9 Ways Teachers Can Differentiate Design Tasks for Students

At Makers Empire we believe that every child can change their world.

Our dream is to empower every student with the tools, skills and creative confidence they need, to be able to tackle challenges head-on and develop creative, innovative solutions to problems.

We know that teachers play a major role in helping students develop the skills and dispositions they need to thrive in their 21st century futures. Effective teachers are highly skilled in ensuring that all students become successful learners and reach their full potential, through differentiated instruction.

According to internationally recognised expert in differentiated instruction, Carol Tomlinson,

“the idea of differentiating instruction to accommodate the different ways that students learn involves a hefty does of common sense, as well as sturdy support in the theory and research of education. It is an approach to teaching that advocates planning for student differences in classrooms.” (Tomlinson & Allan, 2000).

There are many strategies that teachers can use to support all students to be successful through differentiated instruction. It can be helpful to group these strategies into those that differentiate:

  1. The content students engage with in the learning task.
  2. The processes students apply in the learning task.
  3. The products the students produce as an outcome of the learning task.

So, how can teachers use Makers Empire with a differentiated approach to meet the needs of all students?

Let’s take a look at our top 9 ways to differentiate with Makers Empire:

Differentiating Content with Makers Empire

Of course, the content you are asking students to engage with is largely driven by curriculum documents and standards. However, some students in your class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery, and some students may already be familiar with the content before the lesson begins. You might differentiate the way students engage with content by:

  1. Providing open-ended design tasks that allow all students to enter the task and then allow for students to be challenged and engaged by the task at a level that is appropriate to them. For example, students might be asked to design a new shell for the class hermit crab pets. This task can be completed at a basic level, by selecting shapes from the Makers Empire shape packs, but also allows students to be as creative and innovative as they like.
  2. A great way to differentiate a task for some learners is to ask them to explore content from other perspectives. For example, if the design task is to create a new bedroom, some students might be asked to design a bedroom for another student. This would require the student to develop design criteria based on the other student’s perspective.
  3. Allow students to engage with the same content at different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

For example, some students might show their understanding of the properties of 3D shapes by building a structure using pre-made shapes in Makers Empire software; while other students might be asked to analyse the properties of the shapes and create their own 3D shapes with similar properties.

Differentiating Processes with Makers Empire

Students engage with content using a range of visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, oral and written processes. Students also require different levels of support as they engage in learning activities. While some students require one to one support from the teacher, while other students benefit from working in pairs, small groups, or individually. Teachers can enhance student learning by offering support based on individual needs. You might differentiate the process students use by:

  1. Set up design challenges that enable students to choose how they work. If, for example, the challenge is to design new playground equipment for the school, some students might work in small groups to co-design a playground made up of multiple pieces, while other s might work alone on one design or receive structured support from the teacher or another adult. This flexibility can extend to aspects like outdoor flooring, where students could have the freedom to explore creative options within the broader playground design.
  2. Embedding design thinking processes into design tasks with Makers Empire is a great way to differentiate the processes students engage with. Some students might be expected to generate multiple ideas for solving a problem and then selected two or three ideas to develop further. Other students might be expected to come up with one idea on their own and then collect ideas from other students.
  3. Design tasks can be scaffolded, providing students with step by step plans to follow. Other students might engage in the same design task with little or no scaffolding and be required to develop their own plans and steps for completing the task.

Differentiating Products with Makers Empire

Makers Empire is an ideal tool for students to create products that demonstrate their understanding of content or mastery of skills. These 3D learning artefacts may or may not be 3D printed, sometimes the 3D design will be enough for students to demonstrate their learning.

You might differentiate the products students create by:

  1. Providing different criteria that the end product needs to include.
  2. Allowing students to choose how they will present and communicate their 3D models.
  3. Using the Makers Empire recording feature for students to explain their thinking while manipulating their 3D design on their device.

We are sure you will come up with many ways to differentiate design tasks using Makers Empire.

We would love to hear from you and invite you to share your ideas with us at mandi@makersempire.com


Mandi Dimitriadis, DipT. is an experienced classroom teacher who recognises the power of technology to enhance teaching and improve educational outcomes. Mandi has extensive experience with curriculum development and learning, having previously developed programs for the Australian Government’s Department of Education. She is passionate about Design Thinking and how best to prepare today’s students for the future.


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