop
ideas and menus of options for students. A number of Web sites have been created in that
include lessons to illustrate what teachers have created for instruction using the model of
differentiated instruction. Several web sites are listed in a later section of this report.
Differentiated instruction is an instructional process that has excellent potential to
positively impact learning by offering teachers a means to provide instruction to a range of
students in today’s classroom situations. The next section of this report introduces the
reader to the theory and research behind Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We then
investigate the links and connections between UDL and differentiated instruction.
Additionally, we identify methods and materials that may be implemented to support the
implementation of differentiated instruction in concert with the principles of UDL. Finally,
a set of guidelines for UDL implementation are provided including a listing of Web
resources to provide further information on the concepts presented in this report.
An Introduction to Universal Design for Learning Applications
Universal Design for Learning is a theoretical framework developed by CAST to guide
the development of curricula that are flexible and supportive of all students (Dolan & Hall,
2001; Meyer & Rose, 1998; Pisha & Coyne, 2001; Rose, 2001; Rose & Dolan, 2000; Rose
& Meyer, 2000a, 2000b, 2002; Rose, Sethuraman, & Meo, 2000). The concept of UDL
was inspired by the universal design movement in architecture. This movement calls for
the design of structures that anticipate the needs of individuals with disabilities and
accommodate these needs from the outset. Universally designed structures are indeed more
usable by individuals with disabilities, but in addition they offer unforeseen benefits for all
users. Curb cuts, for example, serve their intended use of facilitating the travel of those in
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wheelchairs, but they are also beneficial to people pushing strollers, young children, and
even the average walker. And so, the process of designing for individuals with disabilities
has led to improved usability for everyone.
Similarly, but uniquely, UDL calls for the design of curricula with the needs of all students
in mind, so that methods, materials, and assessment are usable by all. Traditional curricula
present a host of barriers that limit students’ access to information and learning. Of these,
printed text is particularly notorious. In a traditional curriculum, a student without a welldeveloped ability to see, decode, attend to, or comprehend printed text is compelled to
adapt to its ubiquity as best as he or she can. In contrast, a UDL curriculum is designed to
be innately flexible, enriched with multiple media so that alternatives can be accessed
whenever appropriate. A UDL curriculum takes on the burden of adaptation so that the
student doesn’t have to, minimizing barriers and maximizing access to both information
and learning.
The UDL framework guides the development of adaptable curricula by means of 3
principles (Figure 2). These 3 principles parallel 3 fundamentally important learning
components and 3 distinct learning networks in the brain: recognition, strategy, and affect
(Rose & Meyer, 2002). The common recommendation of these 3 principles is to select
goals, methods, assessment and materials in a way that will minimize barriers and
maximize flexibility. In this manner, the UDL framework structures the development of
curricula that fully support every student’s access, participation, and progress in all 3
essential facets of learning.
Principles of the Universal Design for Learning Framework
Principle 1:
To support recognition learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation
Principle 2:
To support strategic learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of expression and
Principle 3:
To support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options for engagement.
Figure 2. The three UDL principles call for flexibility in relation to three essential facets of
learning, each one orchestrated by a distinct set of networks in the brain.
Critical to successfully implementing UDL theory is the use of digital materials. Digital
materials, unlike the conventional pedagogical mainstays, speech, printed text, and printed
images, have an inherent flexibility. They can be modified in a host of ways, depending on
the needs of the student. This flexibility makes it feasible to customize learning materials
and methods to each individual.
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For teachers wondering how to customize the curriculum, CAST has devised three sets of
broad teaching methods that support each of the 3 UDL principles (Figure 3, Rose &
Meyer, 2002). These teaching methods draw on knowledge of the qualities of digital media
and how recognition, strategic, and affective networks operate. For example, the first
Teaching Method to support recognition learning is to provide multiple examples. This
teaching method takes advantage of the fact that recognition networks can extract the
defining features of a pattern and differentiate it from similar patterns simply by viewing
multiple examples. Although presentation of multiple examples might be challenging in a
classroom limited to printed text and hard copy images, digital materials enable the
assembly, storage, and maintenance of a large collection of examples in the form of digital
text, images, sound, or video – all in the modest space of a classroom. This is one example
of how digital materials and UDL Teaching Methods can facilitate the successful
implementation of UDL.
