“Incredibly useful adaptive teaching strategies, which were explained brilliantly”

Philippa Gleave, The Lady Eleanor Holles School

Is it time for ​‘adaptive teaching’ to replace differentiation?

Over the past few years, ​‘differentiation’ has become an increasingly unpopular term in teaching. Differentiation is a contested practice which many teachers struggle with . There are concerns that differentiated practice can lead to a lowering of expectations, particularly when in-class groupings are permanent e.g. ​‘the bottom group’ receives a different task to everyone else, regardless of the particular needs or aptitudes of the pupils in this area of learning. Neither the current Ofsted or ISI Inspections Framework’s expect teachers to differentiate in this way, in fact Ofsted positively discriminate against it as it is seen as a source of unnecessary and additional workload for teachers.

What is adaptive teaching?

Adaptive teaching is an approach a teacher will use to continually assess the strengths and needs of learners and adapt their teaching accordingly to ensure all learners can meet expectations. With adaptive teaching, the teacher plans for the whole class and responds by making changes to the curriculum or resources so that all learners can achieve the same goals.

Adaptive Teaching & the Teachers Standards & Early Career Framework

Both the DfE Teachers Standards & the Early Career Framework Standard 5 breaks the term ​‘adaptive teaching’ into more concrete recommendations for teaching. For example:

Provide opportunity for all pupils to experience success by:

  • Adapting lessons, whilst maintaining high expectations for all, so that all pupils have the opportunity to meet expectations.
  • Balancing input of new content so that pupils master important concepts.
  • Making effective use of teaching assistants.

You might also be interested in our training on the Rosenshine’s Principles of Teaching click here

What are the benefits of adaptive teaching?

The 2015 PISA results showed that adaptive teaching is one of the approaches most positively correlated with pupil performance. If it is done well, adaptive teaching has numerous benefits, including:

  • Allowing for personalised learning experiences for each pupil
  • Helping to identify and address pupil gaps in real-time
  • Enhancing learners’ engagement and motivation
  • Supporting teachers in providing targeted and effective instruction
  • Providing opportunities for pupils to work at their own pace
  • Improving pupil outcomes and achievement.

You may also be interested in our INSET courses on Metacognition – click here

INSET Outline

Setting clear learning goals and planning learning carefully

  • How can we plan schemes of work when we want pupils to learn so much, and don’t have enough time to cover it all?
  • Planning lessons using cognitive load theory
  • Showing pupils what success looks like

Anticipating barriers & planning interventions

  • Understanding & utilising data in your classroom
  • Anticipating barriers to learning
  • Planning strategies to address barriers to learning
  • Planning ‘in-class’ interventions
  • Making effective use of teaching assistants

Using assessment to elicit evidence of learning

  • Identifying what students have understood and where they are struggling
  • How do we get a better understanding of what pupils are thinking in the lesson ?
  • Strategies to tell what pupils learned in the lesson

Responding & adapting your teaching ‘in the moment’

  • Responding, adapting our teaching to support students to do better.
  • Levelling up or down the difficulty
  • ‘Tweaking’ tasks to alter the cognitive demand


Are you responsible for the TAs and LSA’s in your School ?

We have a number of highly practical specialist training courses for support staff- take a look for at our TA and LSA INSET courses ready to book for your school.

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