Online Course: Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Planning (Assessment)

The LINCS Learning Portal houses self-paced, freely accessible online courses developed by U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education-funded initiatives

This discussion thread is related to the LINCS online course entitled Differentiated Instruction and Lesson Planning that is available in the LINCS Learning Portal. During and after you complete the course, you are prompted to write reflections on the issues below. Please share your thoughts and experiences with your colleagues.

  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. Did you design the assessment before planning activities? If so, how did it help determine the activities to be used? If not, how might developing the assessment before planning activities have changed your choices?
  • Consider a lesson you currently teach. Do its learning activities match the learning objectives? Are there provisions for formative assessment? If so, how do those planning steps help shape the lesson? If not, how might they change the lesson currently taught?




I teach vocational courses such as Introduction to Computers. The differentiated lesson plans will be a huge help this semester as I have students at different levels. For instance, I may have one or two students in the group who have never used a mouse. I am working on a lesson plan now that will help those learn how to use a mouse while other more experienced computer users can move on to another, more advanced activity.

Thank you for such a wonderful online course! I will definitely recommend this course to my colleagues.

I teach the Writing/Language Arts section of the GED, and I have all my students complete writing assignments. however, because of their varying levels of ability, I usually give them a few essay topic options, which allows them then to pick an assignment they feel comfortable with. Then, since I know their personal ability levels, I will critique their essays on different scoring criteria. For some students, I may be looking at sentence structure, such as compound and complex sentences, but others I might look at pronoun agreement. 

Hi Lori, Thanks for your posting. You describe a typical class which almost always has a wide range of skills in writing. Could you say a bit about how you prepare students at different levels to write an extended response for the GED®, which requires them to cite evidence to support their claims in writing?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Assessment CoP

When I started my unit on W.E.B. Dubois, I had the summative activity in place which was a do or die final exam. That particular choice of mine made me more of a "sage on a stage" and I was very traditional in my formative exercises as well (quizzes and verbal checks). Although I did create the assessments before lesson planning, because they weren't differentiated many slower students were left behind. This class refreshes what I already know, but I have not been using as well as I should.

Yes, my lesson plans do match my objectives. They, however, lack decent differentiation. In the future, I will structure my lessons in a way to let all students from varying abilities gain better access. In that, I will try to work more cooperative learning and technology based instruction. I have used quizzes and journaling as a source of my formative assessment. Now I have more tool, I will use them. 

In order to design lessons keeping in mind class differentiation , I have used Inclusive education library of Alberta Program of studies many times. Feel free to use the given link. I have used and applied the tools with little tweaking as per my needs. hope that helps.

In order to design lessons keeping in mind class differentiation , I have used Inclusive education library of Alberta Program of studies many times. Feel free to use the given link. I have used and applied the tools with little tweaking as per my needs. hope that helps.

In the previous module, I reflected on a lesson objective for students working on citing evidence. Before beginning the lesson, I had planned what I was going to give my learners as the assessment. We read two articles, and I informed the learners at the beginning of the lesson that at the end of the readings they would be writing an argumentative claim, supported with evidence from the reading, that is the opposite of their opinion on the topic. Knowing that at the end of the lesson, learners were going to take the opposite viewpoint and make a claim helped in how I guided the lesson, in both finding evidence, and practicing by writing a claim that they believed.

If I had not already determined how I was going to assess my students' learning, then my lesson would probably have been less focused. I would not have had the chance to guide my learners in practicing the skills before I had them demonstrate their learning.

For this course, I have been reflecting on a lesson revolving around citing evidence in an argumentative claim. For the lesson, I had thought about how I was going to take a pause in the middle of the instruction to determine how well my learners were grasping the content. Once I figured out what those checkpoints were going to be (formative assessments), I started figuring out what activities were going to get me from start to checkpoint, and next checkpoint. 

In this sense, I would say the formative assessments guided how the learning activities were planned. They were created and implemented with the purpose of being the stopping points throughout the lesson. The learning objectives were the end focus, and the assessments I incorporated were meant for me to gauge how close to the "finish line" my learners were approaching. The learning activities helped me see where good pausing points would be.

I gave my different level math students a multiple choice test about multiplying two digit numbers. Since I knew that I was using a multiple choice assessment, I gave me students a practice worksheet for them to complete and us to review before the assessment. The assessment was chosen before the activity was planned. 

I am working with Mi Best students, and we are working on punctuation.  I looked at the language arts practice test for the TASC prior to beginning the lesson.  I covered this topic with them.  I gave them a group assignment, and then we checked it and corrected the errors.  I gave them individual practice sheets similar to the TASC practice test.  One student needed more remediation than the other student.  I gave the advanced student a more difficult worksheet, and then he wrote and correctly puntuated his original sentences.  I showed an additional powerpoint/video to the remedial student, and then we worked a worksheet together.  Then, I let him work independently.

As an elementary school teacher, I often used backwards planning, especially for my English Language Development (ELD) students. However, since transitioning into teaching ESL adults, I have not utilized this model. In the future, developing the assessment before planning activities will have a positive impact on my lessons. It will really allow me to focus on the skills I went students to demonstrate at the conclusion of the lesson. Further, designing the assessment will also encourage me to differentiate my lessons. 

One lesson currently being taught in our program involves translating word problems into multi-step algebraic equations and then solving for the variables created.  This is assessed with cumulative tests, but not until the very end of instruction.  I believe that this lesson could be enhanced by a backward design that would help us assess progress and understanding with just a few practice problems being done as a quiz at the beginning of math each morning that would help us track our learning more effectively.  These formative assessments would assist me in seeing which activities I am using are successful and which need to be adjusted.

