Differentiated Instruction: The Ultimate Analytics Training Framework

I often employ a distinct teaching framework called “differentiated instruction” when leading teams through analytics training. It sounds complex, but it really just means teaching in a way that enables students of all skill levels to learn. Since organizations often have teams with disparate skill levels, training can be a difficult when faced with meeting the needs of skilled and novice workers. Using a differentiated instruction as a training framework means tweaking your training methods to educate broad groups, without leaving anyone behind. 

I drew upon this method in my past life as a high school English teacher. Frequently, I was faced with two groups in the same setting: those who had prior knowledge about a particular lesson and those who had none.  While I may not be discussing the intricacies of the poetry of T.S. Eliot with a group of 16-year-olds anymore, the lessons of differentiated instruction still work as I to teach courses on Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Insight, and much more. The principles of differentiated instruction are always the same. 

To illustrate the benefits of this training framework, we’ll use a previous Google Analytics training as an example on some of the ways I have applied this teaching method.


1. Always Have an Agenda

I was tasked by an enterprise-level client to train a group of 50+ employees on how to build reporting in Google Analytics so it would became a self-service tool across the business. There were folks in the audience who had been using the tool for months and those who had never even logged in. So, how did I make the training meaningful and useful for everyone in the audience? How did I keep the experts engaged without losing the novices? 

All trainings should start with a custom agenda. Try not to recycle something you’ve used in the past – every audience is different so take some time to discover what’s important to your users, no matter the skill level. This will help you to lay out your story into a distinct framework. 

Your agenda will need to be adjusted based on factors like technology and timing. While your agenda can be fluid to a degree, it will have to reflect external elements that can influence the flow of your training in general, such as if there are developers in the audience or if you only have a set amount of time.

For a Google Analytics training, agenda categories would include: 

  • Logging In
  • Reporting Terminology
  • Segments
  • Custom Reporting
  • Event Reporting


2. Creating Meaningful Experiences for Every User Level

Next, it’s important to make the training meaningful and useful for everyone in the audience, while keeping experts engaged and without losing the novices. To help with this issue, I ensure I have enough for the experts to do while I walk through the basics with the novices. 

In this instance, I had the experts go into the Device Type report, add a dimension, and change the dates while I taught the novices how to log into the tool. This kept them occupied while I covered content that would have bored them. Eventually, I was able to get the novices to the same report by having them watch me get to that report and follow along. In the end, the novices saw how to get to this report and the experts could check their work to ensure it aligned with mine.

Additionally, interactive exercises cater to visual and hands-on learners. For this particular training, I gave hands-on examples that had two exercises: one was a more basic exercise while I labeled the other exercise as a “bonus,” which was more complex. I encouraged the beginners to try the bonus exercise even if they weren’t comfortable so that they got a chance to do what the experts do. 

An example is below:

Another thing I like to do is prepare content for three or more topics, asking the audience which one they’d prefer to cover. For instance, I offered to cover one of the following for reporting: goals, dashboards, or custom alerts. By asking what’s the most useful in their day-to-day jobs, we covered what was relevant to them and gave them the skills to solve actual issues they were facing. 


3. Don’t Forget Training Standbys 

While differentiated instruction should include elements such as examples and agendas, remember basic training best practices; most of the time, they can work for any skill level. For instance:

  • Slide design – Keep your slides short, to-the-point, and include imagery when possible. Remember, it can be hard to keep the attention of a group if all they see is tiny text. Create presentations that have the most impact with the least amount of slides. 
  • Provide a leave behind – Stemming off my last point, you don’t have to provide every single detail in one training. Leave behinds such as guides, instructions, your presentation, or even your contact information gives users something to look back on if they have any questions or need to clarify any portions of your training. 
  • Promote ongoing training – Continual education allows your audience to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technology. Always provide them with resources that can help them stay proficient. 
  • Get feedback at the end of your training – You can only improve future trainings if you get user feedback. While this can come in the form of surveys or one-on-one conversations, it’s important to know what’s working and what’s not so you can improve in the future.


When it comes to differentiated instruction remember to teach in a way that provides the most amount of value to broad skill levels. Novices learn from experts and experts find out things they may have missed or had overlooked in the past. Plus, it starts the conversation on level playing field, instead of leaving folks behind or boring those who already know the information. 

If you have questions about differentiated instruction or training in general, feel free to reach out to us. We cover all topics within multi-channel analytics, from reporting to implementation and everything in between. Or if you’d like to discuss Beowulf – I’m open to that, too. 

By Victoria Sawtelle
About the Author:

Victoria Sawtelle is a Senior Analyst, Team Lead at Stratigent.

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