Tiered Assignments by Learning Style

Sarah Farmer

In order to tier assignments by learning style, teachers must be aware of the different modes. There are two accepted sets of learning preferences. There are the general auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes, and there is the widely known Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences as seen below.


When tiering assignments by learning preference, it is the teacher’s responsibility to match the student to the appropriate task. This is not possible unless time is set aside for students to take some sort of learning style inventory. For this type of tiered assignment, the inventory would have to be a part of the pre-assessment.

For an inventory that addresses the general learning styles, students can take the quiz located at www.educationplanner.org.

For an inventory that addresses Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, students can find an inventory at www.edutopia.org, which is a site founded by the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

To tier assignments in this way, educators have to be open to researching learning styles that are completely different from their own style in order to find or develop engaging tiered activities. This is important because, “when students are taught with approaches that match their preferences … they demonstrate statistically higher achievement.” Also, older research claimed that “three fifths of learning preference is biologically imposed,” (Dunn, 1990). Learning style is a critical element of individual student needs, and though it may seem like a challenge, tiering assignments in this manner can be as simple as providing students with the same problem and asking them to respond to the same prompt, but varying the process that the students take to get there.

Educators have to be flexible enough to incorporate new strategies into their classroom. Teachers today need to lead the charge for change. It’s a scary thought and it’s twenty years old, but I think it is still valid in some respects today, “if Rip Van Winkle came back today, the one thing he would recognize as unchanged would be a high school classroom,” (Orsak, 1990).

Heacox, D. (2009). Making Differentiation a Habit. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing Inc. .
Adams, C. M., & Pierce, R. L. . (2003, October 24). Teaching by tiering. Retrieved from http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=48723
Orsak, L. (1990, October). Learning styles versus the rip van winkle syndrome. Educational Leadership, 48(2), 19-21.
Dunn, R. (1990, October). Rita dunn answers questions on learning styles . Educational Leadership, 48(2), 15-19.