The UDL Teaching Methods will anchor the upcoming discussion where we will highlight
the ways in which virtual reality and computer simulations align with each of the 3 UDL
principles. Within the context of these teaching methods, we’ll show how virtual reality
and computer simulations can support individualized instruction of recognition, strategic,
and affective learning.
Network-Appropriate Teaching Methods
To support diverse recognition networks:
Provide multiple examples
Highlight critical features
Provide multiple media and formats
Support background context
To support diverse strategic networks:
Provide flexible models of skilled performance
Provide opportunities to practice with supports
Provide ongoing, relevant feedback
Offer flexible opportunities for demonstrating skill
To support diverse affective networks:
Offer choices of content and tools
Offer adjustable levels of challenge
Offer choices of rewards
Offer choices of learning context
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Figure 3. To help teachers support learners’ diverse recognition, strategic, and affective
networks, CAST has developed three sets of UDL teaching methods. These teaching
methods can be used to make the curriculum more flexible and broadly supportive.
Differentiated Instruction and the Three Universal
Design for Learning Principles
Differentiated instruction is well received as a classroom practice that may be well suited
to the three principles of UDL. The following section looks at the three network
appropriate teaching methods, recognition, strategic and affective, in order to address the
ways in which differentiated instruction coordinates with UDL theory. Certain
instructional techniques have been found to be very effective in supporting different skills
as students learn. Differentiated instruction is designed to keep the learner in mind when
specifying the instructional episode.
Recognition learning. The first UDL principle focuses on pattern recognition and the
importance of providing multiple, flexible methods of presentation when teaching
patterns – no single teaching methodology for pattern recognition will be satisfactory for
every learner. The theory of differentiated instruction incorporates some guidelines that
can help teachers to support critical elements of recognition learning in a flexible way and
promote every student’s success. Each of the three key elements of differentiated
instruction, content, process, and product, supports an important UDL Teaching Method
for individualized instruction of pattern recognition.
The content guidelines for differentiated instruction support the first UDL Teaching
Method for recognition networks, provide multiple examples, in that they encourage the
use of several elements and materials to support instructional content. A teacher following
this guideline might help students in a social studies class to understand the location of a
state in the union by showing them a wall map or a globe, projecting a state map, or
describing the location in words. Also, while preserving the essential content, a teacher
could vary the difficulty of the material by presenting smaller or larger, simpler or more
complex maps. For students with physical or cognitive disabilities, such a diversity of
examples may be vital in order for them to access the pattern being taught. Other students
may benefit from the same multiple examples by obtaining a perspective that they
otherwise might not. In this way, a range of examples can help to ensure that each
student’s recognition networks are able to identify the fundamental elements identifying
a pattern.
This same use of varied content examples supports a second recommended practice in
UDL methodology, provide multiple media and formats. A wide range of tools for
presenting instructional content are available digitally, thus teachers may manipulate size,
color contrasts, and other features to develop examples in multiple media and formats.
These can be saved for future use and flexibly accessed by different students, depending on
their needs and preferences.
The content guidelines of differentiated instruction also recommend that content elements
of instruction be kept concept-focused and principle-driven. This practice is consistent
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with a third UDL Teaching Method for recognition, highlight critical features. By
avoiding any focus on extensive facts or seductive details and reiterating the broad
concepts, a goal of differentiated instruction, teachers are highlighting essential
components, better supporting recognition.
The fourth UDL Teaching Method for recognition is to support background knowledge,
and in this respect, the assessment step of the differentiated instruction learning cycle is
instrumental. By evaluating student knowledge about a construct before designing
instruction teachers can better support students’ knowledge base, scaffolding instruction in
a very important way.
