Sunday, February 21, 2010

Differentiated Leadership

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams

As a classroom teacher I believed strongly in differentiated instruction due to the fact that my 20+ kids came in at all different levels. I always felt I was doing a disservice if I gave them all the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. I've always believed in high expectations for all students. I just knew that some students needed more scaffolding, support, etc. to get to their destination. As I transitioned into administration the concept of differentiation naturally came with me.

Differentiated leadership is really my daily approach/philosophy as an elementary school principal. I have nearly 100 staff members that are all at different levels in regards to pedagogical knowledge, classroom management, technology skills, etc. My approach to each staff member is very similar to the approach I used with students in my classroom. A staff meeting, professional development, etc. for all staff, at the same time, in the same way really just doesn't make sense. This is especially true since I believe strongly in modeling best practices for staff members. That's why the philosophy of differentiated leadership has been a cornerstone for our school's success.

These are the basic components to the differentiated leadership approach that I incorporate into my daily practices.

1. All staff participate in respectful work
2. Conversations, Planning, & Professional Development serve to build a foundation from which staff members can explore and create
3. Planning, Professional Development, and Coaching are based on individual learners and team needs
4. Multiple learning strategies and approaches are used in a coaching framework
5. Assessment and dialogue (formal & informal) occur in a variety of ways throughout the year
6. Administrators and teachers form a learning partnership where strategies are shared in order to move all students forward

You'll see that you can replace the adult in each principle with a student and you have the basic principles for differentiated instruction. There are certainly other principles that you could easily add. Please feel free to comment and add your own.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere! Great first post Brian!
    This year at my school, we rolled out a different method of staff development where the tech staff offers different levels and topics during each of our designated in-service days. It's been very successful and the teachers love being able to choose from differentiated topics/levels.

  2. Brian,

    This is a great article. Thank you for giving me tons to think about for my school.

    BTW, I was also motivated to post after reading the same article from Patrick.

    Good luck.

  3. I wish more administrators were as enlightened as you. Differentiated Leadership is so important when dealing with staff who are at all levels and interests.

    Looking forward to more of your blog postings

  4. Kudos to you for venturing into the blogosphere! I look forward to more of your posts.
    I agree, as admin it's important we differentiate for teacher learning just as we expect teachers to do for students. Love using learning "stations" format at our in-services.
    Does your district's formal supervision plan include differentiated opportunities?