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By considering what students need to know, their interests, and how learning will be assessed, teachers can differentiate assignments.
Differentiating for the needs of all learners is an important focus that many teachers across the world share. We want our students to have a year-plus growth in courses, whether they’re struggling with core basics, are just at the appropriate skill level, or have understanding that exceeds the learning outcomes of the curriculum. These are the key elements to consider in differentiating instruction:
Planning: Content, processes, and products
Learner access: Readiness, interests, and learning preferences
Much has been written to help teachers think about and provide differentiated experiences for learners that align and explain these elements. However, the question and challenge that I hear and observe from teachers most often is: how do we effectively plan intentional differentiation that we can implement and evaluate with the same confidence and understanding as traditional lessons? The answer that follows is based on a change in how to use the planning elements—content, processes, and products—for differentiation, which is finding traction in classrooms that are using this approach.
A Three-Pronged Approach to Planning for Differentiation
Part 1: Content. Content is what students need to know, understand, and do something with. When identifying these outcomes, we also shape the assessment(s) by how learners can demonstrate what they understand. Success comes from teachers accomplishing two steps for this task.
First, identify the specific skills and concepts that students must achieve. This is what gets measured and analyzed through a variety of assessments. Unpacking the skills and concepts enables teachers to track student learning progress for areas of additional support for learners with significant gaps and learners who are ready for complexity beyond the content expectations of the lesson. This understanding enables teachers, instructional coaches, and supervisors to be on the same page as to what students need to learn through intentional differentiation.
Second, collect data on what the students bring to the focused content. Sometimes, this step is viewed as finding strategies for planning differentiation. That is a mistake. Meeting learner needs means knowing what opportunities they bring to the lesson based on what they already know and what challenges exist, based on gaps in core areas of need. Examples of student data to collect prior to planning include life experiences and interests outside of school and academic skills. Using strategies like K-W-L charts or need to knows is one way to find out what learners already know about the topic. Their level of understanding of the content should be factored into the planning. No student feels engaged with a lesson or session that delivers content they have long since mastered. This stage of planning also helps to confirm gaps in knowledge.
Educators should collect information about students’ interests and passions that may relate to, or give them background for, applications of the content. This data can lead to rich learning experiences, such as providing informational text to read and analyze from articles about sports or Minecraft if many students identify those as areas of interest.
Accomplishing these two steps helps to ensure that the educators feel well prepared about the specific curriculum expectations at a targeted level. It also ensures that teachers are fully aware of what students bring to the content in terms of opportunities and areas of challenge.
Part 2: Processes. Process is about the different ways that students make sense of the content. Students need frequent experiences of sense-making through a variety of different ways and opportunities. Teachers make this happen through lessons that are made up of a series of activities.
Differentiation through processes is applied in one or more of these activities that make up the lesson. Teachers might start with differentiating one activity. As confidence and experience grows, most lesson activities can be differentiated. The focus of intentional differentiation for process is based on students’ content opportunities and challenges. It also incorporates at least one of the learner access elements: readiness, interests, and learning preferences.
Here are two examples.
English: Using details in writing through learning centers. Each center focuses on a different type of detail strategy: example, facts, and sensory detail. Each center includes two options and students choose one to complete.
Math: Understanding the parts and functions of fractions through think dots. Students are put into groups based on their readiness skill level to complete a tiered activity where they all must complete the focus skills. Each group collaborates to solve the six tasks in a random order of choice.
Part 3: Products. Products are the artifacts that students create to show what they know and do not know. These products vary in format both small and large, such as quizzes, reflections, discussions, multimedia, social media tools, and performance tasks.
Intentional differentiation is based on how to leverage what’s known about students’ content opportunities and challenges. Also, use at least one of the learner access elements: readiness, interests, and learning preferences. These experiences range from practice to learn to assessment checks on progress. There is much flexibility to provide learners with a range of opportunities and experiences to help them make connections and extend their learning while maintaining the content focus.
