Component 2 of National Board Certification – The Differentiation Portfolio


This is Part 3 of a 5-part series on National Board Certification in Adolescent and Young Adulthood (AYA) Science. This post will focus on Component 2 - The Differentiation Portfolio.*

Figure 1: Air New Zealand Flight Routes1

When I differentiate in my classroom, I often think about a quote from Levine’s book A Mind at a Time2: “Schools are like airport hubs; student passengers arrive from many different backgrounds for widely divergent destinations. Their particular takeoffs into adulthood will demand different flight plans.” (Figure 1) As teachers, we constantly differentiate the classroom environment, teaching strategies, content, and outcomes according to student readiness, interests, backgrounds, and learning profiles. We help students follow their own paths to learning by tailoring and proactively modifying instruction to meet needs and maximize growth. All students can obtain high standards if given the right kind of differentiation (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Differentiation in the Classroom

In the Component 2 Differentiation Portfolio of National Board Certification in AYA Science, you are asked to showcase how you differentiate your instruction of a major idea in science over the span of 3-12 weeks. You will provide clear, consistent, and convincing evidence of how your sequence of differentiation led to student understanding and growth by submitting and analyzing two student work samples from three different instructional activities (one involving technology). You will also submit contextual information of your teaching situation, a culminating assessment, and 13 pages of written commentary. Component 2 is 15% of the overall National Board Score (Figure 3). The Component 2 Portfolio has many parts and can be overwhelming at first glance. My goal is to share strategies to help break down this component into manageable pieces so you can grow as an educator and score high.

Figure 3: Breakdown of National Board Score

Identify Weak Areas

National Board Certification is often called the “best professional development.” I feel I truly grew as an educator through the planning and reflective process of Component 2. During my planning stage of Component 2, I read through the National Board Science Standards3, the Component 2 Written Commentary questions, and the Component 2 rubric4. Then I wrote all the activities I do in my classroom providing good evidence of each standard, question, and rubric level. Not only did this notetaking/brainstorming activity help me select my major idea in science, but it also helped me pinpoint the weak areas of my teaching. Based on my weak areas, I researched new ideas in differentiation, tried them out with my students, and made improvements. I did this before I taught the unit I was going to use for this portfolio so I could practice and refine my skills. I found Tomlinson’s book, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners5 to be very helpful in my growth. I expanded my differentiation tool-kit. As a result of my differentiation research, I tried new strategies like one-on-one coaching, adaptive assignments, and student choice. Many of these strategies I still use in my classroom today thanks to the National Board Certification process.


Strong Evidence

Clear, consistent, and convincing evidence is key in every part of the National Board Certification. National Board provides examples of exemplary evidence statements in their General Portfolio Instructions6. I found it helpful to familiarize myself with the style of writing National Board was looking for so I could be confident that I was providing strong evidence. Format your activities in a way to maximize your evidence. For example, I struggled to capture my student's growth on paper during a lab activity. I modified the lab write-up to include written student reflections and revisions to use as evidence of student growth. Before I taught my lessons for Component 2, I had picked two students to focus my portfolio on. However, just to be safe, I collected student release forms from all my students. At the end of the unit, when I looked at all the sample student work from all three instructional activities, I was surprised to see the strongest evidence for my portfolio came from 2 completely different students. I would have never predicted this! Keep an open mind as you don’t know which students will surprise you with strong evidence!


Maximize Space

Don’t be fooled by the number of pages you are allowed to submit. It looks like a lot, but it is not much. Initially, after I saw there were 48 pages of material to submit, I did not stress about space. However, as I dug in deeper, I found I had to condense almost everything. For example, you are allowed to submit 18 pages of student work samples. This seems like a lot, but when you consider the number of students and activities, you only have about three pages per student per activity. One of my labs I was going to submit was five pages long. I had to edit the lab to fit into three pages. I also found it hard to answer the Written Commentary questions in 13 pages. While your writing needs to clearly communicate your ideas, it is not scored on grammar and style. I needed all the space I could get. I did not indent or use paragraphs. I utilized abbreviations for each student (S1 or S2) and my work samples (W1S1 or W1S2). I put numbers in the activity and student work documents to help my National Board Scorer easily find evidence. For example, “W3S1#2” told the scorer to look at work sample 3 for student 1 and find the area of the work sample labeled #2 to see my evidence. I only had to type it out with all the words once and then relied on my abbreviated citing system to save on space.

I found the Component 2 Differentiation Portfolio to be a rewarding experience. Yes, it involved intense planning and paper organization, but my students grew in their content knowledge and I grew as an educator. I focused on my weak areas until I could produce clear and convincing evidence of student growth. Just like Levine alluded to in A Mind at a Time, no matter where my student passengers arrive from, I will be able to find a way through my differentiation tool-kit to get them where they need to go. It took perseverance, but now I feel confident in my differentiation skills. I am confident that you will persevere and grow as well through Component 2. Good luck!

*Read Part 1 of this series and Part 2 of this series .



  1. Vardion [CC BY-SA 3.0 ()] (accessed 6/9/19)
  2. Levine, Melvin D. A Mind at a Time: How Every Child Can Succeed. Simon & Schuster, 2003.
  3. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Science Standards, ,  (accessed 6/1/19)
  4. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Science Adolescent and Young Adulthood Component 2 Resources, , Pearson, 2014 (accessed 6/1/19)
  5. Tomlinson, Carol A. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. Pearson, 2016.
  6. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, General Portfolio Instructions, , Pearson, 2019 (accessed 6/1/19)
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Comments 2

Kristen Williams's picture
Kristen Williams | Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:29

I'm beginning my NBCT journey for AYA Science (chemistry) this year and have enjoyed reading your entries on the topic. 

I'm preparing for Component 2 now and looking to select my major idea in science; one of the bullet options on pg. 4 of the instructions states that "it underlies most or all of the scientific disciplines" and then continues to list two examples that sound a lot like the cross-cutting concepts of the NGSS (e.g., relationship of structure and function and flow of energy and matter). Would it be acceptable to select systems and system models?

Melissa Hemling's picture
Melissa Hemling | Wed, 08/12/2020 - 14:50

Congrats on starting your journey!  The advice I received when working on Component 2 was similar to what you noticed - a cross-cutting concept makes a great major idea.  I was told that "bonding" is not a major idea, but I rewording a cross-cutting concept to include bonding ideas was a way to make it into a major idea.  I hope this helps!