“Improving Middle School Math Instruction: A Professional Development-Based Differentiation Plan for Diverse Classrooms”

Improvement Plan for Middle School Teacher

Teacher Profile:
Name: Ms. Smith
Subject: Mathematics
Years of Experience: 6
Performance Review: Ms. Smith is a dedicated middle school math teacher who has shown proficiency in classroom management and content knowledge. However, there have been concerns about her instructional methods and ability to effectively engage and support all students in her diverse classroom (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017).

Areas in Need of Improvement

Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is a crucial aspect of effective teaching, especially in diverse classrooms with students of varying abilities and learning styles. Ms. Smith’s instructional methods need improvement in this area to better meet the individual needs of her students (Tomlinson, 2017). Currently, her teaching approach seems to be one-size-fits-all, which leaves some students feeling unchallenged and disengaged, while others struggle to keep up with the pace of the lessons. To address this, Ms. Smith must learn to tailor her instruction to accommodate the different readiness levels, interests, and learning preferences of her students (Tomlinson, 2017). Implementing differentiated instruction strategies will not only increase student engagement but also enhance their understanding and retention of the material.

Classroom Engagement
Student engagement is a vital factor in promoting effective learning and fostering a positive classroom environment. However, Ms. Smith’s class seems to lack the level of engagement required for optimal learning outcomes. Some students appear disinterested and unengaged during lessons, which may lead to disruptions and a lack of enthusiasm for learning (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). To improve classroom engagement, Ms. Smith needs to create a more dynamic and interactive learning environment. This can be achieved through the integration of various instructional approaches, such as group activities, hands-on projects, technology integration, and real-world connections (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). Additionally, incorporating student-centered learning activities that encourage active participation and collaboration can boost student interest and motivation.

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment plays a crucial role in understanding student progress and identifying areas where they may need additional support. Ms. Smith needs to enhance her formative assessment practices to better gauge her students’ understanding of the content (McIntyre et al., 2018). Currently, it appears that she might not be using formative assessments effectively, as some students may be slipping through the cracks without proper intervention. By incorporating regular formative assessments, such as quizzes, class discussions, exit tickets, and peer evaluations, Ms. Smith can gather valuable feedback on her students’ learning progress (McIntyre et al., 2018). This will allow her to make timely adjustments to her instruction and provide targeted support to those students who may be struggling.

Action Steps to Achieve Improvement

Resources and Support Systems
a. District Coaching: Engage Ms. Smith in ongoing coaching sessions with an experienced instructional coach who specializes in mathematics education. These sessions will focus on differentiated instructional strategies and how to apply them effectively in the classroom.

b. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): Encourage Ms. Smith to join a PLC of math teachers within the school or the district. This collaborative environment will allow her to share ideas, experiences, and best practices with her peers, fostering professional growth.

Professional Development Opportunity

a. Online Course: Enroll Ms. Smith in an online professional development course focused on differentiated instruction in mathematics. A suitable option is the “Effective Strategies for Math Differentiation” course offered by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). This course will provide her with practical strategies to meet the diverse needs of her students effectively (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, n.d.).

Timeline and Progress Check-ins

Month 1: Begin the coaching sessions with the instructional coach, focusing on differentiated instruction.
Month 2: Encourage Ms. Smith to join a math teachers’ PLC within the district.
Month 3: Enroll Ms. Smith in the NCTM online course on differentiated instruction.
Months 4-6: Ongoing progress check-ins every two weeks with the instructional coach to discuss implementation challenges and successes.

Measurement of Improvement

To measure improvement, the following data points will be collected:
a. Pre and post-assessment scores: Compare student scores on a pre-assessment taken before implementing the improvement plan with post-assessment scores after completion of the plan.
b. Classroom observation: Conduct regular classroom observations using a standardized rubric to evaluate Ms. Smith’s implementation of differentiated instruction and formative assessment strategies.
c. Student feedback: Gather anonymous feedback from students regarding their engagement and perceived level of support in the classroom before and after the plan implementation (McIntyre et al., 2018).

