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Effective Adaptive Teaching



The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn that... Adaptive teaching is less likely to be valuable if it causes the teacher to artificially create distinct tasks for different groups of pupils or to set lower expectations for particular pupils.


It also states that teachers should learn how to:

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.

Meet individual needs without creating unnecessary workload, by:

  • Making use of well-designed resources (e.g. textbooks).

  • Planning to connect new content with pupils' existing knowledge or providing additional pre-teaching if pupils lack critical knowledge.

  • Building in additional practice or removing unnecessary expositions.

  • Reframing questions to provide greater scaffolding or greater stretch

  • Considering carefully whether intervening within lessons with individuals and small groups would be more efficient and effective than planning different lessons for different groups of pupils

This post will be a shorter one that usual, rather than repeating the excellent information out there, I am providing a summary of information and including links of where to find the support and guidance on a particular topic area.


In the article Adaptive teaching explained: What, why and how?, Matt Bromley gives an excellent explanation of what Adaptive Teaching means and what it looks like in practice. It is well worth a read.


Scaffolding is discussed within this article, and we should also consider Removing Scaffolding in our practice an how to do this effectively to ensure that our students are becoming independent learners.


The EEF suggests Five evidence-based strategies to support high-quality teaching for pupils with SEND

  • Scaffolding

This has been explained in previous articles and links are included above. Scaffolding instruction is a fundamental skill in teaching and can help all students to succeed and achieve, not just those with special educational needs. ‘Scaffolding’ is a metaphor for temporary support that is removed when it is no longer required. Initially, a teacher would provide enough support so that pupils can successfully complete tasks that they could not do independently. This requires effective assessment to gain a precise understanding of the pupil’s current capabilities.

  • Explicit instruction

Explicit instruction refers to a range of teacher-led approaches, focused on teacher demonstration followed by guided practice and independent practice. Explicit instruction is not just ​“teaching by telling” or ​“transmission teaching”. One popular approach to explicit instruction is Rosenshine’s ​‘Principles of Instruction’.

  • Cognitive and metacognitive strategies

Cognitive strategies are skills like memorisation techniques or subject specific strategies like methods to solve problems in maths.

Metacognitive strategies help pupils plan, monitor and evaluate their learning

  • Flexible grouping

Flexible grouping describes when pupils are allocated to smaller groups based on the individual needs that they currently share with other pupils. Such groups can be formed for an explicit purpose and disbanded when that purpose is met

  • Technology Use

Technology can assist teacher modelling. Technology, as a method to provide feedback to pupils and/​or parents can be effective, especially when the pupil can act on this feedback.


Useful Reading


Deunk et al (2018) Effective differentiation Practices: A systematic review and metaanalysis of studies on the cognitive effects of differentiation practices in primary education. Educational Research Review 24, pp31-54.Davis et al, (2004) Teaching Strategies and Approaches for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: a scoping study. London DfES.

TES (2019) Does Ofsted’s use of research require improvement? | Tes News Kevan Collins

Lake, R., Olson, L. (2020) Learning as We Go: Principles for Effective Assessment During the Covid-19 Pandemic. CRPE.

Davis et al, (2004) Teaching Strategies and Approaches for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: a scoping study. London DfES.

Van de Pol et al (2015) The effects of scaffolding in the classroom: support contingency and student independent working time in relation to student achievement, task effort and appreciation of support. Instructional Science, 43, pp615-641.

Deans for Impact (2015) The Science of Learning.

Pashler et al (2007) Organising Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning, NCER.

SEND Code of Practice (2015) – particularly chapter 6.


[Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]


*Davis, P., Florian, L., Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., Farrell, P., Hick, P., Rouse, M. (2004) Teaching Strategies and Approaches for Pupils with Special Educational Needs: A Scoping Study. Accessible from: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/6059/1/RR516.pdf.

Deunk, M. I., Smale-Jacobse, A. E., de Boer, H., Doolaard, S., & Bosker, R. J. (2018) Effective differentiation Practices: A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on the cognitive effects of differentiation practices in primary education. Educational Research Review, 24(February), 31–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2018.02.002.

*Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit: Accessible from: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Hattie, J. (2009) Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.

Kriegbaum, K., Becker, N., & Spinath, B. (2018) The Relative Importance of Intelligence and Motivation as Predictors of School Achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2018.10.001.

*OECD (2015) Pisa 2015 Result: Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. Accessible from: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264267510-en.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008) Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9 (3).

Sisk, V. F., Burgoyne, A. P., Sun, J., Butler, J. L., & Macnamara, B. N. (2018) To What Extent and Under Which Circumstances Are Growth Mind-Sets Important to Academic Achievement? Two Meta-Analyses. Psychological Science, 29(4), 549–571. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617739704.

Speckesser, S., Runge, J., Foliano, F., Bursnall, M., Hudson-Sharp, N., Rolfe, H. & Anders, J. (2018) Embedding Formative Assessment: Evaluation Report. [Online] Accessible from: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/EFA_evaluation_report.pdf [retrieved 10 October 2018]. 36

Steenbergen-Hu, S., Makel, M. C., & Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2016) What One Hundred Years of Research Says About the Effects of Ability Grouping and Acceleration on K-12 Students Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order MetaAnalyses. Review of Educational Research (Vol. 86). https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654316675417.

Tereshchenko, A., Francis, B., Archer, L., Hodgen, J., Mazenod, A., Taylor, B., Travers, M. C. (2018) Learners’ attitudes to mixed-attainment grouping: examining the views of students of high, middle and low attainment. Research Papers in Education, 1522, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/02671522.2018.1452962.

Willingham, D. T. (2010) The Myth of Learning Styles, Change, 42(5), 32–35.


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