Strategic learning. People find for themselves the most desirable method of learning
strategies; therefore, teaching methodologies need to be varied. This kind of flexibility is
key for teachers to help meet the needs of their diverse students, and this is reflected in the
4 UDL Teaching Methods. Differentiated instruction can support these teaching methods
in valuable ways.
Differentiated instruction recognizes the need for students to receive flexible models of
skilled performance, one of the four UDL Teaching Methods for strategic learning. As
noted above, teachers implementing differentiated instruction are encouraged to
demonstrate information and skills multiple times and at varying levels. As a result,
learners enter the instructional episode with different approaches, knowledge and strategies
for learning.
When students are engaged in initial learning on novel tasks or skills, supported practice
should be used to ensure success and eventual independence. Supported practice enables
students to split up a complex skill into manageable components and fully master these
components. Differentiated instruction promotes this teaching method by encouraging
students to be active and responsible learners, and by asking teachers to respect individual
differences and scaffold students as they move from initial learning to practiced, less
supported skills mastery.
In order to successfully demonstrate the skills that they have learned, students need flexible
opportunities for demonstrating skill. Differentiated instruction directly supports this UDL
Teaching Method by reminding teachers to vary requirements and expectations for
learning and expressing knowledge, including the degree of difficulty and the means of
evaluation or scoring.
Affective learning. Differentiated instruction and UDL Teaching Methods bear another
important point of convergence: recognition of the importance of engaging learners in
instructional tasks. Supporting affective learning through flexible instruction is the third
principle of UDL and an objective that differentiated instruction supports very effectively.
Differentiated instruction theory reinforces the importance of effective classroom
management and reminds teachers of meeting the challenges of effective organizational
and instructional practices. Engagement is a vital component of effective classroom
management, organization, and instruction. Therefore teachers are encouraged to offer
choices of tools, adjust the level of difficulty of the material, and provide varying levels of
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scaffolding to gain and maintain learner attention during the instructional episode. These
practices bear much in common with UDL Teaching Methods for affective learning: offer
choices of content and tools, provide adjustable levels of challenge, and offer a choice of
learning context. By providing varying levels of scaffolding when differentiating
instruction, students have access to varied learning contexts as well as choices about their
learning environment.
Examples of UDL and Differentiated Instruction
The focus of the previous sections was to describe ways in which differentiated instruction
supports the three principles of UDL and aligns with UDL teaching practices. Here, we
present actual lesson plans employing differentiated instruction. The first is a product of a
school that is working with CAST, and the second is from work outside of CAST. Each
exemplifies applications of UDL in differentiated instruction. In the example from CAST,
we highlight the ways that differentiated instruction is used to implement UDL teaching
methods. In the second, we identified UDL features implemented in a well designed
differentiated instruction lesson in mathematics and recommend ways in which UDL could
be applied to make an even more accessible, more flexible lesson.
CAST gathering evidence: The Life Cycle of Plants from the Planning for All
Learners (PAL) toolkit. This lesson is a two-day instructional plan that is a part of a larger
unit designed by a first grade teacher for a diverse class of students. Before teaching the
lessons presented on this Web site, the teacher introduced students to science concepts
around the growth of seeds through oral presentation and in-class experiments. This lesson
enabled the teacher to discuss, display and increase student understanding of the science
content and concepts.
The lesson plan addresses McRel, Massachusetts State and local District standards in
Science and English Language Arts, by teaching students the necessary environmental
variables about growth in plants, and the tools, skills and strategies required to do so.
Student choice and access flexibility in the lesson exemplify applications of UDL. Table 1
contains a listing of UDL features made possible by elements of differentiated instruction
employed in this lesson.
-TABLE 1 UDL Features of the CAST PAL Toolkit Model
Gathering Evidence: Life Cycle of Plants
UDL Teaching Method
Provide multiple examples.
Supportive Differentiated Instruction Feature(s)
In preparation for this lesson, the teacher created
multiple examples of finding and identifying seeds.
Additionally, the teacher provided several examples
of finding appropriate texts to complete the
assignment. Students have multiple examples of
texts from which to find information about the life
cycle of seeds. As another example, fast growing
seeds were planted in the classroom, giving
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students the opportunity to observe the
seed life cycle.