Follow-up Plan for Skill Implementation

After completing the online course and engaging in coaching sessions, Ms. Smith will be supported through:

Peer Observations
To reinforce the skills and strategies learned during the professional development sessions, Ms. Smith will engage in peer observations with experienced math teachers who have demonstrated expertise in differentiated instruction and effective classroom engagement (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). These observations will provide Ms. Smith with opportunities to witness successful implementation of the techniques she learned, observe different teaching styles, and gather practical insights from her colleagues. By observing how other teachers manage diverse classrooms and tailor their instruction to meet individual student needs, Ms. Smith can gain confidence in her ability to apply these strategies effectively (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). Moreover, these peer observations will foster a collaborative learning environment and create opportunities for professional growth through constructive feedback and discussions.

Reflective Practice
Encouraging Ms. Smith to maintain a reflective journal will be an essential part of the follow-up plan. In her journal, Ms. Smith will document her experiences, challenges, and successes as she implements the new instructional approaches (Tomlinson, 2017). Reflective practice will allow her to critically evaluate her teaching practices, identify areas that need improvement, and develop action plans for addressing any challenges that arise. The journal will also serve as a tool for self-assessment, helping Ms. Smith to track her progress and measure the impact of her efforts in real-time (Tomlinson, 2017). Additionally, the reflective journal will provide a valuable resource for ongoing professional development discussions with her instructional coach and colleagues.

The combination of peer observations and reflective practice will empower Ms. Smith to take ownership of her professional growth and progress as an educator (Tomlinson, 2017). By engaging in peer observations, she will have the opportunity to see differentiated instruction and effective classroom engagement in action, gaining practical insights that can be applied in her own teaching context. The observations will also facilitate open dialogue and collaborative learning among teachers, fostering a culture of continuous improvement within the school (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017).

Furthermore, the reflective journal will act as a tool for self-evaluation, allowing Ms. Smith to critically examine her instructional practices and make data-driven decisions to further enhance her teaching (Tomlinson, 2017). Through this process, she can identify areas where her implementation of differentiated instruction and formative assessment is successful and areas that may need further refinement. The act of reflection itself is a powerful tool for professional growth, as it encourages educators to think deeply about their teaching approaches and consider alternative strategies (Tomlinson, 2017).

As part of the follow-up plan, regular feedback and progress check-ins will be conducted with Ms. Smith’s instructional coach (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). These check-ins will provide opportunities to discuss the implementation of new strategies, address any challenges or concerns, and celebrate successes. The instructional coach will provide constructive feedback and support based on classroom observations and the analysis of student data (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). This ongoing support and feedback will help Ms. Smith stay on track with her professional development goals and maintain momentum as she continues to refine her instructional practices.

In conclusion, the follow-up plan will be essential in supporting Ms. Smith’s implementation of the skills learned at the professional development session (Tomlinson, 2017). Through peer observations, reflective practice, and ongoing support from her instructional coach, Ms. Smith will have the tools and resources needed to continuously improve her instructional practices, leading to a more engaging and effective learning experience for her students (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). By empowering teachers with the knowledge and support they need, schools can foster a culture of professional growth and development, ultimately benefiting both educators and students alike.

Collaborative Teaching Practices

To enhance collaborative teaching practices, Ms. Smith can engage in co-teaching sessions with experienced teachers who have demonstrated success in differentiating instruction. These sessions will allow her to learn from her peers and gain valuable insights into effective classroom management and student engagement strategies.

Assisting Self-Evaluation

To assist Ms. Smith in evaluating her own performance, periodic self-assessment surveys will be provided, asking her to reflect on her instructional practices, classroom management, and engagement strategies. These surveys will help her identify areas of strength and areas that need further improvement (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017).


Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Learning Policy Institute.

McIntyre, E., Kyle, D. W., Moore, J. A., & Harris, J. R. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Mathematics Professional Development on Students’ Mathematical Achievement. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 16(3), 499-526.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). Effective Strategies for Math Differentiation. https://www.nctm.org/learning-resources/online-professional-development/

Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms. ASCD.