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August 6, 2018

5 Ways to Create a Differentiated Instruction Environment with Pear Assessment

To explain differentiation in the words of fifth grade teacher Holy M. Levy, “The core of differentiated instruction is flexibility in content, process, and product based on student strengths, needs, and learning styles." One of the best ways to create this flexibility is through the use of technology like Pear Assessment (formerly Edulastic). Pear Assessment allows you to create a differentiated instruction environment for different types of learners, and this article explains five ways you can use it to differentiate learning in your classroom.

1. Make your assessments flexible for different learning styles

With over 30 different technology-enhanced question types and various assessment features, Pear Assessment makes it easy to create assessments that appeal to different learners. Try using question types you haven’t used before, keeping in mind some learners are more visual, auditory, reading/writing, or a combination of a few styles. This doesn’t necessarily mean making different assessments for each type of learner; you can make each assessment flexible for different students.

For example, try including pictures in your questions in addition to text, appealing to both reading and visual learners. For questions like reading comprehension, include a read aloud option for the auditory learners (premium feature). Also, be sure to allow scratchpad usage for the students who like to write out their process. Or go old school and provide students with pencil and paper to work through problems before they submit an answer.

2. Adjust assessment difficulty for each student or student group

A teacher sitting with a group of students on their laptops

Not only can you adjust the style of assessments on Pear Assessment, but also the difficulty. In the words of Betty Scola, elementary school teacher and media specialist, “With Pear Assessment, it is easy to make multiple versions of a test and assign to specific students. Students don't even know they have an easier or harder test than the student next to them. Also, for those students that tend to rush through a test, you have the redirect feature to send it back for them to review. I use the shuffle question option (premium feature) so if students do sneak a peek at another screen, they won’t see the same question and they can't tell their test is different.”

The ease of creating and modifying assessments on Pear Assessment, as well as the feasibility of assigning different assessments to different students, makes this differentiation tactic very possible. Middle school language teacher Katie Breitholtz seems to think similarly and explains, “I can give the same assignment for three different proficiency levels for my students. They can get more immediate feedback from me, and most of my students will ask to redo assignments if they are not happy with their results. The levels in my classroom vary from newcomers with little to no English, to students preparing to transition to general education classes with no native language support.” From here we can see Pear Assessment makes it a possibility to teach a classroom of varying student levels without too much extra effort from teachers.

3. Pinpoint students who need more help and give them opportunities to improve

With the instant and detailed feedback Pear Assessment provides, it becomes very easy to see where different students are at and identify the ones who may need more help. What you do with this information can range from sitting down and making game plans with students, giving them extra resources, or making extra assessments for them to improve. Eighth grade English teacher Mary Long shared, “In my classroom, I created a formative assessment in Pear Assessment with the eight most missed questions on a test. Students who had made insufficient progress on the test took the assignment, and then did test corrections on any they missed again. I put in specific comments in the feedback they used to make the corrections. When we took the next quiz, these students did much better.” With Pear Assessment, it’s easy to assign different assessments to different students or ask specific students to redo assignments or do extra ones.

4. Use Pear Assessment to enhance group learning

A teacher walks around the classroom looking at student's computers

Another way to use the feedback from assessments is to strategically form student groups. Working in groups is an important aspect of differentiated instruction as it provides variation for different types of learners, as talking concepts out and working with others is a style that helps many. As Holy M. Levy suggests, “By grouping students who are kinesthetic, linguistic, and artistic into separate groups, they can demonstrate three distinct ways to solve problems and show how they came to a solution.” Pear Assessment could then be utilized by making different types of assessments for each of these groups of learners.

Alternatively, another option is to form groups based on differences rather than similarities, pairing strengths and weaknesses together. Joshua Miller, high school math teacher explains Pear Assessment has encouraged his students of different levels work very well together. He shared, “Since I began using Pear Assessment in my classroom, my students have been more motivated to do their classroom assignments...My students work together as a team and do amazing things to keep their peers on the same level as everyone else.” He goes on to say that the stronger students, “step up to the plate and guide their peers."

Middle school language teacher Katie Breitholtz also uses Pear Assessment with group work and shares, “I have used Pear Assessment with my leveled literature circles/book clubs to check comprehension. Within the groups I can even have varying levels as needed.” Assessment feedback can be monitored as a class, for individual students, and also for specific groups of students to see if they need extra help.

5. Create time to meet with students individually

One of the biggest benefits of Pear Assessment as a whole is freeing up time for teachers to actually spend with their students. Instead of spending countless hours grading tests, teachers can let Pear Assessment do the boring work and instead spend time with students face-to-face. Also, Pear Assessment provides an opportunity for teachers to work with students individually while the class is occupied with assessments. Middle school math teacher Anne McCluskey says, “Pear Assessment allows me to work with students individually, addressing their personal instructional needs, while all students are actively engaged. Students get immediate feedback and I can quickly provide interventions to each students' specific need.”

Again, this is not a comprehensive list of strategies. With the many types of students out there, it’s hard for teachers to cater to everybody. This is why technology like Pear Assessment is necessary to make differentiated instruction a reality. The various features as well as the immediate feedback allow teachers to provide more specific, differentiated instruction for all of the different learners in their classrooms.


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