Differentiation, Rigor & Relevance

Definitions and key characteristics


Definition: "A differentiated classroom offers a variety of learning options designed to tap into different readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. In a differentiated class, the teacher uses (1) a variety of ways for students to explore curriculum content, (2) a variety of sense-making activities or processes through which students can come to understand and "own" information and ideas, and (3) a variety of options through which students can demonstrate or exhibit what they have learned." - Tomlinson


  • High-Quality Curriculum
  • Welcoming Classroom Environment
  • Ongoing Assessment
  • Flexible Grouping
  • Respectful Tasks
  • Student Choice
  • Student-Centered Learning

Learn more: What Differentiation Is and Is Not

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Definition: "Rigor is a quality of instruction that requires students to construct meaning for themselves, impose structure on information, integrate individual skills into processes, operate within but at the outer edge of their abilities, and apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations." - Mindsteps


  • High-Level Questions
  • High Expectations
  • Challenging Curriclum
  • Student Engagement
  • Authentic/ Real-World Assessment
  • Critical thinking

Learn more: The Characteristics of a Rigorous Classroom

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Definition: "Relevance is the perception that something is interesting and worth knowing. " - Roberson


  • Utility value - What am I going to use this for?
  • Relatedness - What does this have to do with me?
  • Connections between home and school lives
  • Embraces cultural differences
  • Connects learning to outcomes
  • Applicable to personal aspirations and interests
  • Relates to real-world issues and problems

Learn more: The Relevance Definition

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