Highlight critical features.
Teacher provides critical information for the lesson
through oral presentation and highlights critical
features in written form, then monitors students to
check their focus on important features of the
lesson. Additionally, by having texts available in
digital format, the teacher or students may literally
highlight critical features of the text in preparation
of lesson assignments.
Provide multiple media and
The teacher located several (4-5) resources, in this
case books of different reading difficulty,
containing the same science constructs on seed life
cycles. The books were then made available
digitally as well as on audio tape for flexible
accessibility. Thus, materials were available in a
variety of media and formats.
Support background context.
Several levels of preparation were designed to
support background context:
Provide opportunities to practice
with support.
Offer flexible opportunities for
demonstrating skill.
Before this assignment the teacher and students
found seeds in a variety of vegetables and fruits.
In this way, the concept of seeds was brought
out of the abstract; students had experiences
seeing and finding seeds from a range of plants.
Careful instruction was organized to teach
students the concept of finding a book that is
“just right,” helping students to find a book that
is challenging, yet not too difficult. This, helped
keep students work and learn in their “zone of
proximal development” when obtaining
background information for the lesson.
Students had the option to work in selected
pairs as they search for answers to the
science questions.
During guided practice and independent
practice portions of each lesson, the teacher
provides supports by checking and prompting.
The design of this lesson allows students varied
approaches throughout the lesson. Students may
select their best or preferred type of working
situation and means for responding.
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Offer choices of content and tools.
NCAC Effective Classroom Practices
The teacher organized the lesson at multiple points
for choice of tools:
choice of resource materials,
choice of access (text, digital, audio), and
choice of response style.
Offer adjustable levels of
The teacher offers multiple texts, representing a
range of difficulty levels, and different means to
access these texts. This helps to ensure that
researching the answers to science questions is
appropriately challenging for each student. For
example, if decoding were challenging, the student
could use a simpler text and/or access the
information via audio or digital read-aloud.
Offer choices of learning contexts.
Throughout the lesson the teacher has organized
several choices that help diversify the available
learning contexts:
students can select from a variety of methods
to respond to the science questions (written,
scribed, recorded),
students can opt to work independently or with
a partner during the assignment completion
portion of the lesson, and
students can select the “right book” based on
difficulty and/or interest.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development differentiating
instruction Web site Differentiated Instruction Lesson Example, grade 6
mathematics. This Web site hosted by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development (ASCD) contains a number of lessons that illustrate different teachers’
examples of how to use the principles of differentiated instruction. We have selected a
mathematics lesson for 6th grade focusing on the concept of patterns.
This instructional approach to teaching mathematics patterns has several exciting UDL
features (see Table 2). Through the use of clearly stated goals and the implementation of
flexible working groups with varying levels of challenge, this lesson helps to break down
instructional barriers. We have identified additional ways to reduce barriers in this lesson
even further by employing the principles of UDL teaching methods and differentiated
instruction. We provide Table 3 with recommendations of employing teaching methods of
UDL to support this lesson. Please note that we are not making generalized
recommendations for making this lesson more UDL, but instead are focusing on ways that
differentiated instruction, specifically, can help achieve this goal.
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-TABLE 2 –
UDL Elements in a Differentiated Instruction Mathematics Lesson
UDL Teaching Method
Differentiated Instruction Features
Provide multiple examples.
The teacher provides multiple examples through the
story of The King’s Chessboard and other math
Highlight critical features.
The teacher highlights critical features of the
mathematics in the story by stopping and
calculating the amount of rice accumulating and
using a t-table to do so.
Provide multiple media and
The teacher reads the story aloud and students have
the story to read. The numbers are represented in
the story and on the t -table.
Support background context.
Teachers analyze or pretest students for key
preskills and background knowledge.
Provide ongoing, relevant
In cooperative groups, students may receive
feedback from the teacher and from peers.
Offer choices of content and tools.
Students are assigned to one of three groups tiered
by difficulty; all students are working on the same
task but with varying supports.
