EDU605: Differentiating Instruction Week VII – Tiering Lessons

This week we learned about the tiering lessons and assignments which identifies the student growth during a specific subject. Tiering allows those students who grasp the the concepts being taught to conduct even more robust and challenging assignemnts to continue developing their mind so that they can continue to think critically and apply what they learned to new assignments.

The Army utilizes tiering when enlisting people into the military. each branch has a specific tiering system which allows them to enlist people with different education categories ranging from those who have a GED to those who have earned a college degree. There are different tiers or levels when taking the armed services vocational aptitude battery (ASVAB) which allows various candidates to join the military.


Tier I

Applicants in Tier I have a high school diploma, or at least 15 college credits.

This means a high school diploma, not a GED. Depending on state law, completion of high school by home study may or may not be considered equivalent to a high school diploma. This is the most viable route to enter the armed services as an enlisted member.

Tier II

Tier II includes GEDs, home study (in some states), Certificate of Attendance, Alternative/Continuation High School, Correspondence School Diplomas, and Occupational Program Certificate (Vo/Tech) holders.

The services limit the number of Tier II candidates allowed to enlist each year.

In the Air Force, the number of Tier II candidates is fewer than one percent each year. In such cases, and the applicant must have a suitable score on the AFQT. Usually requirements for the AFQT are more stringent for GED holders, as opposed to those with high school diplomas.

The Army has typically allowed up to 10 percent each year to be Tier II candidates, and the Marines will only allow about 5 percent, and the Navy about 10 percent. And like the Air Force, Tier II recruits in other branches have a higher minimum score requirement on the AFQT.

The Coast Guard only accepts Tier 2 candidates if they have prior military service, and also requires them to score higher on the AFQT.

Tier III

This category is all but non-existent in the 21st-century armed services. It includes anyone who is not attending high school and is neither a high school graduate nor an alternative credential holder. The services almost never accept a Tier 3 candidate for enlistment.

If you fall into this category, your best bet is to get at least 15 college credits, so that you will be qualified as Tier I. Speak to your recruiter about the latest requirements, and see what assistance may be available to you in order to make yourself a more suitable candidate for enlistment.

Tomlinson (1999) described tiered lessons as “the meat and potatoes of differentiated instruction.” A tiered lesson is a differentiation strategy that addresses a particular standard, key concept, and generalization, but allows several pathways for students to arrive at an understanding of these components based on their interests, readiness, or learning profiles. A lesson tiered by readiness level implies that the teacher has a good understanding of the students’ ability levels with respect to the lesson and has designed the tiers to meet those needs. Think of a wedding cake with tiers of varying sizes. Many examples of lessons tiered in readiness have three tiers: below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level. There is no rule that states there may only be three tiers, however. The number of tiers we use will depend on the range of ability levels in your own classroom since you are forming tiers based on your assessment of your students’ abilities to handle the material particular to this lesson. Students are regrouped the next time you use tiering as a strategy. Hence, the idea of flexible, rather than static, groups is essential.

In the military, we embrace Blooms Taxonomy and tiering so that we can modify lesson plans so that students will reach the appropriate level of higher learning. We usually try to incorporate at least one level higher of Blooms Taxonomy so that the students will always be ahead of the learning curve.

Tiered (8).JPG

Tiering allows students to embrace a sense of ownership of what they are learning. Tiered instruction is a strategy designed to differentiate instruction for different levels and types of learners in the classroom. Teachers use the same content to assign different activities and assignments to students that are at varying learning abilities, or that have preferred learning methods (Johnson, 2010). Depending on their learning/readiness levels, students are grouped into categories which will determine the complexity of the activities and assignments that they complete (Johnson, 2010). Students that are at a low learning/readiness level will complete lower order thinking activities and assignments, whereas, students that are at a high learning/readiness level will complete higher order thinking activities and assignments (Johnson, 2010). The key to tiered instruction is to make sure that all of the students in the class are working with the same content, but the activities are structured in a way in which the content is used to match the students’ academic abilities.

Tiering to avoid tears: Developing assignments that address all learners’ needs BY LINDA PIGOTT ROBINSON

One way of achieving the goal of meeting multiple needs simultaneously is to tier instruction and assignments. In short, tiering involves teaching or applying the same Standard Course of Study objective in up to three ways to meet the needs of students at three levels of preparation:

1) students not yet ready for that grade level’s instruction

2) students just ready

3) students ready to go beyond.

Tiering is more than a singular strategy. It is a concept that can be infused into small-group activities, differentiated homework assignments, learning centers, learning contracts, and even advanced classes. The greatest role tiering plays is in preparing a teacher for any given day’s activities by requiring that each of the three degrees of student readiness — not yet ready, just ready, ready to go beyond — are planned for and addressed in that day’s instruction.

Skill level

The most obvious and frequently used criteria for tiering assignments, skill level can be viewed as what you would do for a student at least one grade level behind, the student at grade level, and the student at least one grade level ahead. A convenient way to tier based on skill in math is to offer a page of problems in three columns, with grade-level problems in the middle column, less challenging problems in the column to the left, and more challenging problems in the column to the right. All students begin by answering the first problem in the middle column. If a student answers the problem correctly, that student then attempts the more challenging problem in the column to the right. If a student answers incorrectly, the student attempts an easier problem to the left to scaffold their understanding up to grade level.

Robinson, B. L. (n.d.). 2 Tiering to avoid tears: Developing assignments that address all learners’ needs. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Wahl, M. (1997). Math for humans.

Johnson, A. (2010). Blooms taxonomy to create tiered instruction.


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