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So All Can Learn

A Practical Guide to Differentiation

John McCarthy

How do we educate so all can learn? What does differentiation look like when done successfully? This practical guide to differentiation answers these questions and more. Based on national and international work, McCarthy shares how educators finally understand how differentiation can work. Bridging pedagogy and practice, each chapter addresses a key understanding for how good teaching practices can include differentiation with examples and concrete methods and strategies.

The book is constructed to differentiate for diverse educators: veteran of many years to the pre-service teacher, classroom teacher leader to administrator as instructional leader, and coaches for staff professional development:

  • Presents common language for staff discussing learner needs.
  • Provides structures for designing powerful learning experiences so all can learn.
  • Includes chapter reflection questions and job-embedded tasks to help readers process and practice what they learn.
  • Explore a supporting website with companion resources.

All learners deserve growth. All teachers and administrators deserve methods and practices that helps them to meet learner needs in an ever challenging education environment. Take this journey so all can learn.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 202Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-1-4758-2570-1 • Hardback • February 2017 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4758-2571-8 • Paperback • February 2017 • $22.00 • (£14.95)
978-1-4758-2572-5 • eBook • February 2017 • $20.00 • (£13.95)
John McCarthy consults and coaches educators internationally on innovative practices that support student voice, with Differentiation a core principle. Starting out as a high school teacher, and later an adjunct professor, McCarthy has taught and witnessed learning in many settings—urban to rural communities, areas of high affluence to entrenched poverty, and cultures with a fixed mindset to havens of innovation in some of the most surprising locations.
Foreword: Syndee Malek


Chapter 1: What is Differentiation, Really?
The Challenge and Promise of Differentiation
Lens on Learning
The Differentiation Relationship
The “Real” Differentiation Relationship
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflections

Chapter 2: Differentiation Can Be Done Well
The Dorothy Principle
Making Differentiation Visible
Assistance When Lesson Plans Run into Students
Crossroad Lessons
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 3: Assessments Matter: making learning specific and realistic
Assessment for Learning
Formative Assessment Cycle (FAC)
Finding Time
Multiple Ways to Demonstrate Learning
Eliminating Assessment Fog
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 4: Informative Assessments for The Whole Learner
Learning In and Out of Airplane Mode
Choice-Based Strategies
The Whole Student: Four Data Paths that influence Learning
Fair is not always Equal: 4 Pathways Merge into One
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 5: The Truth about Differentiated Instruction
1. Differentiation is Too Difficult
2. There is not enough time to differentiate
3. The curriculum is over packed
4. Need to prepare for the high-stakes tests by covering all the material
5. Crowded classrooms makes differentiation too difficult
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 6: Learner Voice Matters
The Realms of Differentiation
Learner Voice over Student Choice
Letting Go of Control
Eliminating Airplane Mode in Education – Part Two
Teacher Growth-Mindset Leads to Learner Voice
Creating a Culture for Student Voice
Pedagogical Needs for Student Voice
Practical Support of Student Voice
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 7: Differentiation in Practice: Readiness for ALL
Readiness Guidelines
Teaching Readiness through Content
Teaching Readiness through Process
Teaching Readiness through Products
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 8: Differentiation in Practice: Interests for ALL
Interests Guidelines
Teaching Interests through Content
Teaching Interests through Processes
Teaching Interests through Products
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Chapter 9: Differentiation in Practice: Learning Preferences for ALL
Learning Preferences Guidelines
Learning Profile Cards
Teaching Learning Preferences through Content
Teaching Learning Preferences through Processes
Teaching Learning Preferences through Products
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection

Appendix: Differentiation and Research
The Differentiation Lens
Final Thoughts
Invitations to Reflection


About the Author
In So All Can Learn, John McCarthy treats readers to a plethora of activities and instructional ideas, complete with cutting-edge technology integration for the modern-day teacher and student. This seminal resource ties together a wide variety of instructional paradigms into one cohesive framework for instruction. It is chock full of useful examples, with tear-and-teach lesson ideas for every subject. This book is a must for every teacher and administrator!
Jennie Allan, teacher and education consultant

In So All Can Learn, John McCarthy shares strategies, tips, and techniques for effectively differentiating instruction so that all students develop skills and knowledge through experiences that meet their needs and match their learning styles. More importantly, McCarthy helps educators create a classroom culture focused on growth mindset, which is a fundamental feature of 21st century learning.
David Ross, CEO, Partnership for 21st Century Learning

In So All Can Learn, John McCarthy gives his audience a comprehensive and practical explanation on how differentiation CAN be possible in our teaching practices. The differentiation methods each chapter presents are ones an educator can do - not someday - but immediately. In addition, the reflection section for each chapter invites the reader to deepen their understanding in connection to their own instruction and classroom culture.
Myla T. Lee, Instructional Coach and Project Based Learning Specialist/Consultant, Professional Educational And Resourceful Learning

John McCarthy has created an impressive and essential approach to dealing with the complexity of meeting the needs of all students. One size instruction does not fit all students. So All Can Learn is an important resource for educators because it introduces teachers to the differentiation lens. By using the differentiation lens, teachers “have a proactive impact on learning through collecting and using assessment data to inform instruction” for their students.
Kelly Henderson, Curriculum and Instruction, Metro Nashville Public Schools

For busy teachers, tailoring instruction to meet each student’s needs can seem like an impossible dream. The best of plans and intentions can get waylaid by crowded classrooms, high-stakes tests, diverse learners, and the day-to-day demands of teaching. In his accessible new book, John McCarthy removes one obstacle after another to help teachers refocus on their primary goal: helping all students succeed. So All Can Learn explains why every student deserves differentiated instruction. With McCarthy as knowledgeable guide, the book shows how to clear away assessment fog, clean up data, and clarify why and when students need supports and stretches. With plentiful examples, he shows us the power of differentiation to help all students unlock their potential.
Suzie Boss, Author of Reinventing Project-Based Learning and Bringing Innovation to School, among others, and advocate for real-world learning

I enthusiastically, sincerely recommend John McCarthy’s So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation from these perspectives:
  • As an educator, I can use this resource in my planning, collaboration and reflection immediately. The resources and best practices are practical, cleanly organized and richly supported with context that values the realities of a frenetic, dense day.
  • As a colleague, I can personally attest to John’s integrity, work ethic and professional empathy. So All Can Learn is aptly titled: he establishes and does not relinquish the focus of aligning instructional decision-making on behalf of the evolving needs of ALL learners.
  • As a parent, I steadfastly hope that my and others’ children benefit from teachers and administrators who leverage this resource in their curriculum and assessment planning and professional leadership. So All Can Learn unpacks differentiated instruction in thoughtful, innovative ways by championing the voice and choice of children.
  • As an educational leader and professional developer, I objectively attest that John McCarthy has created a resource that powerfully synthesizes the rigor demanded by the most assertive of administrators with the frank experience and technical know-how that committed educators expect around differentiated instruction.
Classroom educators, site and central administrators, coaches, and specialists can readily apply So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation within their learning communities. John’s voice is deeply engaging and thoughtful. The practices, resources, and frameworks he shares align powerfully with modern, progressive pedagogical and assessment trajectories.
Most importantly, John’s recommendations and perspectives synthesize respected educational theory with his real-time experience as a coach and consultant. Over the last four years, I have personally observed educators across the United States successfully applying innovative, sustainable practices around differentiated instruction in partnership with John McCarthy.
Amos Fodchuk, M.A., N.B.C.T., President, Advanced Learning Partnerships, Inc.