In the Hawaiian language, A’o means both teaching and learning. Essentially, teaching is learning, and learning is teaching.  When you have truly mastered a new skills or information  you’re ability to teach someone else. Teaching is different than telling, it is different than explaining, it is a transfer of information from one person to another. When you teach someone else, you own understanding deepens, which reflects learning.

“How many fingers?” is a common formative assessment strategy used by teachers to quickly have learners self assess their level of confidence with new information.  One finger means the information is still new to you. Two fingers means you are starting to understand. Three fingers means you almost have it, but still need more practice. Four  fingers means you feel competent with the information or skill. Five fingers means you feel confident with the information or skill, and can teach someone else. The learner raises their hand, extending the number of fingers that represent their self-assessed level of learning. The art of teaching is facilitating the learners progress from one finger to five fingers.

Every time I teach a new subject, I realize that I still have more to learn. Even subjects where I have years of professional experience, and have earned advanced degrees. The process of teaching enhances my learning of the subject. This learning is driven by new questions that arise as I am teaching. These questions lead to new learning. This is the process of A’o. Teaching is learning, and learning is teaching.

Data-Driven Differentiated Instruction


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Data driven differentiated Instruction by Gloria Y. Niles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Differentiated instruction is a data-driven cycle used by educators to ensure that they are reaching each learner. In every learning community, learners enter with different degrees of background knowledge, different prior experience with content, and different strengths, challenges and abilities. Formative assessments are commonly used by educators to measure the impact of their instructional strategies. The data-driven differentiated instruction framework is a process of analyzing data sets individually for each learner.

Each formative assessment yields a data set. The data is analyzed to determine the success criteria each student has mastered, and more importantly which success criteria need further instruction, and why. The outcome of this analysis yields an educational diagnosis. This diagnosis, identifies for the teacher exactly what the learner needs in order to master the success criteria of the learning outcome. This diagnostic information is used to individualize the knowledge or skills the learner needs, in order to meet the success criteria. This diagnostic information is used to differentiate the lesson to meet unique learning needs. The teacher designs instructional strategies a learner needs in order to master the success criteria of the lesson. Following this personalized learning opportunity, the teacher closes the loop with a new formative assessment.

Using the data-driven differentiated framework improves the learning of a diverse group of students. This framework provides the teacher with a systematic process that allows the teacher to teach to reach every learner.