3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do


In this article, John McCarthy suggests three paths that teachers should take to differentiate instruction (DI). McCarthy asserts the nucleus to successful DI is the relationship between teachers and students. The teacher’s role is to connect students to the content, process, and product. Students will respond based upon readiness, interests, and learner profile.


Differentiating Content – Content refers to the skills, concepts, and knowledge students need to learn. Differentiating content means using various methods to deliver content and using various methods to organize/learn content. For example, using videos to explain mathematical equations and providing different techniques to solve mathematical equations. The purpose is to use different instructional strategies to reach diverse learners, and allow students to discover which methods are more effective for them.

Differentiating Process – Process refers to how students make sense of the content. Students need time to reflect and absorb the content. Reflecting is a powerful tool to allow students to absorb the material. This is where the students will self-assess the content, and recognize what they understand and what they don’t understand. At this point, teachers should check for understanding – something simple is thumbs up (understand), thumbs down (don’t understand), thumbs in the middle (sort of understand). According to McCarthy, teachers should have one to two processing experiences every 30 minutes of instruction. A few strategies McCarthy suggests are think-pair-share, journalling, discussions – anything that allows the student to reflect on the learning.

Differentiating Product – Product is the evidence of learning. The product should align with learning outcomes. Teachers need to give students options to how they want to demonstrate their learning. For example, for a novel study project, I gave my students three choices to demonstrate their learning. The three choices were a poem, book cover, or narrative story. Also, students had an option to choose something different as long as they discussed it with me.

In the end, to successfully employee these strategies, teachers need to know their students. Click here to read the entire article.


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