Differentiated Output Hierarchy

The differentiated output hierarchy is a systematic, organized approach to support student's active engagement in the general education curriculum. The differentiated output hierarchy supports the concepts defined in differentiated instruction.

Differentiated instruction is defined as the planning of curriculum and instruction using strategies that address student strengths, interests, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments "at its core...differentiation is simply high-quality, thoughtful teaching that builds on our best understanding of how students learn and what teachers can do to maximize each student's learning" (The Common Sense of Differentiation, 2005). Tomlinson (2000) suggests that differentiated instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and learning.

Many students who receive special education supports and services struggle with reading comprehension, written language, organization skills, etc. The hierarchy provides a framework to allow students to show what they know even with these deficits.

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Differentiated Instruction has three primary components:

  • Multiple options for taking in information Content
  • Multiple options for making sense of the ideas Process
  • Multiple options for expressing what they know Product

"Each section...the Content, Process, and Product must be varied in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs" (Common Sense of Differentiation, 2005). The differentiated output hierarchy provides a framework for addressing the multiple options for expressing what they know - The Product.

There are five levels in the differentiated output hierarchy:

  • Open Ended - Open-ended questions may be the most difficult for students receiving special education services. Many students who have trouble with written language skills or have trouble processing spoken language will not be able to answer open-ended questions as presented in the curriculum. If the student is having trouble with open-ended questions, it is the time to move through the differentiated output hierarchy.
  • Visual Organizational Strategies - Visual strategies should provide the student with a kick-start, which may assist the student in organizing the answer. For example, showing the student how many words or sentences are required to answer a question or complete a paragraph.
  • Closed Strategies - Closed strategies organize the student's output within the curriculum. Closed strategies also narrow the depth of the curriculum and allow the student to utilize recognition skills versus recall skills to output the information.
  • Choice Strategies - Choice strategies provide the student with a visual method to recall the information. Choice strategies should be utilized in a combination with other hierarchy strategies.
  • Yes/No Strategies - Yes/No strategies change the format of an open-ended, multiple choice, etc. type question into a Yes/No format. The yes/no format requires the overlay of other hierarchy strategies. A Yes / No strategy may have to be taught to a student.

Technology for Differentiation:

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Page last modified February 1, 2022