Differentiation Adjustment Tool

The Differentiation Adjustment Tool contains 9 deliberate adjustments to support teachers to meet the specific learning needs of high potential and gifted students.

Adjustments may be made to content, the learning process, product and learning environment. For each adjustment, there are:

  • strategies
  • practical examples of application
  • alignment with Digital Learning Selector resources.

Adjustment: Complexity

Strategies Examples of applications
  • making connections
  • analysing multiple variables
  • pattern finding
  • problem solving and finding
  • inquiry based learning
  • going into greater depth
  • posing provocative questions that lead the student toward a deeper analysis
  • asking the student to find a connection between usually unrelated ideas
  • comparing different concepts which may span different disciplines
  • using the ‘what if…?’ question to stimulate thinking
  • finding problems to solve by sequencing a series of student developed inquiry-based questions
  • making generalisations or identifying ethical dilemmas or controversial issues
  • examining factors that influence or determine trends
  • using philosophical inquiry and questioning to find patterns
  • creating verbal or visual analogies to explain understanding
  • differentiating outcomes using higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis or creation

Adjustment: Challenge

Strategies Examples of applications
  • ascertaining prior knowledge
  • integration across disciplines
  • transfer of knowledge
  • explicit reasoning
  • using advanced level resources
  • undertaking original research
  • using controversy and provocation to problem solve
  • pre-testing prior knowledge and using this to inform teaching and learning
  • creating opportunity for negotiated independent projects following pre-test analysis
  • applying new skills and knowledge to a different context
  • co-developing and co-designing cross-disciplinary projects
  • justifying thinking when given a provocative question and communicating it in a variety of ways for different audiences
  • including students in debate and/or robust discussion viewed from diverse perspectives
  • using real world problems from the local community to create a problem-based learning project
  • providing opportunities for students to learn advanced level content through engagement with a mentor or enrichment provision
  • examining ambiguities or inconsistencies and explaining how these might influence common understanding
  • finding and explaining shifts in thinking from the beginning of the learning

Adjustment: Choice

Strategies Examples of applications
  • negotiating alternative tasks, assessments and products
  • planning open ended tasks
  • designing student interest tasks
  • permitting a diversity of modes of communication
  • exploring options
  • giving choice to demonstrate evidence of learning
  • providing choice from a given list of alternatives
  • giving students the opportunity to create their own alternatives of how they will learn
  • co-designing created assessments or criteria-based rubrics
  • accessing a range of questions to stimulate thinking and discussion
  • open-ended questioning which more appropriately aligns with different interest areas
  • encouraging free thinking, brainstorming and planning of the focus for learning
  • selecting or differentiating outcomes to meet specific interests
  • making modifications so there is access through different interests or passions
  • giving options to choose perplexing ideas for further exploration

Adjustment: Abstraction

Strategies Examples of applications
  • going beyond superficial facts
  • examining content meaning
  • scrutinising underlying ideas
  • seeking understanding of complex symbols or systems
  • unpacking thinking at a deeper level, demanding justification of reason and thought
  • seeking justification of thinking and reasoning through different means
  • asking ‘what makes you say that?’
  • embedding concepts into the learning, rather than just topics
  • using advanced level content that goes beyond what is usually expected
  • building examination and inquiry into learning design
  • using philosophical inquiry to examine ideas at a more abstract level
  • synthesising information from a complex to simple level using creative systems of classification
  • creating symbols to represent a sequence of ideas or procedure
  • creating simplified systems to unpack complexity

Adjustment: Creative and critical thinking

Strategies Examples of applications
  • original design or responses
  • alternative options
  • innovative communications
  • encouraging risk taking and experimentation
  • idea exploration
  • discovering underlying principles
  • divergence
  • flexibility
  • creating unique products made from adapting others’ ideas
  • using scenario-based/simulation learning
  • comparing and evaluating mind mapping tools and their effectiveness in conveying the most appropriate message
  • making changes from ‘whole to part’, or 'part to whole’
  • clarifying the causes and effects of different events, ideas or processes
  • organising different ideas into unique categories or systems
  • challenging the reliability of a claim or existing notion
  • devising questions, adapting and posing these to different stakeholders to elicit responses from a variety of perspectives
  • creating a variety of different consequences using ‘if… then…’
  • applying ‘reverse thinking’ to dismantle the usual logical direction of an understanding

