Introduction


Product differentiation involves allowing students to show, in varied ways, what they know, understand and are able to do.

Some examples of how teachers differentiate by product are: product options that respond to varied interests or learning profiles; varied timelines or check-in points; varied criteria for success (e.g. from novice to professional); varied audiences (in age, background knowledge, size, etc.); varied roles in a performance assessment; some choice of questions on tests or quizzes.


The product is essentially what the student produces at the end of the lesson to demonstrate the mastery of the content: tests, evaluations, projects, reports, or other activities. Based on students' skill levels and educational standards, teachers may assign students to complete activities that demonstrate mastery of an educational concept (writing a report), or in a method the student prefers (composing an original song about the content, or building a 3-dimensional object that explains mastery of concepts in the lesson or unit). The product is an integral component of the differentiated model, as the preparation of the assessments will primarily determine both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ instruction will be delivered.

When an educator differentiates by product or performance, they are affording students various ways of demonstrating what they have learned from the lesson or unit (Anderson, 2007; Nunley, 2006). It is done by using menu unit sheets, choice boards or open-ended lists of final product options. It is meant to allow students to show what they learned based on their learning preferences, interests and strengths.


Situations when we Differentiate Product


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Questions to Ask Yourself
  • Look at ATLAS. Where are the students at the beginning, what is their end goal?
  • Look at your students (learning profile, readiness and interest)
  • How are you going to deliver information to get each student to the end goal?
  • Where should Formative Assessments be given?



Approaches to Differentiating by Product


The ways in which our students demonstrate or prove that they have achieved the learning outcomes


Product By Interest


When differentiation product based on a student's interest, there are multiple tools you can utilize including:
Definitions from: Integrate to Differentiate
  • Choice Boards - Choice boards are organizers that contain a variety of activities. Students can choose one or several activities to complete as they learn a skill or develop a product. Choice boards can be organized so that students are required to choose options that focus on several different skills
  • Independent Study - students select topic, set goals and criteria for work, negotiate evaluation plan with teachers and present results to appropriate audience. Independent study provides total flexibility based on students readiness, interest and learning profile.
  • Interest Centers/Interest Groups - often used for students to do guided explorations, but independently. Interest centers should be self-explanatory and allow students opportunities to learn more about a topic or play around with a concept. Learning experiences are usually directed toward a specific learner interest. Allowing students to choose a topic can be motivating to them.
  • Tiered Assignments, Lessons and Strategies - Assignments, activities, products, etc. are designed to instruct and assess students on essential skills that are provided at different levels of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness. The curricular content and objective(s) are the same, but the process and/or product are varied according to the student's level of readiness.

Practical Examples












Product By Readiness


When differentiation product based on a student's readiness, there are multiple tools you can utilize including:
Definitions from: Integrate to Differentiate
  • Alternative Assessment - any type of assessment in which students create a response to a question or task. Alternative assessments can include short-answer questions, essays, performance assessment, oral presentations, demonstrations, exhibitions, and portfolios.
  • Choice Boards - Choice boards are organizers that contain a variety of activities. Students can choose one or several activities to complete as they learn a skill or develop a product. Choice boards can be organized so that students are required to choose options that focus on several different skills
  • Compacting - a content acceleration strategy that enables students to skip parts of the curriculum they have already mastered and move on to more challenging content and activities. It is a three step process:
    1. teacher assesses the student to determine his/her level of knowledge on the material to be studied and determine what he/she still needs to master
    2. teacher create plans for what the student needs to know, and excuse the student from studying what he/she already knows
    3. teacher develops plans for freed-up time to be spent in enriched or accelerated study
  • Enrichment Clusters - students are grouped according to ability for instructional purposes. Enrichment clusters stress student choice and students as producers of useful products
  • Graduated Rubrics - "the standard and level of student proficiency and accomplishments designed for students and teachers to measure learning outcomes. Graduated rubrics offer clear expectations for quality and levels of excellence to encourage among high-ability learners." (The Different Place)
  • Learning Centers/Stations - spots where students work on different tasks simultaneous in a classroom and then rotate through them to learn content/skills related to a topic. Students might skip stations if they know the material or some stations might have tasks designed for advanced students only. Learning Centers are stations where students explore a topic but they stand alone. Students don’t need to rotate through several Centers to master the content/skills related to the topic. Centers may have many choices of activities for students to choose from based on their ability, interest and learning profile. Visit the following sites to learn more about learning centers/stations:
  • Learning Contracts - a learning contract is a written agreement between teacher and student that will result in students working independently. The contract helps students to set daily and weekly work goals and develop management skills. It also helps the teacher to keep track of each student’s progress. The actual assignments will vary according to specific student needs. Learn more at the following sites:
  • Small Group Instruction - According to Joseph A. Olmstead is is generally feasible to use small-group methods to:
    • Increase understanding and grasp of course content.
    • Enhance motivation and generate greater student involvement.
    • Develop positive attitudes toward later use of presented material.
    • Develop problem-solving skills specific to the course content.
    • Provide practice in the application of concepts and information to practical problems.
    • Generate ideas among students concerning ways of applying acquired knowledge.
    • Develop student commitment to recommended ways of handling problems.
    • Emphasize an important issue.
    • Proceed with instruction when content experts are scarce or not available
  • Tiered Assignments, Lessons and Strategies - Assignments, activities, products, etc. are designed to instruct and assess students on essential skills that are provided at different levels of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness. The curricular content and objective(s) are the same, but the process and/or product are varied according to the student's level of readiness.

