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Exploring the Synergy of Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design

Exploring the Synergy of Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design



Explore the Synergy Between Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Understanding by Design (UBD)

Interview Transcript

Bena Kallick: So, Carol, for the first one, just talk a little bit about how your work connects with the UBD work and how it does, particularly given it's online at Eduplanet21.  


Carol Tomlinson: One of the great pleasures of my work in the last twenty or twenty-five years has been having the opportunity to work with J. McTighe and Grant Wiggins before his death, to learn from them, and to explore with them ways in which differentiation and UBD go together.


And, from my perspective, as a teacher, educator, writer, and professor, I don't see how you can match them. They're a match made in heaven. I don't see how you can quite fulfill the promise of either without the other. When I write about differentiation or present on it, I talk about five key classroom elements.


We all have those things in our classrooms. We may or may not name them, but they're there, and they're tools that we can use to organize our thinking. The five are learning environment, curriculum assessment, particularly formative assessment, instruction, responsive instruction, and orchestrating classrooms where all of that's possible.


And the real marriage between differentiation and UBD is located in the curriculum and instruction piece. UBD perhaps emphasizes the curriculum more expansively and fully but always talks about instruction as well. Differentiation elaborates on the instruction more but always talks about curriculum and the model that I use in curriculum; wherever I am teaching, writing online is UBD.


We're in complete sync there. One interesting way for me that UBD and DI align on Eduplanet21 is that the UBD components elaborate greatly and deeply on multiple levels on the curriculum part, and they attend to instruction well but less obsessively than differentiation does. So, if you watch UBD, it might be helpful to see what the DI instruction piece looks like.


If you watch differentiation, where I use a simplified approach to UBD, it might be nice to see how the UBD folks expand on that. But, the two models are well aligned, including in our philosophy of assessment and uses of assessment. So, you might see some differences in emphasis and placement of detail in the two modules, but they go hand in hand wonderfully.


In a classroom, if you want to attend to kids' differences but don't have a curriculum that makes sense to them, that they can see themselves in, and that they learn to think with, you really aren't reaching the students well. And if you have a meaningful curriculum but it's a one-size-fits-all for everybody, that isn't going to be as effective either.

So, I think they're a wonderful pairing.  


Bena Kallick: What's the advantage of technology? Like, why technology?  


Carol Tomlinson: In terms of having something like Eduplanet21, I probably shouldn't speak for anybody else, but I think I'm a little bit lazy during the pandemic. I find it wonderful to be able to find out online something that I really want to learn about, do it when it's convenient for me, look at the part of it that I want to look at, and then come back to it later.


To me, the great purpose of Eduplanet21, plus its people, is that there's so much there, so much that's rich, and when schools participate in that, the school as a whole and individual faculty members can go exploring. And think about the thing that's their next step and really spend some time with that.


And when they feel comfortable there, come back and look at the next step. I think that's where we live right now. And so Eduplanet21, I think, is a great match for the place that we are in, in teaching history and for the needs of faculty members who need things that they can access without taking time off from school, although those places are good too when you can go, things you can access without taking time off from school, and can do it in doses so that it fits the schedule of your life. 


Bena Kallick: And then when you said the people say more about. What do you mean by the people?  


Carol Tomlinson: My experience with Eduplanet21 has been that it is a planet inhabited by really good people. They care deeply about education, the products they create, and particularly the people who use those products.


So, I think when you sign up with Eduplanet21, you find that you have a team on your side — people who are not irritated that you called to ask for help. I've been in places where Eduplanet21 was videotaping my work, and somebody at the other end who was working with something completely different had a computer glitch.


The woman who was in charge of the taping with me picked right up on that and helped him out on the phone for 15 or 20 minutes, so they didn't have to wait for anybody else to come in or recruit somebody to help them. I found that the work there is of high quality and that the people are people-focused.


And so that's true whether it's trying to get an arrangement that makes a quality production, helping people who have subscribed to the program, or finding new ways to educate people about what's going on at Eduplanet21. I think they're just plain old, user-friendly, and smart. 



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