Tips for Teachers: 12. Adaptive teaching

Jul 11, 2023 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 12. Adaptive teaching

Jul 11, 2023 | Blogs

‘Adaptive teaching is not merely differentiation by another name. In adaptive teaching, differentiation does not occur by providing different handouts or the now outdated “all, most, some” objectives, which intrinsically create a glass ceiling in students’ achievement. Instead, it happens because of the high-quality teaching we put in for all our students. 

Adaptive teaching is a focus of the Early Career Framework (DfE, 2019), the Teachers’ Standards, and Ofsted inspections. It involves setting the same ambitious goals for all students but providing different levels of support. This should be targeted depending on the students’ starting points, and if and when students are struggling.’ 

(Gianluca Raso, 2023 From differentiation to adaptive teaching)

The Early Career Framework provides a helpful explanation of why adaptive teaching matters:

  • Pupils are likely to learn at different rates and require different levels and types of support from teachers to succeed.
  • Seeking to understand pupils’ differences, including their different levels of prior knowledge and potential barriers to learning, is an essential part of teaching.
  • Adapting teaching in a responsive way, including by providing targeted support to pupils who are struggling, is likely to increase pupil success.

‘As far as possible, make curriculum do the work of determining learning objectives, assessment methods and likely barriers. A well-planned curriculum will reduce the teacher’s need to make in-the-moment adaptations.

When additional adaptations are necessary, how can we do them? Here is a list of possible examples:

  • Adjust the level of challenge
  • Reframe your questions / information
  • Change the language you use
  • Provide a prompt or reminder
  • Provide smaller steps or stages
  • Improve accessibility
  • Clarify what ‘good’ looks like
  • Use analogies
  • Use peer support
  • Highlight the essential concepts
  • Provide additional examples

It is important to understand differences and potential barriers to learning, which could include:

  • Vocabulary and word gaps
  • Different levels of prior knowledge
  • Specific needs or disability
  • Common misconceptions
  • Cultural experiences
  • Limited working memory

Material adapted from Understanding Adaptive Teaching

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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