Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Differentiated instruction first, differentiated assessment second.

I teach my students in many different ways, but I grade all using the same process.  There is a major problem occurring here.  Every teacher, I would hope, in Alberta knows what differentiated instruction is, but do they know what differentiated assessment is?  Educators know that every student learns in a different way, but do we know that every student can demonstrate their learning in a different way?

In our province, students write standardized exams in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12.  When our school is evaluated for “students’ achievement”, we are assessed on standardized exam participation, acceptable standard (over 50%), and standard of excellence (over 80%).  I find this very contradictory!  Our province is forcing every student to demonstrate learning in the same way, on the same exam and on the same questions.  Where is the differentiated assessment?

Currently, due to a mandate of my department, I am administering common exams to all my students.   Every test day I shake my head as I use differentiated instruction in all my courses, but then grade all my students the same. 

Next semester, I will be changing my grading process.  I will keep differentiated instruction, but I will be implementing differentiated assessment.  Students will inform me when, during the term, they want their outcomes assessed.  No longer will I grade based on my progress through the course, but actually grade the students on their own progress through the outcomes.  Students will also be allowed to demonstrate any outcome as often as they would like.

To truly be teaching for the students, we need to realize that differentiated instruction is no longer enough, we need to start implementing differentiated assessment as well.


  1. I am at the same place as you. I have separated out the know piece from the performance piece. Both can be time-shifted but are somewhat constrained by arbitrary reporting periods. Check out this post . In my "unit plan" I am laying the foundation for Differentiation. Now I have to do it:) I welcome your comments.

  2. You hit the nail on the head! We only work to differentiate instruction and not (at least in the United States) on differentiated outcomes. Here's where I tried to make that point: