The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 35

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Promoting Differentiated Instruction Through Assessment of Learning Gains

William Kerns

within a zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is commonly defined as “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Support focuses on the difference between demonstrated performance and learning potential (Kozulin, 2003).

Assessment is key to instruction within a ZPD. Each student has a different ZPD for a given task, making it critical for a teacher to differentiate instruction according to student needs. Teachers should seek to identify the following qualities about a student’s way of learning to differentiate instruction and improve the student’s literacy skills:

● In what areas does the student exhibit confidence and competence? How can the student be provided with a sense of challenge within the student’s existing skill level?

● What goals should be set? Focus on clear and immediate goals.

● How can we provide ongoing meaningful feedback to the student?

● What activities promote the possibility of the child being intrinsically motivated, focused, and engaged?

Strategic Content Literacy Assessments (SCLA; Brownlie, Feniak & Schnellert, 2016) are formative assessments designed to be teacher-generated and to actively promote metacognitive thinking related to literacy skill development. The SCLA assessment shown in Figure 1 tracks a student’s ability to comprehend texts. I created this rubric while drawing on the work of Brownlie (Brownlie, Feniak & Schnellert, 2016).

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