How can you differentiate you teaching in a standards-based learning environment? (Standards-Based Slow Chat

@informed_members @Certified_Educators

@Darcey_teasdale, @d.vendramin, and I are continuing our conversation about standards-based learning today wondering about differentiation in a standards-based learning environment.

At first glance, differentiation and standards-based learning would appear to be at odds with each other. However if we consider that standards-based instruction tells us what to teach and differentiated learning tells us how, we can see how these two approaches are actually complementary. With that in mind, let’s learn from each other and explore:



By understanding the standards, teachers know what outcome students need to achieve. They way that outcome is met can be delivered and assessed in a differentiate manor. Understanding learning styes and providing student voice and choice can led to more standards being met with a higher quality of learning. Need to Swiss Army Knife approach and use which methods of delivery and assessment work best for the learners in front of them (even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone).


Completely agree, and love the metaphor. Content, process and product should be differentiated in order to reach all learners and help them in their journey towards mastery. With all the embedding you can do, Formative provides a safe platform for students to interact with the content in a variety of ways and demonstrate their understanding.


One way we’ve incorporated differentiation is letting students self-determine their challenge-readiness. For example, if you look at the formative I shared in the Library called “Volume of Prisms and Pyramids - Starter and Level 1/2/3 practices” (clone code LWWDVP), you’ll see an example in which starter questions determine the level of challenge that each student is ready to take on. Based on their initial success, students progress to one of three levels of difficulty with prism and pyramid volumes.

  • Level one includes diagrams with measurements shown for all practice, and does not require formula manipulation.
  • Level two does include formula manipulation, and has some information provided in the word problem instead of the image.
  • Level three includes compound 3-D figures, formula manipulation, and may include extra challenges of missing bases.

I love this branching idea because it gives students an opportunity to monitor their own progress and find the next appropriate challenge on their own while freeing the teacher to monitor the whole class and make adjustments. If students are successful in completing their level, they could act as peer tutors for students working at the same level or to students at one of the lower levels. This could also free up more time for the teacher to work with students who need more intensive support.

As a side note, we just added individual links for library listings, so if you’d like people to rate your formative in the library or just encourage them to check out the library in general, you can provide them with that link! It just appears in the URL bar when you have selected a formative in the library.

P.S. We just gave you a shout-out as our Formative Educator of The Day :formative: :raised_hands:


@jenny.santiano, I love the idea of the 1/2/3 practices with the starter questions at the top. How do you implement this in class without kids ‘cheating’ to get an easier set of problems? Do you have it set to not show correct/incorrect answers immediately, wait a certain amount of time, and then have students refresh to see the green/red? Or, are students just trusted to answer honestly?

Our school is mandating a learning check for every concept taught. The LC is only supposed to take about 5 minutes. I think that starter questions would be a great way to do my LC, but I’m afraid my students (only 1 out of 3 is mathematically ready for my Algebra 1 course) would ‘rig’ their starter answers so they could do the ‘easy’ problems, especially if they get a sneak peek at the problems in the same Formative. I’m considering using the starter questions, but having links to click on for the rubric after students submit their starter to tally their red/green marks. Maybe this way, I would get more accurate data for readiness as well as challenging students according to their readiness.


Hi, @tricia.mintner,

I keep the Formative on a setting that doesn’t show correct answers for the first few minutes while kids work on the starter so it’s a more genuine reflection of student ability. Then I open it up. The kids know that, if they need to work on level 1, they are working at a small group with me - which means they are held more closely accountable for showing their work in detail. In other words, it’s more work to do the easier problems!