Tiered Assignments

What are tiered assignments?

According to Tomlinson (1995), tiered assignments are used by teachers within a heterogeneous classroom in order to meet the diverse needs of the students within the class. Teachers implement varied levels of activities to ensure that students explore ideas at a level that builds on their prior knowledge and prompts continued growth. Student groups use varied approaches to explore essential ideas.

Williams (2002) offers the following definition on her website: Tiered assignments are parallel tasks at varied levels of complexity, depth and abstractness with various degrees of scaffolding, support, or direction. Students work on different levels of activities, all with the same essential understanding or goal in mind. Tiered assignments accommodate mainly for differences in student readiness and performance levels and allow students to work toward a goal or objective at a level that builds on their prior knowledge and encourages continued growth. 

How can tiered assignments help your students?

Using tiered assignments allows for the following:

  • Blends assessment and instruction,
  • Allows students to begin learning where they are,
  • Allows students to work with appropriately challenging tasks,
  • Allows for reinforcement or extension of concepts and principles based on student readiness,
  • Allows modification of working conditions based on learning style,
  • Avoids work that is anxiety-producing (too hard) or boredom-producing (too easy), and
  • Promotes success and is therefore motivating.
    (Tomlinson, 1995)

How can you implement tiered assignments in order to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

One of the main benefits of tiered assignments is that they allow students to work on tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult. They are highly motivating because they allow students to be successful at their level of readiness. Tiered assignments also allow students to work in their specific learning styles or preferences (Williams, 2002).

What are the guidelines for implementing tiered assignments?

Tomlinson (1995) offers the following guidelines for implementing tiered assignments:

  • Be sure the task is focused on a key concept.
  • Use a variety of resource materials at differing levels of complexity and associated with different learning modes.
  • Adjust the task by complexity, abstractness, number of steps, concreteness, and independence to ensure appropriate challenge.
  • Be certain there are clear criteria for quality and success.

Where can you find more information about tiered assignments?


Tomlinson, C. A. (1995). How to Differentiate Instruction
in Mixed Ability Classrooms, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Cherokee County Schools
This homepage by Eulouise Williams has additional information on tiered assignments including examples of tiered assignments created by teachers in their district.