26: Responsive Teaching





Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.21.16 PM


Factors that create Student Variance:
  • Biological factors:
    • can cause students to learn in different modes on different timelines,
    • some learning parameters are malleable depends on context and level of support
  • Degree of privilege:
    • students who come from low SES face more school challenges
    • quality of students’ support and breadth of experience affects learning
  • Positioning for learning:
    • parents who value education influence student learning and cultivate soft skills (trust, confidence, positive interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence) that positively impact student learning
  • Preferences:
    • students’ interests vary across subjects and topics,
    • preferences affect how students take in knowledge,
    • students will relate to different teachers differently
Benefits of Responsive Teaching:
  • Positive student teacher relationships make it easier for students to take risks in the service of learning
  • Positive learning environments help students navigate through the successes and failures inherent in learning
  • Positive learning environments promote positive academic mindets such as  confidence, sense of contribution, autonomy, and accomplishment
  • Attending to students’ needs builds bridges between learners and important content
  • Adjusting pacing to meet students’ varied readiness helps students learn
  • Attending to students’ interests connects content to students’ curiosity
  • Attending to varied learning modes helps students use their preferred modes to learn more efficiently
Basic Responsive Teaching Approaches:
  • Find ways to get to know students better – call on students by name, using journaling to learning more about students’ feelings and interests
  • Use regular small group instruction
  • Teach to the high end of rigor – all learners benefit from learning complex ideas and complex thinking patterns
  • Use regular formative assessments to monitor understanding, give feedback, and fine-tune instruction
  • Teach in multiple ways
  • Allow working alone and with peers
  • Use clear rubrics that describe high quality work
  • Offer more ways to explore and express learning
  • Cultivate a taste for diversity – save problems in multiple ways, explore multiple points of view, etc.
  • Use basic reading strategies throughout the curriculum
Helpful Guiding Questions
  • Whom am I preparing to teach?
  • How can my knowledge of my students affect my curriculum design?
  • How can I help particular students find themselves in the world of what I am about to teach?
  • How might I teach in ways that best reveal the power of design to individuals?
  • How can I learn more about my students?
  • How can I ensure that all students have full access to the power of this design in accordance with their needs?


3-sowhatPBL contexts offer many opportunities to differentiate instruction: they already involve complex thinking and have many places for short group instruction.  Developing a deliberate and effective approach to responsive teaching can help ALL students be successful in projects.


Preparation Steps
  • Research and implement activities that will identify the variance in students’ interests, learning modes, communication styles, etc.
  • Research multiple ways to teach content
  • Develop clear rubrics that describe high quality work prior to starting projects
  • Try to develop project contexts that consider students’ interests
  • Research and implement activities and routines that develop and maintain a positive learning culture
  • Allow student voice and choice to influence their products
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use project self-pacing, to get students to naturally attend workshops in small groups that match their current need-to-knows
  • Teach content and solve problems in multiple ways
  • Use rubric check-ins and feedback during guided practice to give students regular, specific feedback that can help them improve their understanding and products
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Teach students about their preferred learning modes, their strengths and challenges, and ways to leverage these modes to learn more efficiently
  • Allow student choice to create variety in the problem solving modes and points of view they apply to create project products
  • Make regular attempts to get to know students deeper.  Use reflections on activities and projects to learn more about how these connect to students’ learning modes and interests, etc.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *