Final Thoughts in my Last Week of EDU 605: Differentiated Instruction

Snapshot of PREZI - Applied DIP for DHE

Here is a presentation I created as a differentiated instructional plan for dental hygiene education. Another eight weeks has passed and I find myself thinking about all of the things I’ve learned in this class. Certainly some of the strategies I’ve used in my work as a dental hygienist with regard to patient education were strategies of differentiation. Educating patients is not that different than educating students. Some things I have learned from experience have been confirmed in this class. For example, getting to know your learners is the first step to selecting an appropriate way to differentiate instruction. When I know the learner’s learning style preference, then I can implement strategies that support that style in a way that helps them to use the new information I present in a way that makes sense (Tomlinson, 2001).   After I get to know the learner, then I need to assess their prior knowledge. In the dental office setting, I may ask a patient to show me how they floss. From their demonstration I can then determine what they already know and I can begin my instruction from there. It does not make sense to just rattle on about a topic I know a lot about if the patient has no frame of reference or any knowledge related to the subject at hand. I think of differentiated instruction as a form of guided communication that supports the acquisition of knowledge and development of conceptual understanding. Every person/patient/student is different, therefore the way I teach cannot be based on the fallacy that everyone is the same and that everyone will learn like me. That is simply untrue.

View the presentation here:


Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development


Final Thoughts and Completed Mind Mapping Activity

There is an abundance of information available about differentiated instruction but I have come to conclude that the basis on which this type of instruction is situated is that all learners have varied experiences, abilities, interests, and culture. So it is not surprising that students in any class will have different levels of readiness to learn. One of the first things to do before any instruction is to try and simply get to know the students. Take time to observe them and talk to them; find out what interests them.  Teachers must be able to communicate effectively with their students and knowing the students personally will make this much easier. Tomlinson (2001) stated that it is the responsibility of the teacher to create a learning environment in which students will feel accepted, secure and respected. When students feel comfortable in this way, they may be more likely to ask questions or request help when they feel it is necessary.

It was interesting to learn about differentiated instruction for readiness, interest and learning style and how each of these can be used to differentiate the content, process and product of learning (Tomlinson, 2001). I feel more confident about addressing different cognitive levels of thinking relative to how students demonstrate their understanding.   Grey and Waggoner (2002), demonstrated how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory to strategize ways in which students can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. The table they presented in that article is a great tool. The 4MAT process of learning will also be very helpful for planning instruction (McCarthy, 2010).  Coming to the end of this class I feel equipped to begin differentiating instruction with purpose!

Here is my completed mind map for differentiated instruction.

DI - Mind Map


Grey, K. C., & Waggoner, J. E. (2002). Multiple intelligences meet bloom’s taxonomy. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 38(4), 184-187.

McCarthy, B. (2010, April 6). Delivering information: Step four of the 4MAT cycle. Retrieved September 23, 2015 from

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Analysis & Evaluation of “Student Tutors for Problem-Based Learning in Dental Hygiene: A Study of Tutor Actions”

I have chosen this article by Moore and Kain (2011) to analyze and evaluate because of the researcher’s focus on peer mentoring as a scaffolding technique in a problem-based learning (PBL) course.  Tomlinson (2001) cited both PBL and peer mentoring as strategies for differentiation because they both support learning from the student’s respective learning disposition and stimulates a sense of personal responsibility for learning.  The American Dental Education Association (2015) advocated for PBL as a learner-centered instructional strategy to support students’ development of critical thinking skills.  For these reasons I think the article is relevant to my current educational context.

The subjects of the study from Northern Arizona University (NAU) were six, senior year dental hygiene students in their second, one-semester long, PBL class and sophomore dental hygiene students enrolled in their first of two, one-semester long problem-based learning class.  The purpose of the study was to identify how students become tutors, what is done in preparation to become a tutor, what do tutors do in a tutoring session, and what do tutors learn from the experience?  Specifically, researchers wanted to investigate the actual behavior of tutors in tutoring sessions and why, versus the desired behavior of tutors as were the focus of many studies in the review of the literature. Guided by the theoretical frameworks of Vygotski and Piaget who valued social interaction in the learning process, researchers sought to scaffold instruction of problem-based learning with peer tutors.  The study utilized the Vygotski principles of enlisting more knowledgeable individuals for the task of tutoring so that student learning is challenged from their zone of proximal development (Moore & Kain, 2011). The study also utilized Fishbein’s Integrative Model of Behavior and applied it to tutor perceptions of what they should do and how they are to behave.

