Mr.;Bender models how to gather historical data through reading nonfiction
text and taking notes, most students
read and take notes on materials that
are at their grade level or above, using
a teacher-provided recording form. But
Mr. Bender knows that several students
aren’t reading at grade level. He prepares to meet those students where they
are by collecting texts about Irish emigration written at a lower reading level.
He also prepares a second note-taking
form that explicitly prompts students to
stop and think while reading.
Students who receive the simpler
text and more structured form are still
working on the same essential target—
learning to gather historical data. This
teacher can rest assured that when he
reviews all students’ work, he’s assessing whether students have met that
target—and his assessment of that
particular proficiency will yield reliable
data for his future teaching and grading.
Students can also rest assured that this
lesson is about note taking, not reading
at grade level.
Mr. Bender’s students know he will
help them track their progress toward
effective gathering of historical data,
both on this assignment and others. He
establishes this expectation by sharing models of notes that he considers
proficient and others that are below
the standard. The class examines the
models and develops a rubric for note
taking. Students will assess themselves
against this rubric and set goals for how
to improve their work and assess their
progress toward those goals the next
time they take notes as part of a project
Consider another learning target that
might accompany the creation of a time
line connected to Irish emigration. The
target reads “I can gather historical data
to sequence events.” Notice that the
target doesn’t state that students will
complete a time line, only that they will
learn to sequence events.
Let’s imagine that Mr. Bender has
pre-assessed his learners and deter-
mined they can all appropriately
sequence events in a time line. How-
ever, he knows some of these learners
are novices and some are advanced in
gathering historical data, in terms of
both note taking and reading skills.
Read about the strategies
an elementary school teacher uses
to differentiate instruction in the
online-only article “Setting the
Stage for Differentiation” by Cindy
Massicotte at www.ascd.org
Thus, advanced learners will aim for the
same basic learning target and project
tasks as everyone else, but they will do
more complex work that stretches their
Learning for All
Differentiating instruction based on
learning targets enables teachers to
maintain rigorous learning for all
students. By using differentiation in
concert with assessment practices that
help students envision excellent work,
measure their own proficiency levels,
and set goals for growth, teachers can
ensure equity and access in heterogeneous classrooms.
Jennifer Goldin makes it a goal for
each of her students to show at least a
year’s worth of growth—whether a kid
enters her class far behind and gets
closer to what New York State says
middle schoolers should know or comes
to her class right on target for standards
and seeking more challenge. “My
students know exactly what they need
to do to grow,” she says. ;L
Author’s note: Mr. Bender is a pseudonym.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the
black box: Raising standards through
classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan,
80( 2), 139–148.
Schmoker, M. (2010, September 27). When
pedagogic fads trump priorities.
Education Week. Retrieved from http://mike
Stiggins, R. J., Arter, J., Chappuis, J., &
Chappuis, S. (2006). Classroom assessment
for student learning: Doing it right—Using it
well. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated
classroom: Responding to the needs of all
learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2000). Reconcilable differences: Standards-based teaching and
differentiation. Educational Leadership,
58( 1), 6–11.
Cheryl Becker Dobbertin is associate regional director for Expeditionary
Learning; 585-730-3533; cdobbertin@