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Helping All Learners: Learning Profile

What is the best way to identify and address all of my students' learning profiles?

Learning profiles can be used to differentiate topics, method of learning, and manner of demonstrating learning in a classroom. A student’s learning profile is the complete picture of his/her learning preferences, strengths, and challenges and is shaped by the categories of learning style, intelligence preference, culture, and gender. Carol Ann Tomlinson, renowned expert on differentiation, describes these four categories as:

  1. Learning Style
  2. Intelligence Preference
  3. Culture
  4. Gender
There are many ways to accommodate students' preferred ways of learning. Looking for a good learning fit for students means, at least in part, trying to understand how individuals learn and responding appropriately. Carol Ann Tomlinson

Although a teacher cannot accommodate for each of these categories all the time, it is important to understand that within any class, a wide range of learning preferences, strengths, and challenges will be present. Additionally, learning profiles are dynamic; they change in response to ongoing experience. It is the responsibility of the teacher to create an environment and learning experiences with enough flexibility for each student to feel welcomed, engaged, and productive. 

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Learning Targets

  • I can identify ways to help individual learners understand their learning profiles.
  • I can identify ways to incorporate options into my classroom lessons/professional development sessions to address the varied learning profiles among my students/participants.

Activity: Text-Based Questions

Read the text linked below. 

Use the text to answer the following text-based questions (download available on this page for printable questions):

  1. Consider the four categories of factors that influence learning profile: learning style, intelligence preference, gender, and culture (Figure 10.1). Which of these factors are observable—you can recognize them by watching and listening to students—and which are not observable? For those that are not observable, how could you go about identifying the impact of that factor for each student?
  2. Create a quick sketch of your classroom, either mentally or on paper. How does your room setup allow for students of different learning-style preferences? How can you change the layout of your classroom to meet more students’ needs?
  3. Focus on the “Guidelines for Learning Profile Differentiation” section of the text. Rate the guidelines in order of
  4. importance to you. Which guideline needs immediate attention (perhaps because you hadn’t considered it in the past)? What two changes will you make to your classroom or your instruction in the next week to meet these guidelines?
  5. Focus on the elementary classroom example provided toward the end of the article. How does Ms. Chen differentiate the study of explorers and exploration to ensure that all of her students feel engaged and productive? Which of her approaches could you replicate for an upcoming unit of study in your own classroom? 

The How To’s of Planning Lessons Differentiated by Learning Profile: Chapter from book on

Tools: Determining Learner Preferences

Learner Preference Inventories invite students to share what they feel works best for them. See below for sample tools that can be used in the classroom. Select the tool most appropriate for your students and have your students complete the inventory.


For Teachers:

  1. The ASCD reading above suggests that teachers and students partner in making the learning environment a good fit. What are ways in which you will establish this partnership with each of your students? What aspects of your learning environment are non-flexible, and which will you allow for student choice?
  2. Remember that some, but not all of your students, share the same learning profile as you. What implications does this have for the strategies you use for instruction, the tasks you assign, and the learning environment you’ve created?
  3. How could you support your students in developing an awareness of their own learning profiles and recognizing the diverse learning profiles that make up a classroom community?

For School Leaders:

  1. Consider the environment in which you typically hold staff meetings or professional development sessions. How does this environment meet the needs of some of your teachers/participants related to their learning profiles, and not meet the needs of others? What can you do to partner with teachers/participants to make the adult learning environment a good fit for more of them?
  2. How will you help the teachers/participants determine and reflect upon their own learning profiles? Compare the benefits of teachers/participants knowing their personal learning profiles to the benefits of students knowing theirs. How will you communicate these benefits to teachers/participants?
  3. Consider an upcoming staff meeting or professional development session. How will you modify your plans to include options that appeal to those with differing learning profiles? Which categories of factors (from the ASCD text) will you differentiate for?

Resource Downloads

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