Differentiating K-12 Assessments

Learn effective strategies for differentiating assessments and empowering every student in your class to feel success. This course explores strategies and real-life examples of how differentiated assessment provides direction for improvement, promotes confidence, and motivates your learners to do their best.

6 Weeks / 24 Course Hrs
Starting  March 13, 2024
Offered in partnership with your preferred school


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Learning method

Course code: 4da

Differentiated assessment is the key to helping every student succeed. No matter what grade you're teaching, this course will give you the tools you need to gather your assessment data quickly and easily.

You will begin this course by exploring strategies for performing pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments. You'll discover how to identify and share learning goals, gather assessment information, adjust your instruction, and provide feedback to your students. Real-life examples will help you see how differentiated assessment provides direction for improvement, promotes confidence, and motivates your learners to do their best. Whether you're a new or experienced teacher, you'll gain skill and confidence as you get hands-on practice in using a wide range of assessment techniques. By the time you've completed these lessons, you'll have a clear roadmap for differentiating your assessments and a wealth of practical ideas you can start using in your classroom right away.

What you will learn

  • Explore strategies for performing pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments
  • Learn to deconstruct content standards into student-friendly language so students understand what they need to know and do
  • Discover how to identify and share learning goals, gather assessment information, adjust your instruction, and provide feedback to your students
  • Learn how to find time to implement and document assessment practices

How you will benefit

  • Acquire a wealth of practical ideas you can start using in your classroom right away
  • Learn how to transfer your new knowledge and skills with assessments to the real world
  • Gain confidence in your ability to reach students and experience measurable success as a professional educator

How the course is taught

  • Instructor-led online course
  • 6 Weeks access
  • 24 course hours

In the first lesson, you'll find out how differentiating assessment means more than just increasing your students' end-of-year test scores. You'll start by looking at the four main principles behind differentiated assessment (DA). You'll get a taste of how DA works in a real classroom and see a powerful example of what this approach can do for students. You'll also receive some hands-on strategies for beginning to use DA in your own classroom. Your first step will be getting to know your students' multiple intelligences, learning styles, social and emotional factors, and personal interests, so you can meet them where they are and begin the process of increasing achievement.

In this lesson, you'll get an overview of the three different types of assessment: The pre-assessment will help you gauge what your students already know. The formative assessment is used to monitor and adjust instruction while you're teaching. Finally, you'll give a summative assessment (traditionally a quiz, test, or project) to summarize what your students have learned and assign grades. The lesson will also talk about ways to keep students who have already mastered the content engaged in learning through anchor activities.

In this lesson, you'll focus on the first principle of DA: identifying and sharing learning goals with students. You'll start by deconstructing content standards into student-friendly language to tell students what they need to know, understand, and do. This information goes into the KUD chart. You'll also investigate how the KUD chart becomes a checklist to differentiate instruction and a template for designing both pre- and summative assessments. Finally, the lesson will talk about how to share learning goals with students in ways that motivate them and make your expectations clear.

In this lesson, you'll look at the last three principles of DA: gathering evidence of understanding, adjusting instruction, and giving feedback to students. You'll start by seeing how you can use a versatile activity in different ways as a formative assessment and then explore how to use the information you gain from the assessment to adjust instruction. Specifically, you'll see examples of re-teaching in a different way and tiering instruction (adding more complex and less complex activities to accommodate students at different readiness levels). You'll also learn some tactics you can use to give students constructive, descriptive feedback.

Have you ever had a student who just didn't seem interested in learning? In this lesson, you'll look at assessment strategies you can use to motivate the unmotivated learners in your classroom. You'll see how something as simple as a remote control can increase attention because it speaks students' digital language. You'll also explore how you can use seating arrangements and open-ended questions to encourage students to participate in classroom discussions. Finally, you'll investigate how you can use the jigsaw strategy to support or challenge learners in the classroom.