Driving Forward With Differentiation
Explore this approach for reflecting and planning for students’ needs through differentiation. Using content, processes, and products as planning steps provides a clear and concise approach toward choosing strategies and activities based on learner needs that align with the lesson outcomes. This resource curation portal offers ideas to build into your plan, and this differentiation guide offers more insights and a differentiation planning criteria checklist to start your planning journey.
This structure not only empowers student learning but also gives educators common language for collaborative professional opportunities to discuss, implement, and build stronger experiences that meet the needs of all their learners.
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It’s important to coach our teachers so they know that a support system is available to them; we want to retain as many educators in the profession as possible.
Shift the View of Coaching from Evaluative to Supportive
A coaching process that focuses on empowerment instead of evaluation can help a teacher shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Build Teacher Capacity With a Clear Coaching Cycle
Elena Aguilar states in her book The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation, “Everyone we work with knows a lot more and can do a lot more than we think. It’s our job as coaches to find out what it is that they know, care about, can do, and are committed to, and then to use that information to help them move their practice.”
Using a rubric is a helpful tool for teachers to understand the path they’re on. In order to build their capacity, begin with the end in mind. It’s important to let teachers know what the intended outcome is if we want them to be successful, just as we would with our students. Teachers can develop their craft through collaboration with instructional coaches, a transparent coaching cycle that is crucial for success.
The following four-step cycle depicts a transformative process that gives teachers an opportunity to cultivate their teaching practices in ways that are tailored to their specific needs.
Step 1: Objective
Step 2: Obstacles
This is where a discussion begins about things that may get in the teacher’s way of achieving their goal. However, it’s crucial that this be a solutions-driven process and that the obstacles be within the teacher’s circle of control, which allows them to more easily outline the issues that might arise. The instructional coach can offer solutions throughout this part of the process.
A Coaching Cycle Rubric
A rubric demonstrating the different phases of teacher’s instructional growth.
For example, if a teacher begins speaking negatively about their students, the coach can encourage the teacher to reframe their sentences to focus on what is in their control. Bright Morning offers useful coaching sentence stems that can help coaches guide teachers for positive results. Reframing a question can be tough, but it’s necessary for the conversation to continue in a solution-oriented way. Some teachers might also lack motivation, which can make this stage of the coaching cycle challenging for them. Coaches who ask thoughtful questions can help uncover the root of difficult issues and lead teachers to finding ways to overcome their problems.
Step 3: Opportunities
In this part of the cycle, the instructional coach identifies learning opportunities that support growth and foster excitement. Thinking about the new things being added to their tool belt can be helpful for teachers to define or reconnect to their “why.” Examples of these opportunities could be adopting a new digital tool, embracing a new teaching style, or even increasing their planning efficacy.
Another meaningful opportunity could be connecting teachers’ coaching cycle objectives to their evaluative goals, such as what is used in my state, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System.
Step 4: Observe
To be clear, this step isn’t a typical evaluation or observation moment for the teacher, where an administrator sits in the corner of the classroom watching. Prior to the observation, the coach and the teacher can specifically discuss what the teacher needs and reach a consensus together. This final step is conditional and should be based on what the teacher wants, needs, and, most important, is ready for.
There are different formats of observing and working with a teacher. For example, this part of the process could be a modeling time (performed by the instructional coach or another grade-level teacher) or just a one-on-one planning session. Other options could include coteaching (the coach and teacher in the classroom together) or the teacher observing a mentor teacher. Some teachers may also want a watch-me experience where there are multiple opportunities for observation.
Effective coaching is situational, not procedural. Instead of evaluation, the goal of this entire process should be for coaches to give teachers encouragement and best practices to help them improve their instruction.
How can future missions to the Red Planet propel a new age in space exploration?
