Differentiation Case Study

Mountain Meadows is a public high school in a lower-middleclass neighborhood. The school population is 50% African American, 20% Hispanic, 25% Caucasian, 2% Asian, and 3% Native American. About half of the parents graduated from high school.

Chen is a first-generation Chinese American male in your high school class. He is likable and socially accepted by his peers. He likes being a part of the brainstorming for group projects, but generally avoids most of the work on the actual project. His group members don’t seem to mind because he gives them a great deal of insightful, helpful feedback and keeps the general mood of the group lighthearted with excellent comedic timing and good-natured positivity. When he has to do his own work, he avoids the challenging work when there is a final letter grade, or final score associated with it. His formative assessments show above grade-level mastery of the concepts. You are perplexed by his choices when he clearly knows the material. Not completing assignments has resulted in Chen receiving Cs and Ds. His parents are concerned that he is not living up to his potential. Frankly you are too.

You investigate intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and implement some motivational strategies to get Chen to produce. They do not work. You meet with him and, together, you make an independent learning contract, but he is not able to uphold his end. You talk with him about having low self-esteem, and you administer an affective assessment. He does not have low self-esteem. During your research, you come across a term you have never heard before – underachieving perfectionist, also referred to as gifted underachiever. Underachieving perfectionists may not be identified as gifted and talented.

After learning more about this unusual topic, you meet with Chen and his parents to discuss the characteristics of underachieving perfectionists. From this meeting, you learned that he loves learning, but hates being judged; he does not see the point in doing the final project or the test after getting high scores on the formative assessments; he’s comfortable being a part of the group, but fears being labeled “The Boss.” He is uncomfortable trying to live up to the standards of his parents and the stereotype of high-achieving Asian students, and he does not want others to see him struggle when working on something. He likes helping others with their projects and making friends by being nice instead of being mean during projects. He feels that by helping with projects, he is learning in the process.

1. What can you do to help Chen overcome his underachieving perfectionism in your class?

2. What strategies can you implement to engage Chen in your class?

3. Which type of formative assessments would you use to monitor Chen’s progress and adjust your instruction to meet his learning goals, particularly for his enrichment?

4. How will you engage Chen to monitor his progress and take ownership of his own learning?

5. How would you develop student-centered assessments specific to Chen’s learning goals and individual differences to ensure you are receiving accurate data on Chen’s level of comprehension?

6. Given that Chen is mastering all of the grade level objectives with ease, how can you differentiate instruction to achieve individual learning goals, selecting appropriate strategies, resources, and materials?

7. How can integrating an understanding and compassion for his family’s culture and cultural values help support him in the process of producing quality work? How can you communicate your concerns about Chen’s progress to his family?