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Incorporating Differentiated Instruction in Your AP Classroom

Philip Ferralli Product Manager
Shuana Jordan Product Manager

September 2015

Differentiated instruction creates a learning environment that motivates students to learn and helps meet their individual needs. Technology supports differentiated instruction and provides the opportunity to improve teaching and learning. The instructional strategies below encourage differentiated instruction and include examples of how to apply the strategies and recommendations for supporting technology.


Tiered strategy

Tiered or scaffold activities can help you not only assess student readiness, but also meet students where they are in their understanding of the content. This strategy can also promote interest and motivation for a diverse group of students.

  1. Have students research a topic of interest and create an online presentation on their findings to demonstrate their understanding and applications of key concepts. Are the resources students cite in their research trusted or respected? Why do they think so?
  2. Encourage students to publish a podcast, video, or presentation to answer essential questions or extension questions related to the topic. The students’ published work can also be used as an assessment that demonstrates learning.
  3. Allow students to explore real-world applications of concepts through guided research activities or a Web quest. Can they find commercial applications of the concepts being explored? How is chemistry applied in the workplace? What companies are active in the development of chemically derived products? Is the use of these products good—or bad—for the environment? For people?
  4. Let students create models to help organize their thoughts or make connections using online graphic organizing tools or mind-mapping software. Free options include FreeMind, Coggle, and Wordle, all of which support this activity in unique ways.


Reinforce/review strategy

Implementing activities that involve reinforcing and reviewing concepts allows you to assess your students’ readiness, growth, and understanding of the concepts. You can also use this strategy to appeal to different learning styles.

  1. Use content videos as part of whole-class instruction to help students make connections to real-world examples and applications, and even extend the learning for subgroups of students. HHMI Biointeractive or DNA Interactive are excellent tools for this strategy.
  2. Use video transcripts or interactive text-based activities not only to support science literacy, but also to promote content knowledge. Great resources include The Progress of Science and Weed to Wonder.
  3. Assign instructional videos to individual students to help them break down key concepts and develop fundamental skills. Bozeman Science and Khan Academy are great places to start. Add an extra layer of engagement and accountability to these videos by using EDpuzzle, which allows you to freely incorporate student assessment and track viewership on any video.
  4. Explore relevant interactive science lessons as part of whole-class instruction, or assign interactive science activities to individual students to reinforce concepts taught. These types of resources, such as Genome Cache, can be used to address the multiple ways students learn.
  5. Use Web-based activities as lesson starters to improve science vocabulary and engage students. Check out iCell or SAS® Virtual Labs.


Learning extension strategy

Using tools that extend the learning experience, you can boost students’ interest and motivation regarding a particular topic and assess their understanding and readiness.

  1. Use inquiry-based, hands-on activities as guided lab experiments to teach essential science topics. Check out our complete Carolina Investigations® for AP® lineup for Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science.
  2. Assign simulations to small groups of students to observe different phenomena. Students can then make connections between real-life phenomena and the application of fundamental science practices. Get started with PhET simulations on Carolina Science Online®.
  3. Take advantage of game-based learning activities to improve problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as they relate to the understanding of key concepts. These types of activities can be used to motivate and engage students. Try using games like CellCraft, Eterna, or Foldit for starters.


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