CarrieSimpsonDr. Carrie Simpson has made a career of understanding, researching, and utilizing differentiated instruction as part of the foundation for teaching. Her work in the field of gifted education, followed by curriculum development and teacher training in the field of special needs brought her to one steadfast understanding: differentiation is paramount to student success.

She has served in administration as District Lead for Differentiation, working diligently with teachers 7-12 to promote effective, strategic instructional practices and to conduct research regarding differentiation.

Currently, Dr. Simpson continues to hone her skills in the craft of differentiation by teaching Humanities courses for Austin Community College, working with the ACC ECHS programs, and through online instruction for the University of Texas at Dallas’ Teacher Development Center, teaching a course on Differentiation for Diverse Student Populations.

Her experience in administration, as a teacher, a researcher and, in recent years, as an expert in professional development has prepared her to support teachers of all students and all ages. Dr. Simpson believes in the value of potent bursts of differentiated experiences that are productive, poignant and manageable for any classroom teacher.

Carrie earned a BA in English, an MA in Humanities and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. Her areas of expertise include differentiation, gifted education, special education, curriculum design, twice exceptional learners, brain-based instruction, curriculum flipping and administrator trainings for instructional support. Her presentations are housed in research and application to classrooms and her workshops are highly interactive, asking participants to engage in differentiated activities that model the instruction they are receiving.


Inquiry, Connection, Autonomy: Advanced Learners will Advance with Differentiation  AP and Pre AP teachers need to employ differentiation more than ever as their class composition grows more diverse. Whether students are gifted, bright, struggling or right where they should be, differentiation will guide them toward more meaningful learning, build a capacity for inquiry, provide opportunities for connection and ultimately lead to autonomy as the students enter their post-secondary education.
Differentiation for Enrichment Meets the Needs of the Secondary Gifted Learners Many schools acknowledge using AP programming as the program option for gifted learners; however, the College Board tells us that the AP program is not inherently designed to meet the needs of gifted learners. Thus, it is up to our teachers to use the framework of AP in cahoots with strategic differentiation to extend the best learning opportunities to those gifted students. Effective DI in an AP class leads to enrichment.
Differentiation 101: The Basics, Research and Framework for DI implementation Not sure where to begin with implementing DI in a district? Campus? Classroom? This session can address the basics for why we should differentiate, how to build a plan housed on concrete and determined goals, provide research to justify this best practice and offer first steps toward implementation, including immediately applicable baby-step strategies for the classroom.
Online Learning: How to Differentiate the Virtual Classroom (secondary or higher education) Differentiation is vital in traditional class settings, and while online learning provides a level of differentiation inherently, there is much value in effectively differentiating learning for virtual learners. Online students struggle to find connection and engagement with the material, so varied modes for information sharing coupled with deliberate group activities and class discussions helps foster a sense of community. Choice in assignments based on student interests can enhance motivation and appeals to student learning profiles address engagement and efficacy in retention.
Connecting Brain-based Instruction and Differentiation Brain-based instructional strategies are classroom ready ways to improve the instructional setting for students, but without strategic implementation, they are not as effective as they could be. When combined with elements of differentiated instruction, brain-based instruction becomes a more effective way to reach students. Specifically, Dr. Marcia Tate’s 20 Brain-based instructional strategies can be used most effectively when combined with Dr. Carol Tomlinson’s approach to differentiated instruction.
Supporting and Coaching Differentiated Instruction It is not enough to inform and educate teachers on the framework and parameters of DI: teachers must receive support in implementation consistently and with clear goals in place. This can be done at the campus level or from the district level, but whatever the infrastructure in a district, effective differentiation will not likely happen without ongoing and extensive support. These sessions are generally conducted at the campus level or for campus leaders who will then be responsible for supporting DI. Ongoing professional development for DI is a vital part of this process, and those sessions should be constructed in response to the coaching sessions and demonstrated teacher needs.
Modeling Differentiated Instruction in Professional Development Teachers are informed about a variety of initiatives every year, and are often presented with the information, the justifications and the goals, but often do not get to see the instructional initiative in practice. It is paramount to the success of differentiation that professional development session be designed to model DI. Faculty meetings, curriculum previews, staff development, should always reflect elements of DI, and reflection discussions on this modeling should be part of staff development, even when DI is not the topic of the training. This session can be a DI presentation that models elements of DI or it can be a collaboration opportunity to teach your presenters how to build DI components into training for other topics.
Using Focused Walkthroughs to Determine Whether Effective Differentiation is Happening Using focused walkthroughs with a campus can provide the most accurate and non-threatening data about how effectively DI is being implemented. This procedure calls for a brief meeting prior to observations to outline the procedures and determine focal points, observations of teachers by their peers, and a thorough reflection discussion to determine trends, common threads, areas of strength and areas for growth. The quantitative data that comes from this discussion should be shared with faculty members as a snapshot view of instructional practices on that campus. With multiple snapshots taken, these can being to paint a clear and detailed picture about campus trends and can guide the construction of campus goals with data driving those decisions.
Changing the Teacher Mindset about Differentiation There are many misconceptions about differentiation, so this session aims to address the misconceptions and engage in a discussion about Mindset (Dr. Carol Dweck). The mindset of a teacher (or a student) can often be the defining trait between a teacher who successfully implements differentiation and one who does not fully embrace this teaching philosophy. This conversation is often a challenge for those with a fixed mindset at first, but with the support of excerpts from Mindset (2005) many teachers can begin to change their thinking to better account for and address student differences.
How Curriculum Flipping can Reinforce Differentiation Curriculum Flipping is an instructional initiative that teams nicely with differentiated instruction. When students can get the material they would receive “whole class” via webcast/podcast/powerpoint outside of the classroom, time is then opened up in the classroom to explore differentiated instruction. The time to implement DI is often a concern expressed by teachers new to the philosophy, and curriculum flipping is one possible answer to that concern.


Carrie can also tailor trainings and workshops to meet the needs of districts if their needs touch the following:

  • DI in the general setting
  • How do we begin DI in our district? School?
  • DI for the Gifted Learner
  • DI for the struggling learner
  • DI in the online setting
  • DI in Pre AP/AP classrooms
  • Coaching DI
  • DI in the curriculum
  • Writing KUDs for DI
  • DI in the English Language Arts classroom
  • DI in higher education
  • Nature and Needs of Gifted Learners
  • Brain based instruction