Using Tiered Assignments for Differentiated Instruction

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  • 0:04 Differentiation
  • 0:54 Altering Assignments…
  • 1:39 Providing Assignments
  • 2:33 Differentiating by…
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will learn how to differentiate instruction by providing tiered assignments that meet student's needs based on achievement levels or learning style.


What is differentiated instruction? Differentiated instruction ensures that every student is challenged according to his or her instructional level or learning style. There are a variety of ways that we as teachers differentiate for our students including flexible grouping, offering them choices, and asking open-ended questions. Another way to differentiate instruction is through tiered assignments. Tiered assignments cluster students according to levels of achievement so that each student is able to work within his or her zone of proximal development (ZPD), or instructional level. Tiered assignments may be structured according to challenge level, complexity, outcome, process, product, or resources. In this lesson, we'll examine each of the ways to tier instruction.

Altering Assignments for Students

When differentiating instruction by challenge level, teachers use Bloom's Taxonomy to provide different assignments to students based on their ability. For example, students at the lowest performance level may reproduce a science experiment while students at a higher level might use the information they've learned to create an entirely new experiment.

Another way to tier instruction is by complexity. When structuring an assignment by complexity, all students are given the same assignment, but the assignment's focus is altered based on achievement. For example, all students are required to create a presentation about the events leading up to the Vietnam War, but higher-achieving students need to focus on making a comparison to the American Revolutionary War.

Provide Assignments

The third way to structure a tiered assignment is by differentiating the outcome. Like assignments that are differentiated by complexity, all students are given the same assignment, but rather than setting the focus for the students, the teacher leaves the assignment open-ended enough so the result is a variance of student outcomes. For example, after reading a story, the teacher may ask the students to rewrite the final chapter and provide a different ending. This type of differentiation occurs naturally as those with higher abilities will produce a more advanced product.

Another way to tier assignments is through process. This type of assignment asks students to use different means to arrive at the same conclusion. For example, while working on a math assignment, some students will be able to finish without any support. Others may use calculators or manipulatives to assist with problem-solving.

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