Offer adjustable levels of
Varied supports in the working groups alter the
level of independence and difficulty in solving the
-TABLE 3 UDL Strategies to Further Minimize Lesson Barriers in a
Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plan for Mathematics
UDL Strategy
Deducting/constructing numeric functions.
Provide different demonstrations or models
of how to use the tools employed in the
lesson. Scaffold how to use the t-table and
visualize the chessboard.
Students write an exit card to explain the
mathematical story.
Provide alternative formats for students to
express their interpretation of the story and
the mathematical implications. For
example, speaking, creating a diagram,
numerical representations.
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The Locker Problem.
NCAC Effective Classroom Practices
Consider background knowledge for
students entering this mathematical
problem. What range of supports could
be made available to provide the
informational knowledge so that students
can focus on the problem solving
Recommendations for Implementation at the Classroom Level
Although UDL applications of differentiated instruction already exist, they are
admittedly hard to come by. Even with such models available, teachers face challenges
in implementing them: the challenges of shifting away from traditional views of
intelligence and traditional reliance on print media, the challenge of acquiring and
mastering new technology, and the challenge of garnering support from the school system.
The following sections offer recommendations that can help teachers overcome each one
of these challenges.
Learn about Universal Design for Learning. The first and most basic step toward
successfully implementing UDL is self-education. Although UDL has been more than a
decade in the making, it is a new approach and one that challenges many traditional
educational perspectives and practices. Before teachers can implement UDL effectively,
they may need to learn a different way of looking at their students and the materials that
they use in the classroom. CAST has been working to disseminate UDL widely, and,
consistent with the framework itself, have developed multiple avenues (direct and indirect,
self-driven and trainer-taught, through text, speech, and interactive activities) through
which individuals can learn about UDL and develop the skills necessary to put it into
Visit the CAST Web site. The CAST Web site devotes a large section to
Universal Design for Learning. Here visitors will find an articulation of
UDL, discussions of its core concepts, descriptions of UDL research projects,
a listing of tools and resources that support UDL, and ideas and examples for
implementing UDL.
Read CAST publications. CAST has a range of publications highlighting
UDL and UDL practice, including Teaching Every Student in the Digital
Age (Rose & Meyer, 2002). The companion Web site to the book provides
an evolving set of resources and classroom examples, including interactive
activities and an online community where visitors can ask questions and
engage in discussion about UDL.
Enroll in an institute. Professional development institutes by CAST teach
professionals about the challenges of improving access to and progress
participation in the general education curriculum and how to make the
curriculum accessible for all learners.
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Talk to others. The Teaching Every Student section of the CAST Web site
includes an online community where teachers can communicate, collaborate
and obtain support from other educators who are exploring and teaching
with UDL.
Find more information and engage in discussion about universal design and
increasing access for students with disabilities at the Web site for the Access
Center ( a national technical assistance center that
is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education
Programs to make elementary and middle school curriculum more accessible
to students with disabilities.
Inventory and build technology support. Technology, in particular digital media, makes
UDL implementation practical and achievable in a diverse classroom. Digital materials
make it possible for the same material to be flexibly presented and accessed – even adapted
on a student-to-student basis.
Although we recommend that teachers try to build a library of digital materials, it is
important to point out that UDL implementation can proceed successfully across a range
of technology availability. The amount of technology available to teachers varies
extensively – limited by district and school resources, both monetary and otherwise.
Fortunately, a fairly simple step such as digitizing print materials can greatly ease UDL
implementation. The 1996 United States copyright additions (Chapter 1 of Title 17 Section
121 of the United States Code), the Chafee Amendment, gives authorized entities the
freedom to digitize otherwise proprietary materials for individuals that have disabilities
that impede access to the printed version. An authorized entity is a nonprofit organization
or governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating
to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other
persons with disabilities. This provision makes special education teachers eligible to
digitize printed text materials, a step that can help to diversify the presentation of materials
for students with disabilities.