Mars has been a key interest for scientists for decades. Being our neighbor, possibility of liquid water on its surface, and having fairly similar atmospheric conditions like Earth, it does sounds like a viable option for being another hospitable planet. This is why we have numerous space missions to Mars to look for signs of life. It started with a flyby in 1965 to quickly evolving into remote explorations from multiple countries. Each mission has given astronomers more information about the planet’s geology and habitability potential. Recently researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Eindhoven University of Technology have introduced a three-agent robotic system that could further enhance the future Mars explorations. This system is composed of a Mars conventional ground rover, a helicopter, and an orbiter. This mission’s main objective is to test the feasibility of operating the copter on the red planet. According to the research paper, published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, if successful, the mission could pave the way toward other missions involving the deployment of Mars copters, which may produce more information about the ground, terrain, and obstacles ahead of the rovers. This system’s primary task is to identify an optimal path for the ground rover, which minimizes the localization uncertainty that accumulates as the rover moves in a given direction. The researchers found that the localization performance can be increased by selectively driving over types of terrain that are easy to localize (i.e., that have good localizability). In their research, the team used a localizability map captured by remote satellite technology to carry out a space search that combines the rover’s path with the copter’s actions to gather rich data about the surrounding environment. Additionally, the system considers the dynamic map updates collected by the copter. This is necessary for copter and rover to address where to map and drive, respectively, for minimizing the uncertainty accumulation in rover localization. Further, copter’s ability includes the ability to observe and map regions of the planet in 3D. The paper authors have also mentioned that the copter’s high-resolution data would aid the rover in locating small hazards such as steps and pointy rocks, as well as providing rich textual information useful to predict perception performance. The lower the altitude, the more accurate the observation is. After each measurement and observation, the satellite map is updated for the rover to use as it moves forward. Notably, the uncertainty the rover could face due to undiscovered territory decreases as the number of images captured by the copter increases, thereby enabling a smooth mission. As per the latest findings, the team has observed the system’s appreciable effectiveness in a series of numerical simulations, including both single-run and Monte Carlo simulations. These simulations were based on the map of the Mars 2023 mission landing site. They were explicitly designed to evaluate the planner’s effectiveness in reducing localization uncertainty when exploring Mars via a three-agent robotic system . They concluded that adopting this approach reduces localization uncertainty during rover path planning by 10 to 20%. One the other hand, a random mapping approach gave less than a 10% gain in uncertainty reduction. In the future, their system could help optimize the use of copters to enhance rover navigation during Mars exploration missions by considering the rover’s actions and copter in conjunction. Other Martian projects include the European Space Agency and Roscosmos planning to launch a rover named for chemist Rosalind Franklin , whose contribution helped decipher the DNA structure. The rover will drill into the Martian soil to hunt for signs of past and present life. Meanwhile, China’s Tianwen-1 aims to be the first Mars mission to drop a landing platform and deploy a rover. The rover will be equipped with a radar device that can detect water and ice beneath the surface, as well as a laser to track rock compositions.
Question: Our company is planning to out-source our SEO. We have lots of companies pitching, what are the major things we should be looking for from these agencies before we hire one?
Exactly how will they improve our results? Some SEOs may be unwilling to disclose techniques, but ethical techniques are well understood and documented and so an open relationship about SEO methods is essential. It will aid internal learning as well as ensure that you integrate better. Take an example product or group of keyphrases you will target for SEO and ask the agencies to audit the current performance against competitors and the process and techniques they will deploy to improve SEO. Beware of companies that focus just on the on-page copy and markup optimisation to the exclusion of internal and external link-building which is really where the rubber hits the road.
How will we measure improvement from the work done and over what timescales? If the company only refers to ranking positions of obscure keyphrases or obsesses about “€œbrand terms”€ this is a warning. They should ask for a detailed list of keyphrase groups that you will be targeting and look at performance in different groups in terms of visits and conversions to lead or sale (goals). The more accountable and open about time-scales your potential agency is, the better. Ultimately you want an agency that”€™s working next to you in the trenches and trying to help improve results at the bottom line, that”€™s what keeps you and them in gainful employment.
