Content Process Product

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do

Dorothy and the other characters in The Wizard of Oz have a difficult time holding their own in conversation with the mysterious Wizard because of the aura of mystery that surrounds him. Fear and anger consume them as they naively agree to carry out a suicidal mission to kill the Witch of the West. In exchange for their bravery, each of them will receive a valuable prize consisting of a heart, a brain, courage, and a path back home. The irony is that they already possess these gifts, which they do not learn about until after they have discovered the person hiding behind the curtain pretending as the cranky wizard.

Differentiated instruction (DI) has a magical effect on teachers because of the way it caters to the requirements of each individual student. In this climate of state standards and high-stakes assessments, the skill set required to differentiate may appear to some as mystical, while to others it may appear to be unintelligible. Where can one even begin to look for time? The truth is that all educators already possess the resources necessary to differentiate instruction in effective ways for all of their students. In earlier postings here on Edutopia, I discuss topics like “assessment fog,” which is one of these factors.

My initial exposure to the components of DI came from Carol Tomlinson’s book, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Subsequently, my friend and advisor Dr. Susan Allan was instrumental in helping me get a deeper grasp of these components. The relationship that exists between a teacher and their pupils is at the heart of differentiation. It is the role of the instructor to connect the subject, the process, and the product. Students’ responses to educational experiences are determined by their level of preparedness, their interests, and their learning profiles. In this piece, we will discuss the role that the instructor plays in the efficient design of DI, and in the next three posts, we will investigate how students react to the instruction.

chart of the relationships between learners
Image by John McCarthy, used with permission
Throughout the process of lesson design and delivery, educators continually address topics pertaining to the content, procedure, and final output. These are the areas in which teachers have a great deal of experience, ranging from the design of lessons through the evaluation of student work. As soon as the veil is lifted regarding the manner in which these three areas can be divided, it becomes evident and simple to cater to the various requirements of the students, despite the fact that this has always been the case.


The knowledge, concepts, and skills that are outlined in the curriculum as being essential for pupils to acquire are referred to as the content. Utilizing a variety of distribution modes, such as video, readings, lectures, or audio, is one method for differentiating content. It is possible to chunk the material, discuss it using jigsaw groups, share it using visual organisers, or use it to provide a variety of solutions to equations. Students may be given the opportunity to choose the curriculum area that they choose to concentrate on based on their personal interests.

Within the context of a lesson on fractions, for instance, students might:

Watch a video from Khan Academy that provides an overview.
To improve your academic vocabulary, complete a Frayer Model. Some examples of academic vocabulary include denominator and numerator.
Watch a demonstration of fractions being used to carve a cake, then describe what you saw.
Have some of the cake.
The following example should reassure teachers that differentiation can take place within whole group settings. Learners will find a variety of ways to connect with the material if we provide a range of options for them to explore the content outcomes.


The pupils’ ability to make sense of the content is dependent on the process. Before moving on to the next part of the course, they require some time to process the information they gained from the previous learning exercises. Consider a seminar or a course that, by the time it was complete, left you feeling as though you had been stuffed to the gills with information and were possibly even overloaded. The students are better able to evaluate what they comprehend and what they do not after processing the information. In addition to that, it provides teachers with a chance to conduct formative assessments on their pupils and track their development.

For instance, providing students with one or two processing experiences for every thirty minutes of instruction helps reduce the sensation that they have reached their content limit. Processing experiences is a crucial step in the development of a powerful talent known as reflection. The following are some strategies:

Think-Pair-Share Journaling Have a conversation with your partner.
Hold On to the Final Word (PDF)
Literature Circles (which also support content differentiation)
Process experiences are the one that are utilised the least among these three DI components. You can experience long-term improvements in learning by beginning with any of the tactics that have been discussed.


It’s safe to say that product differentiation is the most common type of differentiation used.

Students are given options to choose from, and teachers provide choices.
The students will present their own concepts.
Products can have varying degrees of complexity to accommodate the appropriate level of challenge for each student. (In a another blog post, I talk about being ready.) Having clear academic criteria that students can comprehend is the most important factor in determining product selections. Student voice and choice flourish when products are cleanly connected to learning aims, and this also ensures that significant information is covered.

One of my favourite business tactics, for instance, is offering customers three or four different options for each product. For students who want a comprehensive view of what has to be done, all of the options, with the exception of the last one, have already been established. The final option is a free-form response, or a blank check. Students come up with their own unique concept for a product and then pitch it to their instructor. They are required to demonstrate how the academic criteria will be met by the product alternative they choose. The instructor may accept the proposal in its current form or request that it be revised. The students will work on establishing a fresh idea if the proposal is too scattered from its intended purpose. They are required to pick one of the predetermined items if they are unable to come up with an acceptable proposal by the deadline that has been established.


Content, process, and product are critical components in lesson design. The good news is that teachers have access to a wide variety of instructional tools that can differentiate these core areas of instruction. Examples of such tools include the fifty plus social media tools listed below, which prepare the groundwork for students to respond to the following three DI elements covered in this series:

Readiness of the learner
Personalized educational plans
Learner pursuits and passions
During one of the activities I lead, I have the participants stand up and see how far they can stretch their arms. After that, I challenge them to push themselves even further. It is true. Reaching even higher in your practise will benefit your pupils, so long as you keep the requirements of your students in mind. That further stretch is something we all possess.