Practical Examples













Product By Learning Profile


When differentiation product based on a student's learning profile, there are multiple tools you can utilize including:
Definitions from: Integrate to Differentiate
  • 4-MAT - Bernice McCarthy's 4-mat system places individual learning and behaviour preferences into one of four categories: "Why?," "What," "How," and "So What?" It is an instructional method that connects the information students learn to prior knowledge, gives time for practice, and allows for creative adaptation of new learning. The 4 MAT System promotes instruction that provides all students an opportunity to learn using four learning styles (imaginative, analytical, common sense, dynamic) one at a time. Instruction is sequenced so that 25% of instructional and learning time is devoted to each of the four classifications of learning style. "In this way, all students, whatever their learning styles, get a chance to "shine" 25% of the time.
  • Alternative Assessment - any type of assessment in which students create a response to a question or task. Alternative assessments can include short-answer questions, essays, performance assessment, oral presentations, demonstrations, exhibitions, and portfolios.
  • Enrichment Clusters - students are grouped according to ability for instructional purposes. Enrichment clusters stress student choice and students as producers of useful products
  • Multiple Intelligences - Based on Gardner's theory that all people possess nine intelligences in varying degrees, we strive to improve learning for our students by addressing their multiple intelligences. Use the following links to learn more:
    • **Concept to Classroom Online Workshop** - an excellent (free) online workshop that really delves into Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and how they can be used to improve learning in your classroom
    • Surfquarium - access the numerous Multiple Intelligence resources and read the information available at this site if you are interested in implementing and using the multiple intelligences in your classroom.
    • The Styles section of this site also features inventories and information about Garner's Multiple Intelligences
  • Tiered Assignments, Lessons and Strategies - Assignments, activities, products, etc. are designed to instruct and assess students on essential skills that are provided at different levels of complexity, abstractness, and open-endedness. The curricular content and objective(s) are the same, but the process and/or product are varied according to the student's level of readiness.
  • RAFT assignments - a system to help students understand their role as a writer, the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the expected content.It is an acronym that stands for:
    • Role of the Writer - Who are you as the writer? Are you George Washington? A warrior? A homeless person? An auto mechanic? An endangered animal?
    • Audience - To whom are you writing? Is your audience the general public? A friend? Your teacher? Readers of a newspaper? A local bank?
    • Format - What form will the writing take? Is it a letter? A classified ad? A speech? A poem?
    • Topic + strong Verb - What's the subject or the point of this piece? Is it to persuade a princess to spare your life? To plead for a re-test? To call for stricter regulations on logging?

Practical Examples












Other Tools/Examples



Definitions from: Integrate to Differentiate
  • Choices based on readiness, interest, and learning profile
  • Clear expectations
  • Timelines
  • Goal Setting Agreements - students determine what their goals are and how they will meet them. Here are 3 printer friendly worksheets in PDF that not only get students writing but help them think about the types of goals they should be setting. (about.com):
    • **This worksheet** (.pdf format) asks students to set 2 goals, state why they're important and state how they'll reach them
    • **This worksheet** (.pdf format) focuses on setting 1 goal, 1 target date, 3 strategies, and list how they'll stick to reaching their goal
    • **This worksheet** (.pdf format) requires that students select an academic goal and a behavioral goal and state why they're important and how they will reach them
  • Product Guidelines
  • Evaluation
  • Portfolios - students generate a collection of their work that reflects their academic growth over time. Great for evaluation but also allow students to make many choices. Hence, a student’s portfolio can really represent not only growth but also interest and learning profile.