top of page

Targeted Support

The Early Career Framework states that teachers must learn that... Adapting teaching in a responsive way, including by providing targeted support to pupils who are struggling, is likely to increase pupil success.

This statement feeds into many of the "Learn how to..." statements as well:

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.

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

In a previous post about Adaptive Teaching, I focused on an overview of SEND. Adaptive teaching can be defined as an approach aimed at achieving a common instructional goal with learners whose individual differences, such as prior achievement, aptitude, or learning styles differ. Seeking to understand pupils' differences, including their different levels of prior knowledge and potential barriers to learning, is an essential part of teaching.

Pupils will need different amounts of support from a teacher to access learning.

Appropriate levels of support will vary and might include:

  • Support for part of the lesson

  • A quick additional explanation

  • Working in a group with an adult to go through extra examples

  • Support for engaging in different activities and tasks

  • Consider providing support for starting an activity, then leaving a pupil to work independently for a time before returning

(Sobel and Alston, 2021)

The EEF Research found evidence consistently showed the positive impact that targeted academic support can have, including for those pupils who are not making good progress across the spectrum of achievement. Some pupils may require additional support alongside high-quality teaching in order to make good progress. The evidence indicates that small group and one to one interventions can be a powerful tool for supporting these pupils when they are used carefully.

These interventions should be targeted at specific pupils using information gathered from assessments and their effectiveness and intensity should be continually monitored. Some pupils may have made quick gains once they returned to school full time, so assessment needs to ongoing, but manageable.

“While most students in schools will respond positively to well-organized classrooms, clear behaviour expectations, and rich, positive reinforcement, we also need to add specialized supports for those who do not improve with the school-wide program alone.” – Jeff Sprague and Annemieke Golly, Best Behavior: Building Positive Behavior Support in Schools

The types of targeted interventions that students often respond to include

  • individual or small group social skills coaching

  • adapted instruction that facilitates individual success

  • mentoring relationships that create feelings of connectedness and caring, and offer positive role modelling.

It is important to consider all learners when thinking about targeted support. Targeting those with SEND, those who are high prior attainers and those who are pupil premium are just some of the examples.

Quite often in schools, targeted support is referred to as intervention. This can sometimes be perceived as something that occurs outside and above curriculum time/lessons, however, there are many "interventions" that teachers can (and in fact will) do in their own classroom. There are a number of generic strategies that you may already be doing - sometimes without realising. There are also generic strategies that are easy to implement in your own classroom, adopting these simple strategies can make a significant difference to all learners, especially those with specific needs. The five are:

  • Know your learners: Find out how your specific groups of learners prefer to learn and plan accordingly; taking in their hobbies and interests, their social context and academic background. Using the context sheet available in my shop (free of charge!) is one way of interrogating what the data says about your class and can help you to plan.

  • Think about your learning environment: Think carefully about where learners are sitting and who they are sitting next to. Highlight categories of learners on all your seating plans. Use the reflective and predictive data you have on your learners to identify the specific support they need to make progress.

  • Plan your behaviour management strategies: most learners respond best to a positive learning environment so meet and greet learners at the door to welcome them into the classroom. Develop mutually respectful relationships with all learners and use praise and rewards for positive contributions, good work, exceeding expectations.

  • Target specific learners for support: Approach certain learners first to see if they understand the task set or need support to complete it. Target specific learners for questioning and ask them to respond in full sentences. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to extend and stretch their answers. Ensure all learners know exactly where they are working at or what are aiming for in the lesson. Continually check the progress of them throughout the lesson. Make sure they know their current attainment, their target attainment and what they need to do to improve.

  • Remove barriers to learning: Provide equipment and resources where necessary along with revision and homework materials.

  • Differentiation: There are three main categories of differentiation, by task (which involves setting different tasks for learners of different abilities), by support (which means giving more help to certain learners within the group) and by outcome (which involves setting open-ended tasks and allowing pupil response at different levels). If we consider the most advanced skills, concepts and facts that the most able student in the class will just manage to get and then move on to consider the skills, concepts and facts that the least able student in the class will just manage to get with appropriate support, we can then ensure the middle ground is covered to stretch the average student in the class.

Further reading & useful resources:

Visible Learning: Feedback, by John Hattie & Shirley Clarke

The Power of Feedback, John Hattie, Helen Timperley, 2007

Task-Involving and Ego-Involving Properties of Evaluation: Effects of Different Feedback Conditions on Motivational Perceptions, Interest, and Performance, Ruth Butler, 1987

Book Summary: Mindset By Carol Dweck (2007)

Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention, Lisa S. Blackwell, Kali H. Trzesniewski and Carol Sorich Dweck

Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential, Carol Dweck

Target support for students at risk (behvaiour)

[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:

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.

*Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit: Accessible from: [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.

*OECD (2015) Pisa 2015 Result: Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. Accessible from:

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.

Speckesser, S., Runge, J., Foliano, F., Bursnall, M., Hudson-Sharp, N., Rolfe, H. & Anders, J. (2018) Embedding Formative Assessment: Evaluation Report. [Online] Accessible from: [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).

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.

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

618 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page