Differentiated Teaching in Action at Swan Christian College

Found in: School News | Published on: 01 August 2016

Aurelia Cole, head of Junior School at Swan Christian College, shares an innovative approach to using data to inform Differentiated Teaching.

"During my degree I was inspired and influenced by the teachings of learning leaders such as John HattieAndy HargreavesMichael Fullan and Lyn Sharrat. The importance of using student data is something I am passionate about and so in Term 1 we implemented a data wall in our staff room at the Junior School.

We know that there can be up to 6 years of differentiation in ability range in every classroom and that if we teach to the middle, we disadvantage both the higher and the lower performing students.  Our goal is to best serve the needs of every child equally. Again, the experts tell us that differentiated teaching and learning is the solution and a proven strategy for school improvement is using a data wall. By being data informed, we can better tailor our teaching to the point of need. 

How it works is that we have mapped every one of our 480 students on a big wall. To ensure that we don’t lose the personal element of the data, we use each student’s image. We have chosen to create a wall for reading, using the Lexile and Reading Recovery frameworks. You could start with any subject but to me, reading is the basis of learning all other subject areas.


Each year group is colour-coded which allows you to instantly see that there are indeed students from several year groups at any particular Lexile level.


The purpose of the wall is not to compare kids but to track progress and growth, with our goal being at least one year’s learning per year for every student.  So at the end of every term, teachers set a Lexile placement test and move their students along the wall accordingly. That way over time, we can see exactly what learning has taken place. If there hasn’t been the expected learning, then we know that our teaching hasn’t had the desired effect.

We are in the early stages of using the data wall and there are so many exciting ways to use this information. In future, I’d like the teachers connected to the students at any one level to collaborate and discuss strategies for targeted teaching to move those students to the next level. 

Also once you know a student’s ability in reading, you know that other subject textbooks and content should also be at that particular level for that student. The good thing is that there are lots of resources available. Reading A-Z is one of my favourites.

We are blessed that technology gives us so much data at our fingertips. It is now about using it to check that our teaching is effective."