Another inexpensive but instrumental option for supplying a classroom with digital
materials is the World Wide Web – a tremendous source of free digital material and much
of this material is in a multimedia format, which can greatly improve access to students.
Having more digital media unquestionably enables teachers to implement UDL in a more
extensive way. Teachers who have greater financial resources and district support can
supplement their materials with innovative products such as multimedia composition tools
(e.g., HyperStudio, Kid Pix, PowerPoint), graphic organizer software (e.g., Inspiration,
Kidspiration), text-to-speech and text-to-image programs (e.g., CAST eReader, Pix
Reader, Pix Writer, Intellitalk II), CD-ROM storybooks (e.g., Reader Rabbit’s Reading
Development Library), and learning software (e.g., 7th Level’s Great Math Adventure,
Edmark’s various learning games).
Whether teachers are able to invest in the purchase of a lot of technology or not, UDL can
proceed effectively. But taking inventory is an important step toward setting a realistic
course of action. By inventorying the resources they have available to them, teachers can
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determine the level of UDL implementation appropriate to their classroom. For example,
visit the school media center and get an idea of computer and projection systems available
to teachers and students. Find out if these tools are portable or fixed, this implies where
instruction may take place. Check into scheduling issues around shared equipment.
Additionally, check out Web accessibility in classrooms, school computer labs and media
centers. If the Web is a tool you may use and ask students to access, how available is it?
Additionally, take an inventory of your school or district software, find out what’s
available and if the purchase permits installation on computers you will be using.
Effectively working with and managing technology can be a challenging process, so it is
important as well to inventory the available technology support. This may come in the
form of a technology specialist (computer teacher, computer resource specialist,
technology integration teacher) or one’s own technology training. Find out what policies
your school or district may have regarding the tools you may adopt for use in your
planning and teaching. Installation of software and hardware on computers may be time
consuming, plan for issues of timing in your implementation. When you are ready to teach
a lesson using some technologies new to you or your students, consider notifying your
technology support person, to be at hand to help problem solve any unforeseen challenges
with implementation.
Curriculum planning and delivery. Another
important step in implementation of UDL in instruction
is curriculum planning and delivery. To begin, we
recommend that teachers have a basic understanding of
UDL, and a commitment to make the curriculum and
learning accessible for all learners. While keeping in
mind the three principles of UDL, based on the three
networks recognition, strategic and affective, we have
found the following process useful in designing
lessons. The process includes four steps, based upon
the principles and concepts of UDL, proven
professional development strategies, and effective
teaching practices; (a) Set Goals, (b) Analyze Status,
(c) Apply UDL, and (d) Teach the UDL Lesson.
In the Set Goals stage of curriculum planning, we recommend that teachers
establish the context for instruction. Context is usually driven or based on state
standards, followed by the design of goals for the instructional episode. We
recommend that all teachers closely evaluate these to assure alignment and assure
that the means for attaining the goals are separated from the goals and standards.
Next, when designing a UDL lesson, teachers should Analyze the Current Status
of the instructional episode. What are the current methodologies, assessments,
and materials used to teach the lesson? Analyze these teaching procedures in
relation to potential barriers of learners in the classroom. Do all students have
access to the materials? Are students able to express themselves with the current
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methods and materials? There are a number of resources and tools available from
CAST to analyze lessons in the Planning for All Learners Toolkit located on the
TES Web site.
The third recommended step of the planning process is to Apply UDL to the
Lesson/Unit. This includes the goals, methods, assessments and materials used to
implement the lesson. Create the UDL lesson plan, grounded in the learning
goals, classroom profile, methods and assessment, and materials and tools. Then,
collect and organize materials that support the UDL lesson.
In the final step, Teach the UDL Lesson/Unit, minimize barriers and realize the
strengths and challenges each student brings to learning, rely on effective teaching
practices, and apply challenges appropriate for each learner. In this way,
instructors can engage more students and help all students progress. When
teaching and evaluating students work, also evaluate and revise the lesson/unit to
assure student access and success. You may obtain additional information about
designing UDL methods, assessments, and materials, in Teaching Every Student
in the Digital Age, Chapter 4.
