1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

(Last Updated On: July 30, 2023)

What does this descriptor look like at different levels?

Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities is the fifth descriptor of the first standard of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

While many interpret this as differentiating learning programs for those who are working below their year level or who have learning difficulties, this is not the case. This descriptor specifically says “across the full range of abilities”, and teachers who are gathering evidence for this standard need to also consider what they are doing to differentiate for high-achievers and gifted students.

See more: Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Terminology Explained


What does it look like?

At the Graduate level, teachers are expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of strategies for differentiating teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

Graduate teachers need to be ready to work as a teacher, but they don’t necessarily need to have much experience in the classroom yet. This is why this level of this descriptor says that you need to “demonstrate knowledge” and “understand strategies” to support a range of students, but you don’t necessarily need to have applied them in the classroom yet.

What evidence can I collect?

You will need to give evidence or your knowledge and understanding in your university assignments. Meeting this descriptor at this level is necessary to get your teaching degree in Australia, so your university will give you plenty of opportunities to do so.

If you did not do a teaching degree in Australia, your university assignments are also likely to provide adequate evidence for this descriptor. If you have been working as a teacher overseas, you likely have evidence above and beyond the Graduate level.


What does it look like?

At the Proficient level, teachers are expected to develop teaching activities that incorporate differentiated strategies to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

You are now expected to actually put what you know about differentiation into practice. You will need to know enough about differentiation (and enough about your students) to design learning tasks with multiple entry points and extension opportunities. Don’t forget that you’re catering to the full range of abilities so the greater the number of variations, the more students you can cater for.

What evidence can I collect?

This level of the descriptor specifies teaching activities; it is important to note that these are not learning activities. These are things that you do as a teacher, meaning that there are a wide range of different things that you could do and include in your evidence.

You could include:

  • Tasks that you have designed that are differentiated for a range of learners.
  • Annotated plans and programs with different instructional strategies eg. working with the whole class, small groups, and then individuals.

Highly Accomplished

What does it look like?

At the Highly Accomplished level, teachers are expected to evaluate learning and teaching programs, using student assessment data, that are differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

As opposed to simply implementing strategies like what is expected at the Proficient level, at the Highly Accomplished level you need to be able to evaluate your actions with data. You will need to be able to use the data that you collect to tell whether what you are trying to do is working or not.

What evidence can I collect?

Because this level of the descriptor specifies that you will need to evaluate a program, the easiest evidence that you can collect is a plan or program that you have annotated with your evaluation. You will also need to include at least a summary of the data that you have used to justify your evaluation. When annotating this plan, consider:

  • Has every student been able to access the learning?
  • Has every student grown in a measurable way?

If this is not the case, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have evidence for this standard. Evaluating a program and saying that it hasn’t worked (backed up with evidence) is a great evaluation and important for your growth as a teacher. Remember – this descriptor states that you need to evaluate a program, not develop a perfect one.


What does it look like?

At the Lead level, teachers are expected to lead colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of learning and teaching programs differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

This is where you need to be getting your colleagues involved to facilitate site-wide change. You don’t need to be in a formal leadership position to do this; you can do it in small working groups or teams. You need to support teachers to evaluate their programs in the same way you have at the Highly Accomplished level, or create a process for evaluating each other’s programs.

What evidence can I collect?

As you need to lead other teachers, simple annotated plans and programs are not going to be enough. These are still great pieces of evidence to include, but you’re going to need evidence that you have led a group to evaluate their own or each other’s programs.

Minutes of meetings are great for this, as well as emails that show collaboration and leadership. If you have used a certain procedure to evaluate programs or if you have made any resources to support teachers in doing this, these are also great pieces of evidence to include.

Learn about the other focus areas and descriptors for Standard 1:

1.1 Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students

1.2 Understand how students learn

1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds

1.4 Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

1.6 Strategies to support full participation of students with disability

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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