Differentiating for Learning in STEM Teaching

Differentiation can occur in regard to:

  1. outcome
  2. intervention – role of adults and students
  3. journey – how
  4. process – ways of access

Frameworks  – useful reference points

  1. Blooms Taxonomy
  2. SOLO Taxonomy – Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes

These structures/ quadrants can be used to allow students to choose a suitable pathway forward, depending on their current level of understanding.

  1. Quadrants
    1. Identify 2. Explain
    3. Use… 4. Draw your own…
  2. PACE
    P A C E
    Practice  Apply Correct Extend
    Double my number using cubes

    Solve the word problem on your table.

    Do it using a different method.

    Double muddle! Correct my mistakes.


    Gold coins are doubling in the pirate chest.


Using scaffolds – (providing floors not ceilings!) – structure thinking to make meaning

Thinking organisers

  1. True/False cards
  2. Card sorts
  3. Venn diagrams
  4. Double Bubble
  5. SOLO Maps
  6. Hexagons – connect concepts through the use of subject specific vocabulary

Graphic Organisers

Blooms Taxonomy Cognitive Level Type of Activity Thinking Organiser Thumbnail
Remember Define/ Name Mind Map
Understand Explain Concept Map
Apply Sequence/ Sort Flow Chart
Apply Sequence/ Sort T-Chart
Analyse Compare/ Contrast Double Bubble
Analyse Compare/ Contrast Venn Diagram
Evaluate and Create Cause and Effect Fishbone

Through listening to the discussion generated by students working in pairs/ groups on these scaffolds teachers can make judgements about misconceptions/ further challenges needed. Questioning students to build on their ideas, and then allowing time, directing them to resources and peers who can help them, without just explaining answers, can empower students more. Also expecting students to respond orally in fully developed sentences, using appropriate vocabulary, will provide practice for more developed written responses.


Help Desk

A space which students can go to to access further resources/ support structures,


  • key word lists
  • technoloical support, devices – ipads, tablets, computers
  • text books/ revision guides
  • questions
  • worksheets
  • graphic organisers
  • sentence stems

These can be utilised individual or in pairs.


The aim is to enable all learners, including ourselves, to improve.



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Strategies and Tools for Implementing Danielson, Marzano and other Frameworks. – Thinkcerca

Danielson: Domain 1

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Outcome-Driven Instructional Leadership Team Practices
1a. Demonstrating Knowledge of content and pedagogy Providing time for teachers to understand research base of lesson design
1b. Demonstrating Knowledge of students Providing regular collaboration opportunities around automated assessment data and student work with colleagues who share cohort of students and with instructional leaders who are accountable for outcomes
1c Setting Instructional Outcomes Providing alignment documents and pacing guides aligned to other instructional resources, developed in collaboration.
1d Demonstrating knowledge of resources Providing time for macro planning to ensure successful launch, meaningful integration, and continuous improvement of teacher knowledge, skill and practice.
1e Designing Coherent Instruction Providing time for macro-planning to ensure successful curriculum development, meaningful integration of resources, and continuous improvement of teacher knowledge, skill and practice.
1f Designing Student Assessments Providing time to collaborate around larger projects and assessments to benchmark progress.

Marzano Design Questions

Domain 1:

  1. What will I do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress and celebrate success?
  2. What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?
  3. What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?
  4. What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?
  5. What will I do to engage students?
  6. What will I do to establisher maintain classroom rules and procedures?
  7. What will I do to recognise and acknowledge adherence and lack of adherence to classroom rules and routines?
  8. What will I do to establish and maintain effective relationships with students?
  9. What will I do to communicate high expectations for all students?
  10. What will I do to develop effective lessons organised into a cohesive unit?

Classroom: Differentiation and Coverage

What are we as instructional leaders doing to create the conditions for success for learning?

People As a team, have you determined the underlying skills and concepts and the smaller chunks?
Processes Have you designed the appropriate active learning strategy to match the learning task?
Places Have you created spaces for active learning, self-pacing, additional help?
Products Do you have products that support this work?
Time As a team, are we providing enough time to go deep and differentiate appropriately?


Danielson: Domain 2

Domain 2: Classroom Environment
2a. Creating and Environment of Respect and Rapport
2b Establishing a Culture for Learning
2c Managing Classroom Procedures
2d Managing Student Behaviour
2e Organising Physical Space

Empathy Zones – opportunities for students to work in different spaces depending on their emotional state

“I understand”

“I think I understand”

“I don’t understand”

“I feel great and social”

“I feel ok but not great”

“I want to be left alone”


Planning: Operationalising Teams for Learning

What are we as instructional leaders doing to create the conditions for success for learning?

People As a team, how are you determining what students should know and be able to do and helping each other to create it?
Processes As a team, have you determined a good way to help students capture data and establish a good routine for using it?
Places As a team, are you celebrating success?
Products As a team, do you have a common resource that can support this work?
Time As a team, are you allocating the necessary time to the looking at student work samples as one of the keys to monitoring progress?


Danielson Domain 3

Domain 3: Instruction
3a Communicating with Students
3b Using questioning and discussion techniques
3c Engaging students in Learning
3d Using Assessment in Instruction
3e Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness

Danielson Domain 4

Domain 4: Professional Responsibility
4a Reflecting on Teaching
4b Maintaining Accurate Records
4c Communicating with families
4d Participating in the Professional Community
4e Growing and Developing Professionally
4f Showing Professionalism


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Differentiation for Learning in STEM Teaching

Differentiation can be in terms of:

Task: How we allow appropriate access to the learning for the students.

Outcome: How students communicate their learning.

