Old dog, new tricks? Differentiated leadership?

canadultslearnDifferentiation, as defined by the ASCD (with the help of Carol Tomlinson) is,

“At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn”.

However, Tomlinson makes the point that instruction (aka “process”) is only one area that can be differentiated.  Content and Product can also be differentiated.

We all have different leadership styles, just as we all have varied learning styles.  What “Content” can we differentiate to help meet our respective institutional goals?  How about the “Process” (or processes) we employ to meet those goals?  Can we allow for differentiated “Products” from our faculty?

So… how does that apply, in education, beyond Teachers and Curriculum Directors?  I posit that we, as leaders in education, must walk the talk and differentiate the manner in which we lead.

Examples of ‘administrative’ Content:  Let’s say one of our schoolwide initiatives is using UbD to develop curricular units.  One of the Big Ideas is ‘Begin with the end in mind’.  We can give various examples of how that is done in order to help our faculty gain a complete understanding.  Let’s say another schoolwide initiative is promoting a unified discipline approach.  Some teachers may benefit from reading articles on the philosophy of Unified Discipline.  Some may benefit more from reading about the nuts and bolts procedures.  The point is, we can tailor some of the Content to reach the understandings we need.

If you have better examples PLEASE comment below.

Examples of  ‘administrative’ Processes: Just as we use various instructional strategies in the classroom, so do we use various management and interpersonal strategies to help our faculty and our school meet our goals.  Collaborative decision-making may work well with some of our faculty but not all.  The same goes for Cooperative Grouping.  Varying the WAY we run meetings can help us get our messages across more effectively to a wider range of individuals.

Again, your observations, suggestions and comments are most welcome!

Examples of differentiated Product (in an admin context): HOW teachers show us they are helping us meet our goals can be manifest in various ways.  What is acceptable evidence?  Isn’t this what reflective goal-setting is all about?

What do you think?

The good news is educators commonly epitomize the concept of Lifelong Learners AND there are a multitude of resources for differentiation out there…


  • A web page focused on the gifted and differentiation, entitled “Tomlinson”


  • Carol Tomlinson’s webpage


Equal but not fair...

Equal but not fair...

  • 4MAT Leadership Behavior Inventory


  • Bill Powell’s webpage with the Center for Cognitive Coaching



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