Secure administrative support. School districts and administrations can be powerful
sources of support – financial and otherwise. Administrative commitment to UDL can
strengthen a teacher’s sense of mission and self-satisfaction and lead to important funding.
A case in point is the town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The principal for the school
system is so convinced of the importance of digitized materials that he has set a mandate
that teachers use only those textbooks that have a digitized version. Teachers will use a
text-to-speech reader to further improve the accessibility of the text. Clearly, this kind of
change would have happened much more slowly in the absence of such tremendous
administrator-level support.
Administrator support can also help to facilitate funding, which although not a prerequisite
for UDL, can create important opportunities. Funding might enable the purchase of
equipment, professional development, and the launching of new UDL teaching projects.
Districts vary widely concerning the types and level of funding that they offer teachers, but
teachers who can convince their administrators of the value of UDL may be able to secure
district-level grants, professional development awards, and sabbaticals. For example, in a
North Shore Massachusetts school district, the Technology Program Manager and Special
Education Director teamed with two teachers using UDL, wrote and were recently awarded
a state-level technology grant to implement UDL. This is just one example of how support
at the administrative level can facilitate the acquisition of materials that support UDL
efforts in the classroom.
Parent education and involvement. Parents are another valuable resource for teachers
building a UDL curriculum. There are at least two important ways that parents can be a
resource: as advocates and as volunteers.
By educating parents about the UDL activities going on in the classroom, teachers can
develop a support system of informed individuals who can assist with and advocate for
UDL instruction. Teachers should think about ways to inform parents about classroom
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activities. Notes sent home, parent night presentations, and IEP meetings are all excellent
opportunities to engage in this kind of communication. Once parents are educated about
UDL they may wish to become involved themselves. There are many ways that parents can
do this, including volunteering in the classroom and lending support at home. A few
possibilities are scanning materials, monitoring kids during UDL lessons, helping with
technology, donating equipment, and supporting homework assignments.
Differentiated instruction, although somewhat still developing in educational settings, has
received significant recognition. When combined with the practices and principles of UDL,
differentiated instruction can provide teachers with both theory and practice to
appropriately challenge the broad scope of students in classrooms today. Although
educators are continually challenged by the ever-changing classroom profile of students,
resources, and reforms, practices continue to evolve and the relevant research base should
grow. And along with them grows the promise of differentiated instruction and UDL in
educational practices.
Links to Learn More About Differentiated Instruction
Guild, P. B., and Garger, S. (1998). What Is Differentiated Instruction? Marching to
Different Drummers, 2nd Ed. (ASCD, p.2)
Initially published in 1985, Marching to Different Drummers was one of the first
sources to pull together information on what was a newly-flourishing topic in
education. Part I defines style and looks at the history of style research; Part II
describes applications of style in seven areas; Part III identifies common questions
and discusses implementation and staff development.
The Access Center
This Web site belongs to the Access Center, a national technical assistance center,
funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.
The purpose of the K12 Access Center is to make elementary and middle school
curricula more accessible to students with disabilities. The Web site hosts chats and
discussions and offers publications and presentations on topics related to accessing the
general education curriculum, including Universal Design for Learning.
Tomlinson, C. A., (2000). Differentiation of instruction in the elementary grades.
ERIC Digest. ERIC_NO: ED443572.
To meet the needs of diverse student populations, many teachers differentiate
instruction. This digest describes differentiated instruction, discusses the reasons for
differentiated instruction, what makes it successful, and suggests how teachers may
begin implementation.
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Tomlinson, C. A., (1995). Differentiating instruction for advanced learners in the
mixed-ability middle school classroom. ERIC Digest E536.
The ability to differentiate instruction for middle school aged learners is a challenge.
Responding to the diverse students needs found in inclusive, mixed-ability classrooms
is particularly difficult. This digest provides an overview of some key principles for
differentiating instruction, with an emphasis on the learning needs of academically
advanced students.
Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D., (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and
classrooms. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (then use search)
This Web site contains two chapters from Tomlinson’s recent publication: Leadership
for differentiating schools and classrooms, Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development. This book is designed for those in leadership positions to
learn about differentiated instruction.
Web Article: Mapping a route toward differentiated instruction.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Foundations
and Policy at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville,
VA provides an article entitled: Mapping a route toward differentiated instruction.
Educational Leadership, 57(1).
Willis, S. & Mann, L., (2000). Differentiating instruction: Finding manageable ways
to meet individual needs (Excerpt). Curriculum Update. (then use search)
Based on the concept that “one size does not fit all” the authors describe the teaching
philosophy of differentiated instruction. More teachers are determined to reach all
learners, to challenge students who may be identified as gifted as well as students who
lag behind grade level. This article excerpt describes the essential components of
differentiated instruction beginning with three aspects of curriculum: content, process
and products.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Web site
A site by ASCD (2000) which discusses differentiated instruction. Page links to other
pages with examples from a high school and elementary school, key characteristics of a
differentiated classroom, benefits, related readings, discussion, and related links
to explore.
Educational Leadership Research Link (then use search)
This Web site, provided by Educational Leadership, links the reader to a brief summary
of an article by Holloway. The author has provided a bulleted summary regarding the
principles and theories that drive differentiated instruction.
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Holloway, J. H., (2000). Preparing Teachers for Differentiated Instruction.
Educational Leadership, 58(1).
This site is from an education course by Dr. John Durkin. It includes a diagram with
suggestions for approaches to differentiated instruction. It also includes a listing of
what differentiated instruction is and is not, rules of thumb on how to instruct, and
management strategies.
Web Site: for Teachers, Administrators, and Higher Education
This Web site is designed for educators and uses technology to inform teachers about
current practices, literature, the law in education, as well as professional development.
Additionally, links to articles including research on educational practices including
links to information on differentiated instruction are included. CAST. Teaching Every
Student.(n.d). Retrieved September 15, 2003, from
CAST. UDL Toolkits: Planning for All Learners (PAL). (n.d.). Retrieved August 19,
2003, from
Dolan, R. P., & Hall, T. E., (2001). Universal Design for Learning: Implications for largescale assessment. IDA Perspectives, 27(4), 22-25.
Ellis, E. S. and Worthington, L. A., (1994). Research synthesis on effective teaching
principles and the design of quality tools for educators. University of Oregon:
Technical Report No. 5 National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators.
Meyer, A., & Rose, D. H., (1998). Learning to read in the computer age. Cambridge, MA:
Brookline Books.
Oaksford, L. & Jones, L., (2001). Differentiated instruction abstract. Tallahassee, FL:
Leon County Schools.
Pettig, K. L., (2000). On the road to differentiated. Education Leadership, 8, 1, 14-18.
Pisha, B., & Coyne, P., (2001). Smart from the start: the promise of Universal Design for
Learning. Remedial and Special Education, 22(4), 197-203.
Reis. S. M., Kaplan, S. N, Tomlinson, C. A., Westbert, K. L, Callahan, C. M., & Cooper,
C. R., (1998). How the brain learns, A response: Equal does not mean identical.
Educational Leadership, 56, 3.
Rose, D. (2001). Universal Design for Learning: Deriving guiding principles from
networks that learn. Journal of Special Education Technology, 16(2), 66-67.
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Rose, D., & Dolan, R. P., (2000). Universal Design for Learning: Associate Editor’s
Column. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(4), 47-51.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A., (2000a). Universal design for individual differences. Educational
Leadership, 58(3), 39-43.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A., (2000b). Universal Design for Learning: Associate Editor
Column. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(1), 67-70.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A., (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal
Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Rose, D., Sethuraman, S., & Meo, G., (2000). Universal Design for Learning. Journal of
Special Education Technology, 15(2), 26-60.
Sizer, T. R., (2001). No two are quite alike: Personalized learning. Educational
Leadership 57(1).
Tomlinson, C. A., (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms.
(2nd Ed.) Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D., (2000). Leadership for differentiating schools and
classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Page 22

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