542 – Differentiated Instruction in PBL

In examining the many examples of Project Based Learning units over the past few days one common element in the design of instruction was the consideration of the needs of a diverse classroom through differentiated instruction. I discovered an article on Edutopia that offers some concrete examples of differentiation strategies. In a blog post by Andrew Miller (2012) he outlines six strategies for differentiated instruction in Project Based Learning.

1. Differentiate Through Teams

PBl is by nature a collaborative process and by sometimes grouping students in homogeneous ability levels the instructor can focus his/her attention on the groups that need the most help.


2. Reflection and Goal Setting

Taking time throughout a PBL project to reflect and re-adjust goals can allow individuals to set goals based on their needs and instructor to craft instruction based on these goals.


3. Mini Lessons

After reflection and goal setting instructors can modify and offer mini lessons for the diverse needs of the learner.


4. Voice and Choice in Products

Customizing the products or artifacts developed by students that reflect learning, based on the characteristics and needs of the learner, contributes to the success of PBL in a diverse classroom.


5. Differentiate Through Formative Assessment

Providing ongoing formative assessment is one of the primary jobs of the instructor during a PBL unit. PBL projects offer flexibility for instructors to assess and provide feedback through a variety of ways.


6. Balance Teamwork and Individual Work

PBL units should be developed to utilize both individual and group processes. As Mr. Miller states, “…demanding a 21st century collaborative environment while allowing time to meet students on an individual basis.”


This type of individualized instruction requires careful planning and flexibility by the instructor.