Intervention: The roles undertaken by the teacher and others doing the learning.

Route: Allowing students different journeys through the learning.



In a study by Steven Boyle and others, the following were identified as potential ‘good learning behaviours’ of students:

  1. Tells teacher when they don’t understand
  2. Asks teacher why they went wrong
  3. Tells teacher what they don’t understand
  4. Checks work against instruction, correcting errors and omissions
  5. When stuck, refers to earlier work before asking teacher
  6. Checks personal comprehension of instruction and material. Requests further information if needed
  7. Seeks reasons for aspects of the work at hand
  8. Anticipates and predicts possible outcomes
  9. Plans a general strategy before starting
  10. Explains purposes and results
  11. Checks teacher’s work for errors; offers corrections
  12. Seeks links between adjacent activities and ideas
  13. Seeks links between non-adjacent activities, ideas and between different topics
  14. Independently seeks further information, following up ideas raised in class
  15. Seeks links between different subjects
  16. Asks inquisitive but general questions
  17. Offers personal examples which are generally relevant
  18. Seeks specific links between schoolwork and personal life
  19. Searches for weaknesses in their own understanding; checks the consistency of their explanations across different situations
  20. Suggests new activities and alternative procedures
  21. Expresses disagreement
  22. Offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations
  23. Justified opinions
  24. Reacts and refers to comments of other students
  25. Challenges the text or an answer the teacher sanctions as correct





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Differentiating for Learning in STEM Teaching

Points to explore further:

  • encouraging/ structuring opportunities for students to pose more questions
  • I see, I think, I wonder
  • hinge point questions
  • fingers, thumbs, mini whiteboards – visible thinking
  • Can you – identify, explain, use a diagram, draw/ write your own…
  • Concept cartoons – could I develop these from student reflections and common misconceptions?

Concept cartoons:




Identify how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Here are a variety of rectangular prisms. Calculate the volume of each. Check your answer. How accurate are you?

Explain to someone else how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Write or orally record how you calculate the volume of rectangular prisms.

Use a diagram to explain how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Draw a diagram to your ideal piece of fudge, how many pieces would fit in the package and a diagram to show the dimensions that the package would need to be. Calculate the volume of the single serve and the total package.

Write your own problem involving the calculation of volume of rectangular prisms. Record it for others to challenge themselves with.


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For the Love of Reading K. Lowe

Readers set goals
“When students ‘own’ their reading goals, they direct their efforts towards accomplishing the goal rather than completing the task to appease the teacher. Satisfaction comes from achieving what they set out to do. They are motivated by their accomplishments, not stars and stickers which fosters little more than dependency and resistance. ”
Teachers need to listen to students read, interact with students to find out their interests and choices to be able to negotiate reading goals which meet student needs.

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For the Love of Reading

Free Voluntary Reading
Students who participate in FVR:
Improve in reading
Increase their quantity of reading
Discover that reading is pleasurable
Develop superior general knowledge
Improve spelling, writing, grammar, reading comprehension, writing style, and vocabulary
Boost their understanding of English
Increase scores on reading tests and other subject matter tests
Become better thinkers
Increase their reading speed
Become motivated and interested in reading

FVR is dependent upon teachers’ trust, student choices, allocated time to read and quality reading resources.

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Putting Faces on the Data

What data sets are most helpful to you in humanising the Faces in your class, school and system?
How does knowing the data have an impact on what students learn?
How do you ensure that each Face counts and is accounted for?
How do teachers know what data sets look like for the whole school and system – beyond their class and school? In other words, do they get to see the big picture,too?

Key points:
1. Begin by knowing the learners
2. Co-plan using student diagnostic data
3. Make learning goals (from curriculum expectations) and success criteria visible
4. Use continuous informal assessment during teaching
5. Deliver ongoing formative assessment and reflect on mid course corrections through formal assessment
6. Provide students with oral and written descriptive feedback
7. Create opportunities for peer- and self- assessments
8. Ensure that summarise assessment informs next steps for students and parents
9. Use the data wall process to see the big picture and the detail – the Faces – so that teachers self-assess and reflect on their teaching
10. Share learning with whole-school collaborative marking of student work.

How am I impacting the learning for all students and teachers?
How do I know?
Do I start with knowledge of the learners?
How do I select what is to be taught?
How do I make the learning goal easily understood to all students?
Do teachers do-construct success criteria with the students?
Are all students and teachers improving?
If not, why not?
Do I give descriptive feedback that is factual and objective and outlines how to improve?
Where can I go for help?

Do students
Set their own individual goals and monitor progress toward achieving them?
Seek clarification or assistance when needed?
Assess and reflect critically on their own strengths, needs, and interests?
Identify learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal needs and achieve goals?
Persevere and make an effort when responding to challenges?
– Ontario Ministry of Education 2010

5 Key Questions for Students
What are you learning?
How are you doing?
How do you know?
How can you improve?
Where do you go for help?

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Performance Verbs related to 6 Facets of Understanding

Explanation Interpretation Application Perspective Empathy Self- Knowledge
demonstrate create analogies adapt analyse be like be aware of
derive critique build argue be open to realise
describe document create compare believe recognise
design evaluate debug contrast consider reflect
exhibit illustrate decide criticise imagine self-assess
express judge design infer relate
induce make meaning of exhibit role-play
instruct make sense of invent
justify provide metaphors perform
model read between the lines produce
predict represent propose
prove tell a story of solve
show translate test
synthesise use


Action Verbs for Acquisition, Meaning, Transfer

Goal Types Action Verbs









plug in






















adapt (based on feedback)

adjust (based on results)





perform effectively




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Teaching Chinese Students – Some considerations