One lesson I have been teaching is a lesson over translating word problems into systems of equations and then solving for the missing values.  Currently, I am teaching this by simply showing the process and then going over multiple practice problems on the board with the students.  These do not include formal formative assessment and would look very different if they did.  One option for change that could increase the effectiveness of the lesson would be to use actual objects in the beginning of the lesson to demonstrate why and how the equations were formed and then have the students actually make their own problems and equations physically with the objects in order to show their understanding of the concepts.


Consider a lesson you currently teach. Did you design the assessment before planning activities? If so, how did it help determine the activities to be used? If not, how might developing the assessment before planning activities have changed your choices? 

I have been designing an online course on 'SOFT SKILLS' including problem solving & decision making skills. I have used backward design model to design my assessments before the learning activities and it does help a lot to align the learning activities fully aligned with their assessment methods. Fundamentally, the assessments are forms of measurement, therefore determining the course of action during initially before moving into the learning activities promotes clarity of teaching vision, improved quality of learning process, higher level of student engagement, and more frequency of formative assessments helps determine the whole course of teaching/learning process. Although, it seems challenging to me initially because, I never used backward design model before but gradually it helped improve my overall teaching method, my confidence, support of my students, and empowered me through enhance teaching skills. 

Consider a lesson you currently teach. Do its learning activities match the learning objectives? Are there provisions for formative assessment? If so, how do those planning steps help shape the lesson? If not, how might they change the lesson currently taught? 

I am currently designing and teaching a course on problem solving and decision making. Obviously, the learning activities match the learning objectives. Yes, there are provisions of formative assessment. For example, some of the formative assessments are: group study, class discussions, survey interviews, case studies, and peer assessment methods. The formative assessments are not graded, rather include a timely feedback from instructor or if required from peers. 

These planning steps help shape the lesson by providing the opportunity to instructor & learner both to address the areas of improvements, target future learning goals, and facilitate learning inside classroom and beyond. Formative assessments are tools for instructors to improve, facilitate and modify lessons during the execution of instruction. Quizzes, reflective journals, cooperative learning are some of the key strategies to assess learning. However, summative assessments have their own advantages and they prove useful at the culmination of the learning activity to determine the level of learning occurred. Summative assessment forms can be in the form of standardized tests, essays, papers, exams etc. 

Currently, I teach 7th grade Social Studies and High School Equivalency Prep courses, and unfortunately, I have not made my assessments prior to the activities. My process is usually looking at the standards that need to be covered by the end of the unit and creating activities that address those standards. In essence, it is a form of UBD. All of the lessons match the objectives and the standards that need to be covered. These are formulated by the state of Massachusetts, and I look to address them through all of my activities and assessments planned. 

Throughout class, there are many provisions for formative assessment. Many of them happen naturally through discourse organically within the classroom, but I also plan other more structured assessments. I seek to be inquisitive in all aspects of practice always asking probing and follow up questions to student responses and work. Furthermore, with more structured formative assessments, they can range from exit tickets about the lesson, class discussion, and mini-quizzes throughout the week. These assessments are all planned around the objectives and standards covered throughout the lesson. 

For the lesson I teach on linear functions, the assessment was designed before planning the activities. Having the assessment established was helpful in planning the activities, because knowing specifically how the students were going to be assessed, allowed for me to be able to consider a variety of options for activities each of which would still help students achieve the same objectives.  Knowing what the end goal allows for the possibility of a variety of ways to get to the same goal.

The activities for the lesson I teach on identifying functions do match the learning objectives. Currently there are only a few formative assessments provided.  Adding more formative assessments would change the lesson by allowing for students to continue with varying activities to address their learning needs.  While I do assess for readiness allowing for students to either meet with me individually to prepare for working on a learning packet, work on the learning packet with a partner, or start it on their own, I think there is a need for formative assessment periodically through the exercises that would provide the opportunity to meet with me or the tutor individually for additional help or to work through interactive programs on the computer for more practice.

I believe that starting with the clearly identified objectives and then identifying the assessments according to the stages of backward design helped my lesson to be more coherent.  Furthermore, what I learned in this course helped me, practically, by helping me be more conscientious of considering how do differentiate in each of the areas of readiness, content, and process.  With these three in mind, each lesson in my classroom can make math more accessible to all of my students.

Recently, I have taught a lesson on crafting effective introductions. Unbeknownst to me, this lesson actually utilized a backward design. I wanted to make sure all my students were able to produce their own original introductions paragraphs at the end of the lesson. That goal ‘drove’ all my activities and tasks as well as dictated a specific selection of materials and supplemental resources. When I was planning the activities I knew I had to give students specific tools and teach them very specific strategies so that they could practice this skill multiple times within a session (lecture, whole-class practice, small group activity, pair-work) before they could finally be comfortable enough to demonstrate the mastery by write their introduction paragraph all by themselves. Needless to say, this was one of my most effective lessons – now I know it was so due to its backward design.

I teach ELA for multi-level classes (NRS levels 1-6). For example.I use Newsala to reading comprehension activities because Newsala differenciates the text complexity and activities according to students' readiness/level.

I am sort of new to teaching. My educational background is on Counseling, but teaching has been my calling. I am self taught for many practices and procedures. I am enjoying learning these different lesson planning methods and look forward to using them in my classroom.