What Does Differentiated Learning Look Like? Scaffolding and Tiering

Two instructional strategies that I have been introduced to as new teacher include scaffolding and tiering. Both provide students with the support they need to reach proximal development for learning.  By examining these strategies I’m able to better implement them in my classroom.


Scaffolding: These are temporary supports that challenge student learning at the appropriate level. It provides the learner with the confidence to know what they are doing and supports them in how to achieve their learning goals.  Scaffolding provides students with clear direction and expectations so that we can eliminate any confusion they may feel if they are unable to understand key concepts

Tiering: This means adjusting the level of difficulty of a task or project to the student’s readiness level.  It provides a few different pathways for students to reach a common understanding of the same learning outcome.


With scaffolding I can eliminate frustration and equip my students with the confidence they need to proceed to the next level.  The general idea is that eventually students will become more independent and will need less scaffolding as time goes on. By scaffolding I am using differentiated learning strategies and making sure the needs of all my students are met.

Tiering a lesson allows me to level the activity or task to the individual student’s ability. Perhaps some students are working at a higher than grade level in math and some are working below grade level. I can tailor the lessons to fit individual learning needs of my students.  This does not change the learning goal but allows students the chance to feel successful and engaged at a level where they do not feel overwhelmed and want give up.


I would scaffold a lesson by introducing a topic with a direct lesson and then provide a visual aide. Continuing the lesson could include students thinking, pairing and sharing. When complete, a quick discussion of everyone’s thoughts and ideas could help students process the new concept. Students can then take what they have learned and enter the information into a graphic organizer.  Allowing students to hear, discuss and create something tangible with the new topic or concept with multiple methods of delivery allows for time to processing ideas, accessing prior knowledge and a visual they can use later on to review the material.

To tier a lesson, I would chose a few different pathways to the same outcome. For instance, all students need to write a short horror story to finish off the unit. Some students might need step by step instruction about how to layout their writing. Other students will be able to head straight to their first draft.  For those working at a higher level, I might add an extra layer to create more of a challenge. These students could then create an interview with their lead character discussing their perspective on what it was like to be a part of the horror story.


Teaching today requires a multitude of strategies to reach all learners. I believe I have a responsibility to ensure that each student that comes into my classroom are provided with the opportunity to be successful. By understanding that all students come to school with a multitude of lived experiences as well as different interests and levels of competency I can employ the above-mentioned strategies and know that I’m not leaving students behind. By implementing these strategies, I can set all my students up for success. After all, isn’t that the goal.    

Published by mrsbpstone

The journey to teaching has been a long and winding one, but here I am, taking it one step at a time and moving one step closer to my dream job every day!

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