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Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives

reviewed by Kathryn Byrnes - January 08, 2013

coverTitle: Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives
Author(s): Marie Pagliaro
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 1610484606, Pages: 94, Year: 2011
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Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives is one of five books in a series written by Marie Menna Pagliaro, Ph.D.  Pagliaro is currently a professional development consultant with over 20 years of experience as a science teacher and teacher educator. The series titles: Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives; Educator or Bully? Managing the 21st Century Classroom; Exemplary Classroom Questioning: Practices to Promote Thinking and Learning; Research-Based Unit and Lesson Planning: Maximizing Student Achievement; and Mastery Teaching Skills: A Resource for Implementing the Common Core State Standards are geared toward novice and veteran teachers, pre-service teachers, staff developers, supervisors, and administrators.

Differentiation meets students readiness, needs and interests in discipline-specific content through effective instructional design. Carol Ann Tomlisons 1999 groundwork text titled, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners described how teachers could modify their instruction for individuals or groups of students by adjusting three components: input (how content is presented and accessed), process (how students work) and products (of student work and assessments).  In Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives, Pagliaro offers strategies for adjusting two of the three components. Input is modified through teacher-directed strategies such as concept attainment, concept formation, advance organizers, direct instruction, modeling and lecture while process is modified through student-centered strategies such as problem-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning and learning stations. Both teacher-directed and student-centered strategies are offered within a framework for acquiring teaching skill based on the work of Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers (1995, 2002). The process begins with theory exploration and is followed by demonstration from a peer, outside expert, video or computer simulation. Teachers practice with feedback through documentation and coaching rubrics. Finally, teachers adapt and generalize the strategy to whole classes of students. Pagliaro advises readers to use this process to integrate the strategies into their instructional repertoire.

Pagliaro begins her introduction in a direct, conversational tone expressing to educators the need for another book on differentiation.  

It has been reported that most teachers, even those selected by principals to be mentor teachers those responsible for developing new teachers have a limited instructional repertoire, relying on only one strategy, thus preventing students from learning (Joyce & Showers, 2002). This book will help you improve the instructional strategies you are currently using and learn new ones to add to your repertoire. (p. v)

While challenging in tone, the introduction clearly states the authors intent and purpose. Pagliaro recognizes the desire by many novice and experienced teachers to continue to develop and hone their toolbox of instructional strategies throughout their career to keep the student involved in learning (p. vii) and attempts to present the theory and implementation of traditional instructional strategies such as lecture or cooperative groups in clear, concise ways that refresh experienced educators understanding of the strategies and teach the strategies to beginning teachers who might be learning about advance organizers or learning stations for the first time.

As an example, consider how Pagliaro presents the instructional strategies in Chapter Eight on Problem-based Learning. The author grounds the strategy in the work of Dewey, Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, constructivism and brain research. She states that the underlying belief of these educational theorists/practitioners was that the school should be a miniature social system that reflects what citizens need to do to maintain a democratic society (p. 51) and that the purpose of problem-based learning is not to have students do well in school, but to have them do well outside of school (p. 52). When teachers utilize this strategy students are presented with real, authentic problems that are meaningful to them. Teachers serve as coaches and models by creating a structure that provides materials, monitors interactions, encourages students to think independently and effectively express their ideas and experiences. Pagliaro acknowledges the difficulty of this strategy within existing school structures and standards while providing a coaching rubric to guide the development of this strategy. The strategy is explained in five short pages highlighting key theoretical ideas and practical concerns. A summary table of all five student-centered strategies (problem-based learning, cooperative learning, mastery learning and learning stations) describes the objective for each strategy. Problem-based learning is used to solve appropriate authentic problems suited to the developmental level of students in comparison to mastery learning which provides tailor-made, individualized instruction that is self-correcting. Pagliaro asserts that all teachers need to develop multiple strategies, have experience practicing with the strategies, and then discern which strategy is most effective for a particular objective and particular students.

The pithy presentation of eleven instructional strategies as tools for differentiation serves as an abbreviated introduction or review of possible ways to differentiate the content of instruction and process of student work. The book is not a thorough or exhaustive analysis of instructional strategies to support differentiated teaching and learning, but it does provide a worthwhile service as a guide or reference. As a teacher educator, I view the text as useful, especially for pre-service and beginning teachers to become aware of the purposes of multiple instructional strategies and how to implement them with students. The framework for professionally developing teaching strategies and the coaching rubrics presented in each chapter are advantageous tools for teachers, administrators and staff developers. Differentiating Instruction: Matching Strategies with Objectives is a straightforward, no-frills text on instructional strategies to promote student learning.


Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (1995). Student achievement through staff development. 2nd ed., New York, NY: Longman.

Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. 3rd ed., Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 08, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16985, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 3:27:20 PM

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About the Author
  • Kathryn Byrnes
    Bowdoin College
    E-mail Author
    KATHRYN BYRNES is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Education at Bowdoin College. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research focuses on contemplative pedagogy in teacher education and K-12 education and has recently been published in Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice and the Journal of Transformative Education. She works with undergraduate and graduate teacher education students and K-12 educators to integrate contemplative practices and principles in education.
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