Fishbein's integrated model applied to a change in tutor behavior (Moore & Kain, 2011)

Researchers collected raw data in the form of interviews of administrators (dental hygiene program chair, PBL course designer, student tutor supervisor) the tutors, tutees and observations from audio and video recordings of tutoring sessions. Data analysis was accomplished using QDA Miner software.  I have not heard of that software before (there are many I am not familiar with) so I looked it up on the software’s website and it appears to be a good tool for analyzing a variety of data input. It was this software that helped researchers to identify specific patterns exhibited by tutors. The results of the study were organized according to variations in tutor actions with emphasis of the interventions as they related to content of the class (35%), process of PBL (62%) or of social nature (3%). The results also disclosed the tutor style as directive (31%), suggestive (52%), or empowering (17%) relative to their interventions. The researcher openly discussed her role as both the primary researcher and dental hygiene instructor at NAU. She stated, “Bias inevitably, though not intentionally, was introduced into the study…tactics were used to ensure validity, including the use of external reviewers and interviewers (Moore & Kain, 2011, p. 809).  In light of her candidness and the steps taken to ensure validity, I think the study is still valuable. Moore and Kain (2011) found “that tutors’ behaviors are influenced more by their beliefs than by tutor training and environmental factors” (p. 812).  This appears to align with the Fishbein’s Model introduced for tutor behavior. Researchers concluded that student tutors can be integrated effectively in the NAU dental hygiene program provided they have adequate training and are selected to be tutors based on their attitude and beliefs as they relate to PBL and tutoring (Moore & Kain, 2011).

I have only a few reservations about this article regarding validity.  First, the primary researcher stated that she was the interviewer for four of the six tutors, which may have affected their responses to the questions.  Second, I wonder who noted the observations from the audio and video recordings?  Still, I believe this study is a good reference for any educator interested in scaffolding with peer mentors.


Overview of critical thinking skills. (2015). In American Dental Education Association.  Retrieved October 10, 2015 from

Moore, T., & Kain, D. L. (2011). Student tutors for problem-based learning in dental hygiene: A study of tutor actions. Journal of Dental Education, 75(6), 805-816. Retrieved from

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Differentiating Instruction for Content, Process and Product

This week I had the opportunity to learn more about specific strategies for differentiation based on readiness, interests, and learning profile as it relates to content, process and product. There appears to be countless ways to differentiate instruction so that all learners’ needs are addressed. McCarthy (2014) stressed that not only is it important to plan ahead to differentiate instruction with regards to content, process and product, but also the need to address student response to the instruction as it relates to their readiness, interests and learning profiles. In past classes I have learned about student motivation and engagement as necessary components to make learning meaningful each student. The discussion in class this week resonated well with past concepts I have learned in other classes such as student-centered teaching and a reaffirmation that the “one-size-fits-all” approach is not an acceptable means of teaching. And once again, I can see great value in getting to know my students. When I understand what interests them, and how they prefer to learn it will make it easier to identify strategies to differentiate my instruction. Corley (2005) stated that student readiness is also important to consider, because student readiness can vary depending on the topic, their prior learning experiences and various other things going on in their life at the time. In this blog I have decided to explore specific strategies for differentiating instruction for content, process, and product as it relates to teaching dental hygiene.Jeff Charbonneau quote image

Tomlinson (2001) stated that varied instruction for content is a way to ensure that students can access the information provided and also that it is not too far beyond their current knowledge disposition. Before moving on to any new topic it seems prudent to offer students some type of formative assessment to determine their readiness. Formative assessment will provide insight as to where I need to place emphasis of instruction and to determine students who may need more or less support (McCarthy, 2014). After analyzing the results to identify the needs of my students, I could use the information to create a helpful graphic of important concepts and I could group students that are struggling with another student who understands that information for a think-pair-share activity or for the purpose of mentoring.

Determining a strategy of differentiating instruction for process seems a little easier to me. When I think about what type of activity could provide multiple perspectives for understanding new concepts I think role-playing would be particularly beneficial for dental hygiene students. For example if the learning objective was based on dental treatment for medically compromised patients, students could be grouped in pairs with one student acting as the clinician and the other as the patient. To address students’ interest the students could choose (from a pre-determined list) what medical condition they would role-play. In this scenario the clinician would ask relevant questions about the medical condition and how it may affect the patient’s mouth. This strategy for differentiating the process of learning serves to help students’ development of understanding key concepts and to find personal significance of the information for their own purpose (Corley, 2005).

The last major component of differentiating instruction is product. The product is evidence of students’ learning through application and synthesis of key concepts used to create a final project of some type (Corley, 2005). Similar to content and process, product can also be differentiated based on readiness, interest and learning profile. Products can be used as summative assessments and are generally long-term work-in-progress (Tomlinson, 2001). To continue with the example of learning about medically compromised patients and how their conditions relate to oral health students could create a product of their choice (a podcast, a video, a brochure, Power Point or Prezi presentation) to educate a friend or family member about the implications of their medical condition on the oral cavity and their overall health. The last component of that product could be a self-reflection of what questions to ask patients with the medical condition related to gathering a medical history, modifications relative to providing dental treatment and recommendations for the patient to achieve or maintain health. This project creates an opportunity for students to go beyond mere comprehension of concepts to actually extending their knowledge in a “real world” scenario as the final product of their learning. Allowing the students a choice of which medical condition to explore, differentiates the product for interest. Student selection of the product type differentiates learning based on learning style preference.

Providing students with choices to access information, how to make sense of information and how to demonstrate their learning is something to consider for every lesson, in every day of teaching.

To any dental hygiene educators – How do you assess your students for readiness, their interests and learning style preferences? What strategies have been successful for differentiating instruction in your setting?


Corley, M. A. (2005). Differentiated instruction. Focus on basics, 7(c), 13-16.

McCarthy, J. (2014). 15+ readiness resources for driving student success. Retrieved October 4, 2015 from

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development