Have they worked in similar sectors and geographies? Can they demonstrate success? SEO approaches will differ widely by sector, i.e. B2B vs B2C vs not-for-profit, as well as different types of transactional sites, so experience of creating buzz and building back-links from relevant sites requires experience of the sector in order there”€™s less learning for them at the expense of your budget. Of course, it”€™s probably ideal that they”€™re not working for a competitor at the same time!
Who specifically will you be working with, how and when? SEO changes fast and the sector is still growing, so many agencies will have less experienced staff. You need to ensure that you get experienced SEOs working on your account or in the very least reviewing and directing it. For larger projects, having specialists in different aspects is beneficial, for example, technical site SEO, copywriting, link-building, analysis, etc. In addition to this, meet with your potential team and see if they”€™re the kind of people that you can work with, they”€™re going to be a key extension of your internal team. You don”€™t have to like everyone to the point of exchanging Christmas cards, but trust and respect is crucial. As is clarity on how, when and with who you”€™re going to be communicating with.
How will they integrate the natural optimsiation work with paid search? I”€™m assuming here that you”€™ll be doing some paid search. Natural and paid are two sides of the same search coin and you can ensure that they compliment with a short term and long term game planning. Ultimately you want to be in a place where as many of the truly valuable keyphrases are well optimised, but still covered tactically in paid search as is relevant, it”€™s always better to see paid search playing that tactical support to natural.
How will they integrate (and compliment) natural search within the wider marketing mix? Success in off page natural search is essentially link building, and in the era of all things social media it”€™s fundamental that your social media efforts are helping underpin those link-building efforts. You need to know that your prospective agency can demonstrate an understanding of this with real examples, as well as give confidence that they can work with another team, potentially another agency, when it comes to content generation and social media marketing.
What exactly will we be charged for each month in ongoing work? After an initial period of auditing and on-site optimisation, most SEO companies naturally want an ongoing relationship, but the monthly cost can be high, and quite often too high. Find out the typical breakdown of activities and costs? Costs for reporting and tracking can be high given that off-the-shelf options are high. How much time will go into reviewing and building new links and creating content vs measuring and management. A good agency will want to be transparent and share this with you as it”€™s in their interest as well, of course.
Finally, ask can we visit your offices? Many SEO outfits are small and potentially chaotic in their processes. A visit to their offices can help build confidence or not…
Are you looking in the right place for ideas generation?
We recently launched our Plan to Succeed campaign and as a part of our Slideshare deck we feature a whole bunch of ideas to help marketers improve their planning.
One factor in effective marketing planning is building up strategic ideas around which you can build a plan – these are specifically customer problems to solve, or outcomes they are seeking. As the brand representatives, we all too often explore in the wrong areas to seek answers to those questions, or focus in on a single area. We created this simple graphic to help you find the sweet spot.
We feel there are four dimensions that provide a starting point for strategic planning:
Your brand: This is the where marketers are most likely to start, and unfortunately end, their thinking. It’s what matters to you, the brand owner or representative. And, given the sales pressures faced by many marketers the temptation is to get lazy with product or sales promotion based thinking. This gets one dimensional, stale even, for your customer, as well as dangerously repetitive in your busy market. We do have to link planning and ideas to commercial goals and align with those brand values though, so we’re not saying ignore this, just appreciate that it’s one of four dimensions.
Your customer: This will hopefully be your start-point, and if all you do is consider where their problems, unmet needs, motivations or outcomes cross over with those of your brand, you’re already headed in the right direction. We’ve called this the immediate opportunity. There are no short-cuts here, though. It’s serious work to define the problems, hopes, fears and aspirations of your customer – but it’s far from hard to do. Here’s our tip – design strategies that work in the service of your customers, this ultimately benefits you and provides scale way and above selling your product/service based thinking.
Competitors: This is the most common pitfall. Although it’s inherently valuable to have a good understanding of what’s driving competitor success within your market, we called this what can we learn, it’s of no use to copy that, it becomes “undifferentiation”. It’s so obvious to say this, yet look at how many of your competitors copy tactics, campaigns and promotions. We see it in the similarity of websites and campaigns within many sectors. A road to ruin, surely? Certainly a road to getting lost in noise.
