the Dragonfly journal


By Stacey Hyland-McCabe, @HylandMcCabe

Differentiation: One of the most important and essential aspects of any classroom, but, also the facet of teaching that causes teachers the most concern. We all want to differentiate because we all care that our lessons are pitched so that all learners achieve (or better) their potential. But, realistically we have a life, we have a million other jobs that ‘have’ to be done and we don’t have all the time in the world to prepare lessons for 30 individuals. So, here’s so ‘quick wins’ to successful differentiation for all.

I would say there are 5 types of differentiation:

More explanation and ideas to follow

1) Differentiation through input: can mean anything from differentiated learning outcomes (or whatever you call them) with differentiated resources being given to different students or differentiated input for different groups, depending on their challenge. For example; the girls may be looking at ‘How to Spot the Signs of Breast Cancer’ in their PSE lesson whilst the boys are looking at ‘How to Spot the Signs of Prostate Cancer’. (I’ve deliberately chosen these examples as it highlight the fact that you may need to be differentiating according to gender in any lesson and on any topic. I took over a YR 11 Geography group a couple of years ago and almost 80% of the boys were off-track, whereas the girls were excelling. Possibly due to the preferred teaching style of their previous teacher. Student voice told me that the boys really didn’t like geography and wanted a variety of changes {such as relevant topics and a greater use of ICT and independent learning}).

Differentiated learning outcomes could also (obviously) be seen as 5) Differentiation through outcome but it can mean that you offer a variety of resources according to the learning outcome students are working on. Have a look at the revised Progress Checker below; this has different resources for learning on each of the arrows and these are linked to the learning outcomes.

Look at the differentiated input on each of the arrows

Differentiation through input can also mean such things as using a More Able student to be an ‘expert’ who has been briefed before the lesson. They will be in the Hot Seat and other students can utilise their expertise throughout the lesson.

Use success criteria to ensure that students know what is expected of them if they are to achieve certain grades. Remember though that success criteria can ‘cap’ students learning if they decide it’s ok to stop when they’ve achieved their target grade (even if that is a grade F!) Make sure they understand that their target grade represent a minimum expectation, not the End Game:

Self-Help Station

'Enable Table'

2) Differentiation through feedback can be personalised starters (no more work that the personal feedback you currently give and it means your starter is already planned for the next lesson). If you do these well then your students will certainly make ‘progress over time’ as they’re working on the areas which currently need attention). Or, how about feedback according to grade (see below). Consider using Aurasma to set up extra learning videos for students to watch depending on the need outlined in their feedback. This take 5 minutes for you to make a learning video (you could also use the Explain Everything app) and place them around the room so that students can re-group themselves and watch the videos that are appropriate to them.



Here a link to my booklet on differentiation. Thanks to those who have contributed, thanks to Twitter for extra ideas and to those who ‘own’ the ‘author unknown’ pictures; please tell me who you are, so I can acknowledge you.

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