Tiered Instruction: Definition & Method

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  • 0:04 What Is Tiered Instruction?
  • 0:55 Tiered Instruction Basics
  • 2:02 Tiered Instruction Model
  • 2:50 Tiered Instruction Sections
  • 5:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers need to design and deliver instruction that meets the needs of all learners. One way to do this is by using tiered instruction. This lesson defines tiered instruction and describes how it is used in the classroom.

What Is Tiered Instruction?

Hazel is a teacher who wants to meet the needs of all her students no matter what level they're on. She also has a responsibility to make sure all students learn the same fundamental concepts and skills. How does she make sure all students are appropriately challenged? Hazel differentiates instruction, or varies what and how she teaches as well as her assessment methods, to meet all learners' needs, using a method called tiered instruction.

Tiered instruction is a method that varies the level of assignments, so all students have a chance to find success and make progress. Teachers tier learning so students are working at different levels of the same task, some more difficult and challenging than others. All students work on, explore, investigate, and learn the same basic material but on differing levels, or tiers.

Tiered Instruction Basics

When Hazel uses tiered instruction in her classroom, she develops curriculum that has differing levels, then places students in the appropriate group. She uses several resources to determine student grouping, including data from observations, classwork, interest levels, and work habits. After groups have had a chance to work on their own level, they come back together to share what they learned and to listen to what other groups have experienced.

When Hazel creates tiered assignments, she makes sure they are:

  • On different levels with adjusted challenges
  • Focused on quality of work, not quantity
  • Active learning for all students
  • Engaging for all levels
  • Aligned to objectives and goals
  • Focused on the same skills

In other words, each tier level has different types of assignments focused towards the same learning goals and objectives. All tiers have work that is interesting, engaging, and motivating. Lower levels don't simply get less work or higher levels more; rather, Hazel focuses on adjusting the types of assignments to match learners' needs, not simply lessening the workload.

Tiered Instruction Model

Let's say Hazel is designing an assignment on the dinosaurs using tiered instruction. Take a look:

  • Tier One (Lowest Level): Students will research why dinosaurs became extinct and list theories.
  • Tier Two (Middle Level): Students will research why dinosaurs became extinct, summarize theories, and create a chart.
  • Tier Three (High Level): Students will research why dinosaurs became extinct, defend or support theories, and design an original theory.

Do you see how students all have the same goal, discovering why dinosaurs became extinct, but apply this understanding on different levels? Lessons can be tiered by challenge level, complexity, resources, outcomes, process, and products. Let's take a closer look at these.

Tiered Instruction Sections

One way Hazel develops different tiers for instruction is to use Bloom's Taxonomy, a system that uses different levels of thought in instruction and learning. Tasks that require lower levels of understanding, like remembering, are assigned to lower tiers. Higher levels, like analyzing and synthesizing, are given to higher tiers. In our dinosaur example above, lower tier levels simply listed theories, while higher levels applied their research, analyzing, and synthesizing.

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