Do you have a Mediocre Melanie in your classroom? This student is satisfied with doing only what it takes to get by. She shows up, completes assignments, rarely asks questions, and simply takes up space in the classroom. In this lesson, you'll see how one teacher uses an anticipation guide, the Question-Answer-Relationship strategy, and a visual display to promote learning in students previously satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

In this lesson, you'll meet Accelerated Alex. He seems to always be one step ahead of other students in the class, so it can be challenging to keep him interested. You'll see how you can use learning contracts and Think-Tac-Toe lessons to challenge him without being weighed down with grading all these individual assignments.

In this lesson, you'll explore strategies to support students who are struggling to learn information without putting so much stress on them that they shut down. The lesson will talk about using snowball fights and every-pupil response strategies. You'll also see how you can divide students into groups according to the assessment information you collect from these strategies. This will give you more time to spend with struggling students while keeping the students who are getting it learning and engaged.

Assessing vocabulary doesn't have to be boring. In this lesson, you'll learn about engaging vocabulary assessment strategies you can use in your classroom. After all, the stronger students' vocabulary is, the better chance they will have of answering end-of-the-year assessment questions correctly. You'll investigate how the ABC Brainstorm, Most Important Words, What's My Name?, Find My Family, and List-Cluster-Title-Explain strategies bring vocabulary to life while fostering independence and transferring ownership of learning to your students at the same time.

In this lesson, you'll take a look at something that's always a hot topic in the teaching world: grading. If you've ever felt lost while contemplating your grade book, this lesson is for you! You'll get advice to help you grade students against standards, not against each other. You might be surprised by an exercise that reveals how many expectations are implied. You'll look at how to use rubrics effectively to expose these implied expectations, and finish by exploring some common grading practices to avoid. By the end of this lesson, you'll have the framework you need to assign grades with confidence.

As you've been exploring DA ideas throughout this course, have you been thinking to yourself, "How will I ever fit all these extra tasks into my day?" You might be surprised at how little time you need (and how DA can actually save you time)! In this lesson, you'll investigate how to find time to implement and document assessment practices. You'll see how one teacher uses Quick Check forms to quickly document the mastery levels for each student. You'll explore time-saving techniques to keep bulletin boards updated and learn about how an assessment menu helps with lesson planning. Finally, you'll learn three new formative assessment strategies that you can use with your students: Four Corners, Muddiest Point, and Lesson Summary. You'll be on the road to saving time in no time!

In this lesson, you'll bring your DA training full-circle as you look at how to cope with challenges, avoid burnout, and create a road map for successful implementation. This survival guide for busy teachers also includes some popular management tips to streamline grading and choose what to abandon. You'll learn how to transfer your new skills to the real world and see how the skills you've picked up can actually make your life easier while raising achievement at the same time.

Cheryl Dick

Cheryl Dick has more than 25 years of teaching experience and is currently a classroom teacher. She's taught 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade and has previously worked as an instructional coach. She graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, with a focus on early childhood education. Cheryl also holds a master's degree in elementary education from Texas-Wesleyan University and a second master's degree in educational administration from Lindenwood University.

Instructor Interaction: The instructor looks forward to interacting with learners in the online moderated discussion area to share their expertise and answer any questions you may have on the course content.


There are no prerequisites to take this course.


Hardware Requirements:

  • This course can be taken on either a PC, Mac, or Chromebook.

Software Requirements:

  • PC: Windows 8 or later.
  • Mac: macOS 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.


  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.

Instructional Material Requirements:

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.

A new session of each course begins each month. Please refer to the session start dates for scheduling.​

Once a course session starts, two lessons will be released each week for the 6 week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends. You will interact with the instructor through the online discussion area. There are no live sessions or online meetings with the instructor.

The interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes two weeks after each lesson is released, so you're encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release. However, you will have access to all lessons from the time they are released until the course ends.​

Students enrolled in a six-week online class benefit from a one-time, 10-day extension for each course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.​