Adjustment: Higher order thinking

Strategies Examples of applications
  • creativity
  • making comparisons
  • prioritising
  • evaluating
  • analysing data
  • synthesising information
  • investigating opposing ideas
  • identifying inconsistencies
  • evidence tracking
  • creating or co-creating new or unique products or responses
  • using Blooms taxonomy question stems to lead discussion or to frame assessment tasks
  • asking for a deeper analysis and justification of students’ responses
  • developing ‘what if ...’ scenarios to provoke thinking
  • using concept maps to visualise and explain thought processes or research
  • synthesising information and evaluating the most relevant ideas when solution-finding
  • making evaluative judgement about ideas using thinking strategies, e.g. PMI (plus, minus, interesting)
  • using visual representations to summarise information and explain complex relationships
  • exploring personal thinking and reflecting on the reasons behind these thoughts in comparison to others
  • speculating on probable future applications or possibilities

Adjustment: Pace

Strategies Examples of applications
  • greater speed
  • less repetition
  • less time
  • ascertaining prior knowledge
  • combining outcomes
  • expecting outcomes to be achieved earlier
  • using pre and post testing, and formative assessment, to inform the direction of the next teaching and learning phase
  • posing questions before teaching new material or skills to determine the speed of learning
  • compacting the curriculum in response to an analysis of pre-testing results
  • combining more than one outcome so that learning is more complex
  • spending less time on learning new material or skills compared to age peers
  • delivering specific lesson content at a faster pace where pre-test results indicate a need
  • negotiating a variety of completion dates to better organise learning
  • providing scaffolds and explicitly modelling these to students
  • facilitating time schedules and enabling goal setting
  • using individualised ‘what I know - want to know - how to learn - what I learned’ (KWHL) charts before, during and after the learning process

Adjustment: Authenticity

Strategies Examples of applications
  • real world problems
  • real audiences
  • contemporary issues
  • modelling exemplars
  • scrutinising contemporary media issues and using these to debate ideas
  • inviting an expert audience to showcase proof of learning
  • addressing current events and ideas to analyse complex concepts
  • using autobiographical study to analyse the content, the journey taken, thought processes and philosophy
  • unpacking exemplars to model and guide high expectations
  • evaluating learning and progress by experts in the field
  • including an independent study of a famous person
  • exploring the methods of inquiry that experts in various domains use to seek their information

Adjustment: Learning environment

Strategies Examples of applications
  • acceptance
  • sense of belonging
  • motivation
  • encouragement
  • valuing
  • understanding
  • high expectations
  • scaffolding
  • flexibility
  • humour
  • autonomy
  • character
  • citizenship
  • collaboration
  • leadership
  • efficacy
  • growth mindsets
  • giving opportunity to showcase strengths in a variety of applications and to a diverse audience base
  • providing variable means of communicating and acknowledging peers
  • co-designing negotiated personalised learning profiles
  • providing differentiated product options for assessments
  • using humour in the classroom to develop rapport and a positive learning climate
  • using think-pair-share routines to encourage collaboration, active reasoning and communication
  • building student voice opportunities into daily instruction
  • creating an environment that encourages experimentation and risk-taking
  • clearly communicating explicit criteria for success
  • providing explicit language to use when reflecting, such as ‘what can I do better next time and how will I achieve this?’
  • providing wait time to give opportunity for reflection
  • emphasising personal best, value of effort, growth and positive attitudes towards learning

Purpose of resource

This resource is designed to support teachers to embed effective differentiation in planning, teaching and assessment cycles for high potential and gifted students. It can be used as a stand-alone resource and is also embedded into professional learning and resources.

Target audience

The primary audience for this resource is teachers and middle leadership tasked with embedding differentiation into the planning, teaching and learning and assessment cycle as part of mandatory implementation of the High Potential and Gifted Education policy.

When and how to use

This resource can be used by schools to embed differentiation for high potential and gifted students into current programs, practices and procedures. It can be used in planning, teaching, assessment, establishing classroom environment and reflection processes.

Research base

This resource was developed in consultation with teachers, school leaders and education support teams. The research base used was What works best in practice, Revisiting Gifted Education, Gross (2013), Munro (2012), Tomlinson (2005), Van Tassel-Baska (1986) and Vialle and Rogers (2009). The resource also draws on a range of aligned departmental resources.

System alignment

This resource aligns with the following system frameworks and strategies:

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2


For more information, contact: hpge@det.nsw.edu.au


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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