Differentiating Instruction with Utah Compose

September 15, 2015

Formative assessment is an important aspect of differentiated instruction, as it allows teachers to measure students' progress and determine if instructional methods or learning levels need to be changed for students throughout the learning process. Differentiating instruction requires that the same material be taught to all students in the classroom, but instructional strategies and the difficulty of instructional material vary according to the skill level of the student. Utah Compose is an excellent tool to measure students' writing levels, but until our latest release, it was difficult to differentiate writing practice and instruction in Utah Compose for students whose skill levels were significantly above or below their grade level.  Teachers can now easily differentiate for both these types of students without the extra work of creating multiple courses and prompts.

How does this work?

Teachers who use Utah Compose can set each student's scoring level to best accommodate individual feedback needs. When student accounts are added in Utah Compose, they are assigned a grade level. This grade level is the student's actual grade level in school and is therefore their default scoring level when they are assigned to a course.

However, we all know that students don't necessarily write on their grade level. Students who are writing above grade level may need more challenging assignments, while students who are writing below grade level need additional support. Utah Compose provides this flexibility by giving teachers the ability to set individual scoring levels for each student. 

Why should teachers use the scoring level option for students?

Assigning a new scoring level for students who are writing above or below grade level allows for feedback that is specific to each student's writing skills. The spelling and grammar suggestions, trait evaluation, and suggested lessons that are delivered in Utah Compose will be tailored to the scoring level assigned to the student. This allows students to work efficiently and get feedback that is best suited for their actual skill level.

Scoring levels also allow for more flexibility while using some of the other features in Utah Compose, including prompt assignment and peer review grouping. In earlier Utah Compose versions, the grade level assigned to each course was the grade level at which all students in the course were assessed. For example, in order to accommodate students who needed the extra support of a lower scoring level, perhaps due to an IEP requirement, teachers had to create new courses on the lower grade level.  However, students then only had access to prepackaged prompts on the lower grade level, and reports reflecting their work were also separate from the rest of the class.

Also, since Utah Compose’s peer review function is course-specific, peer review groups could only be built using students assigned to the same course, and therefore, the same general skill level. Now, with the new scoring level option for each student, teachers can create online courses that mirror the kinds of differentiation they practice in the physical classroom, and assign either prepackaged or custom prompts to all students from the same prompt list. Peer groups can consist of students of varying skill levels, increasing the groups’ effectiveness and providing more flexibility in instruction and collaboration among students.

What to remember when differentiating score levels in Utah Compose

Students who have been assigned a different scoring level will be designated in the prompt report with an asterisk to remind teachers that these students are being evaluated on different scoring levels. Teachers and administrators must remember to take this score level differentiation into account when examining the reports in Utah Compose.

As schools strive to meet the unique needs of individual students, more and more differentiation is being required of teachers in the classroom.  Utah Compose offers this new tool to support teachers by providing the best possible writing practice, feedback, and instruction to their students.

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