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Targeted vs. Modified Instruction: Effective Planning & Unified Messaging within Tier 1 Instruction

Updated: Feb 23

Understanding the distinction between targeted instruction and modified instruction is crucial to address learning gaps for struggling students. An effective curriculum should encompass both approaches.


Typically, targeted instruction is driven by formative assessment, while modified instruction relies on predetermined data and observations that provide a students’ instructional and functional levels.


And while the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, they work together to enhance the overall teaching and learning experience.


Here, I discuss the nuances of each. You can use this information to facilitate school-wide messaging and planning across grades and content areas.


Targeted Instruction


Targeted instruction occurs when the teacher assesses individual student understanding as it aligns to a learning target. That information is then used to provide explicit instructional support. This support ensures that all students can access the same content, process, or product.


Characteristics of targeted instruction include:
  • Flexibility: A hallmark of targeted instruction is the ability of the teacher to make on-the-spot adjustments to the lesson plan based on their analysis of in-the-moment data. This flexibility allows the teacher to promptly respond to student needs.

  • Content/Skill-Based: Targeted instruction aligns with individual student understanding of the content or skill and enables teachers to provide scaffolds accordingly. These scaffolds ensure that all students can access the same content, process, and/or product.

  • Immediate Feedback: By using formative assessment to drive instructional decisions, the teacher can identify learning gaps early and provide students with timely feedback that directly relates to their performance and the learning target.

  • De-stigmatizes Classified Students: Targeted instruction focuses on individual and specific needs, taking into account what students know and are able to do rather than solely relying on their Individualized Education Plan guidelines.


Modified Instruction


In this approach, instruction is adjusted before the lesson and is based on predetermined data, observations, and anecdotal evidence. This information allows teachers to better understand the students' instructional and functional abilities and change content, process, and/or product to provide access to understanding.


Characteristics of modified instruction include:
  • Pre-Determined Groupings: Modified instruction may involve creating groups based on perceived academic abilities and having students work in these groups throughout instruction.

  • Streamlined Differentiation: In modified instruction, teachers design instructional plans that cater to the known learning profiles of students. Prior to a lesson, educators can make various adjustments, such as altering materials, tiering assignments, breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, and modifying the curriculum to better suit each student's individual needs and abilities.

  • Resource Allocation: Modified instruction enables teachers to allocate resources efficiently. By using previously gathered data and information to drive instructional decisions and groupings, teachers can optimize the use of materials, time, and support services.

  • Efficient Planning: Modified instruction allows teachers to plan lessons in advance, as the grouping of students is done based on existing data. This can be particularly helpful in classrooms with time constraints or limited opportunities for real-time assessment.


Key Pointers to Keep in Mind


  • Both modified and targeted instruction should be embedded within instructional practices on a regular basis.

  • Data, whether it's summative or formative, should drive the appropriate differentiation and scaffolding strategies that are implemented.

  • Modified instruction may not fully capture the nuanced needs of individual students.

  • Targeted instruction means not specifically identifying which students will require support; rather, it involves determining the supports to be provided based on proficiency levels.


Ultimately, educators must consider the trade-offs and align their instructional approach with the specific needs and goals of their students and classrooms.


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