Trends: Progressive businesses understand what the future might hold, or at least attempt to understand. What innovations might be there for our brand based upon what we understand might change – and crucially what is very unlikely to change, which is arguably just as powerful to consider strategically. In-depth customer research also reveals new insights fresh from your customers – you can capture this by asking them the right questions and monitoring consumer behaviour in a myriad of ways.
It’s also worth looking at models to help explore customer trends in detail where you can.
This template by Trend Watching is particularly useful here too. More on how to use it here.
Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; you only need a good location and the means to fund your operation.Brainstorm your business name.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. Stephanie Desaulniers, owner of Business by Dezign and former director of operations and women’s business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs against writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea’s value.
Editor’s note: Looking for a small business loan? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.Clarify your target customers.
Desaulniers said too often, people jump into launching their business without spending time to think about who their customers will be and why those customers would want to buy from them or hire them.
“You need to clarify why you want to work with these customers — do you have a passion for making people’s lives easier?” Desaulniers said. “Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay.”
During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn’t something you’re passionate about or if there’s no market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.
Tip: To refine your business idea, identify your “why,” your target customers and your business name.2. Write a business plan.
Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan.
Fledgling business owners can make a lot of mistakes by rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? What would be the point if you can’t find evidence of a demand for your idea?
This business plan template can help you launch and grow your business the right way.
Ask yourself: How much revenue do I need to generate to cover all my expenses? Which products or services turn a profit, and which ones are sold at a loss?
Price a product or service. When most people think about pricing, they consider how much their product costs to create and how competitors are pricing their products.
Ask yourself: What are the fixed rates, what are the variable costs, and what is the total cost? What is the cost of any physical goods? What is the cost of labor?
Analyze the data. Consider the volume of goods or services you would have to sell to be profitable.
Ask yourself: How can I reduce my overall fixed costs? How can I reduce the variable costs per unit? How can I improve sales?Watch your expenses.
Don’t overspend when starting a business. Understand the types of purchases that make sense for your business and avoid overspending on fancy new equipment that won’t help you reach your business goals. Monitor your business expenses to ensure you are staying on track.
“A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things,” said Jean Paldan, founder and CEO of Rare Form New Media. “We worked with a startup with two employees but spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100; it had key cards to track who was printing what and when. Spend as little as possible when you start, and only on the things essential for the business to grow and succeed. Luxuries can come when you’re established.”
Using accounting software can streamline your expense tracking. Read our reviews of the best accounting software to learn more and find the right platform for your needs. Try starting with our Intuit QuickBooks Online review — this vendor is our top pick for small businesses.
Financially, you should perform a break-even analysis, consider your expenses and funding options, and choose the right bank for your business.What is the easiest business to start?
The easiest business to start is one that requires little to no financial investment upfront, and no extensive training to learn the business. A dropshipping company, for example, is one of the easiest types of new business to launch. Dropshipping requires no inventory management, which saves you the hassle of buying, storing and tracking stock.
Instead, another company fulfills your customer orders at your behest. This company manages the inventory, packages goods, and ships out your business orders. To start, create an online store by selecting curated products from the catalog available through partners.
Check out our list of businesses you can start quickly for ideas on how to launch your next business with ease.Which types of businesses can I start from home?
In today’s world of remote work, you may be thinking of an online business idea. Any online-only business that doesn’t require inventory should be easy to start from home. Ideas that fall within this category include but aren’t limited to copywriting businesses, online tutoring operations and dropshipping businesses. Anything you’re good at or passionate about that you can do from home, and for which demand exists, can make for a great home business.When is the best time to start a business?
Each person’s ideal timeline for starting a new business will be different. Start a business only when you have enough time to devote your attention to the launch. If you have a seasonal product or service, then you should start your business one quarter before your predicted busy time of the year. Spring and fall are popular times of year to launch for nonseasonal companies. Winter is the least popular launch season because many new owners prefer to have their LLC or corporation approved for a new fiscal year.
Max Freedman and Skye Schooley also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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