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Engagement Through Differentiation in

InTASC Standard #2: Learning Differences
The teacher candidate uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to
ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.

The Instructional Approach
Throughout my internship year, I have found that it is quite difficult to keep all levels of learners
engaged in the classroom. After reading Reach Every Student Through Differentiated Instruction, I
determined that were two hypotheses that seemed to fit my group of students.
The goals for lower level learners seem unattainable or too difficult, students are overwhelmed.
The goals seem too easy for higher level learners, students are underwhelmed.
With students from all different backgrounds, at all different levels of learning, I created a unit in
which an anchoring phenomenon would interest a majority, if not all, of my students. With this
anchoring phenomenon, my students were given the opportunity to show their knowledge in a
visual model of their choice. The students were given freedom in their representation of their
thoughts and ideas.

Student Involvement
I looked to Carol Weinstein’s educational text on classroom management when determining what
role student’s should have in their groups. I found that it is very important that students have a
completely cooperative group. Students were
prepared for their roles through the clear expectations
A completely cooperative group is a
given to them and practice. As a class we discussed
group in which students take turns,
what it means to be a “good” group member. This was
coordinate efforts, listen to one
extremely important as not all students are on the
another’s ideas, collaborate on a
same level in terms of knowledge for the particular
single task, and solve a conflict.
unit. Students were told that they need to be open and
accepting of other student’s ideas and this was emphasized throughout group work and class time.
Student’s also had the opportunity to practice what it meant to be a “good” group member as the
group models of the anchoring phenomenon were revisited many times throughout the unit.
Student’s had lots of practice working with their group and I had the ability to work with each group
to help encourage the collaboration between group members.

Data Analysis
Below are pictures of the models two of the groups did. Each student was designated a specific color
sticky note when making revisions to their models. As you can see most students participated

equally and different group members contributed to different aspects of the models. The groups had
discussion and created a consensus as to who would contribute to the different revisions on the
model. Just by looking at the models, it is clear to see that each student was engaged and took part
in working on their model of the tanker car although this engagement may not have been equal
throughout the class.

After giving students freedom with their models, there were clearly leaders in each group. Some of
my students were very intrigued and excited to contribute to their models. This was great to see for
those students who tend to check out when the material at hand gets tough. There was a good
handful of my higher level learners that didn’t seem as interested when working on their models.
Although all of my students seemed intrigued, not all of these students wanted to explain this in
model form. I found that many of my higher level learners would quickly contribute to their group by
drawing a rough sketch, then sit and do nothing for the rest of their work time. They wanted to
know the answer immediately and knew I would not give it to them so they chose not to participate
While looking back on the situation, I believe that my hypotheses were correct. The lower level
learners were overwhelmed and the higher level learners were underwhelmed. The lower level
learners showed that with more open expectations, they were able to participate more actively in
group work. They seemed more comfortable in the classroom and more engaged in the topic at
hand. They were given more responsibility but not an overwhelming amount of responsibility.
However, the higher level learners still appeared underwhelmed. Most of them seemed to have no
interest in the models and contributed very little. Their engagement in the classroom didn’t change
enough for me to notice.

Future Direction
Moving forward, I plan to continue to give my students more responsibility. I believe the models are
a great way to increase engagement from lower level learners without making them feel incapable
of completing the task at hand. However, for the higher level learners, I have a few strategies in
mind. I’m interested to see what would happen if I were to poll my students on how they want to

represent this situation whether it be written, a drawing, a flow chart, etc. and organize them in that
way. I feel as though my higher level learners may be more interested in a more challenging way of
representing the phenomenon at hand. By polling my students and creating groups in that way, I am
allowing the lower level learners to choose a strategy that doesn’t seem overwhelming and I am
encouraging my higher level learners to push themselves to think critically and creatively.