Principal Blog - May

Expeditionary Learning Core Practice 19: Differentiating Instruction

Differentiation is a philosophical belief and an instructional approach through which teachers proactively plan instruction to capitalize on students’ varied assets and meet students’ varied needs based on ongoing assessment…. In whole group instruction, teachers use flexible groupings of students and design respectful tasks that allow for different approaches to the same goals … and holds all students accountable to the same long-term learning targets, putting equity at the center of the school’s commitment and vision.

Differentiated instruction is hard. Arguably, ensuring that every single scholar in the classroom receives the appropriate instructional approach and supports for their own unique learning needs is at least one of the top three hardest things a teacher needs to do to support an authentic learning experience. Differentiated instruction aims to improve scholar learning outcomes, inspire a love of learning, increase scholar self-awareness, increase engagement, and help scholars more efficiently and with deeper understanding. Scholars can be differentiated for by adapting content to scholars interests, academic readiness, and language proficiency level; by shifting the process of learning to include collaboration with peers in varying ways across the classroom, providing meaningful and rigorous options for products that will demonstrate mastery of the content.

At AXL Academy, we value differentiated instruction, and have committed to this Core Practice as one of our three pillars of professional development for the 2022-23 school year. We pride ourselves on our ability to reach every scholar at AXL. Just in the last month, I have observed the following in our classrooms:

  • A teacher with five different stations for learning, each with a differing reading level, and requiring scholars to choose four of them

  • A rubric for a writing project that includes a “stretch” component that allows scholars’ writing to be evaluated at a higher level

  • Projects with multiple possible components addressing learners with visual, auditory, and hands-on learning styles

  • Scholars dictating into a microphone instead of providing short responses in writing for a series of short writing prompts

  • Math assignments that require scholars to choose 4 of 5 math problems of increasing complexity and then to choose two of them and explain in writing (or verbally to the teacher) how they solved the problem. A “stretch” opportunity gives scholars the chance to explain in writing how they could have solved one of the problems using a different method than the ones chosen.

AXL Academy is committed to ensuring that all scholars, regardless of academic readiness, English language proficiency, or disability, have access to the same rigorous opportunities to Engage, Empower, and Achieve as any other scholar. I am truly impressed on a daily basis by the work that our teachers do to make this a reality in every classroom. Stay AXL SHARP!

Principal Noah Tonk