How do teachers differentiate instruction?

Page 7: Differentiate Product

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When teachers differentiate product, they assess the same concept or skill for each student at the end of a unit of study; however, teachers offer their students a variety of ways to demonstrate their knowledge (e.g., video, written report). When doing so, the teacher strives to:

  • Make the product assignment challenging but not so difficult or complex that the students are unable to complete it on their own.
  • Provide clear directions.
  • Create a task that reflects real-world application.

Teachers should also include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (i.e., involving movement or hands-on activities) options as well as analytic, creative, and practical ones. They might also allow the students to complete the product alone or as a group. Although teachers typically allow students to choose the type of product they complete, they need to make clear that their students cannot always choose to complete the same type of product assignment. The table below highlights a few strategies for differentiating product. Click on each link to learn detailed information about implementing these strategies.

Strategy Readiness Interest Learning Profile
Tiered Products readiness bullet
Tic Tac Toe readiness bullet interest bullet learning profile bullet
Learning Menus readiness bullet interest bullet learning profile bullet
RAFT readiness bullet interest bullet learning profile bullet

Tip

Teachers often find Bloom’s taxonomy helpful when differentiating product based on student readiness.

Bloom’s taxonomy identifies six levels of learning, from the most basic (i.e., recalling facts) to the most complex (i.e., evaluating information). For instance, when she creates a tiered assignment, the teacher often develops three levels of activities. For the lowest level, she might develop activities that assess students’ knowledge and comprehension; for the middle group, she might assess their ability to apply and analyze information; for the high group, she might require them to synthesize and evaluate the information. The tables below present the hierarchy of six levels of learning. For each level of learning, the table provides verbs teachers often use when designing product assignments or test questions.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (original*)
Knowledge identify, list, arrange, define, describe, label, match, order
Comprehension classify, summarize, predict, locate, discuss
Application compute, demonstrate, show, solve, write
Analysis compare, contrast, experiment, model, separate
Synthesis arrange, combine, formulate, revise, propose
Evaluation argue, defend, justify, appraise

*Published in 1956.

Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised**)
Remembering identify, list
Understanding categorize, summarize, compare, explain, give examples, predict
Applying perform lab test, solve a math problem, write an essay using correct grammar and punctuation
Analyzing differentiate, draw conclusions, organize
Evaluating determine, judge, critique, test
Creating generate, plan, construct, design

**Drafted in 1999 in response to new evidence about students’ development and educational practices.


For Your Information

Differentiating product contrasts with how teachers in a traditional classroom typically assess their students’ knowledge—administering a written test at the end of a unit of study. Teachers in a traditional classroom often assume that a written test is an accurate indication of what their students have learned. However, issues such as a student’s ability to read and comprehend text sometimes interfere with accurately assessing what the student knows. Although they should continue to administer written tests, teachers should redesign or build their tests so that they are differentiated.

Teachers are sometimes concerned that if they allow their students to demonstrate their knowledge in ways other than written tests, these students will not be prepared to take standardized tests. Carol Ann Tomlinson discusses why this is not the case (time: 0:49).

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Carol Ann Tomlinson, EdD
Professor of Educational Leadership,
Foundations, and Policy
The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

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