All entries for Monday 24 April 2023

April 24, 2023

Adaptive Teaching

by Robert Smith

During my five years of working in schools, I have seen national changes to the way in which teachers are expected to support pupils with additional needs. The geography department in my first school was praised for its extensive use of differentiated artefacts, such as simplified worksheets, and learning objectives: ‘all, most, some’. While some elements of this approach are certainly beneficial to the learning of those with additional needs, the national focus has shifted to one that applies high expectations to all groups (Department of Education, 2019). It is worth noting that while the Early Career Framework has stopped using the word ‘differentiation’ altogether (Department of Education, 2019), differentiated support to help all learners reach the same goal provides those who need support the help to achieve (Mould, 2021) and aligns with the new term ‘adaptive teaching’.

In my first placement of this course, two of the classes I taught were a top set year 8 and a bottom set year 7. I was surprised by the variation of ability in both classes. From my reading for my Subject Studies essay, I have recently learned about the detrimental effects of an internalised understanding of the class hierarchy, especially for those who recognise that they rank towards the bottom in comparison to their peers. I think the delivery of extension, or challenge, work is one area in which the teacher can reduce the conspicuousness of the hierarchy: ensuring extension work is clearly signposted for everyone may result in those moving onto the extension task being less noticeable and also intimates that everyone in the class is capable of reaching the extension task; I plan to incorporate this into my future teaching.

In order for all pupils to meet high expectations, it is necessary for those with needs to be given support in the most effective way. Considering work-load and effectiveness, Mould (2021) suggests teachers should provide focussed support rather than devoting time to creating myriad resources; during my first placement, I was introduced to many helpful resource websites that can prevent teachers reinventing the wheel. The focussed support Mould discusses is holistic, considering ‘pupils’ physical, social, and emotional well-being,’ including their relationships with peers, teachers and their families. Mould recommends regular communication between the individual, the school and the parents/guardians in order that everyone understands the barriers to learning and develop strategies to overcome them together. Alongside my mentor I spoke to parents at my first parents’ evening, and the benefits of building a relationship with parents was clear: the parents of one pupil, who is struggling with bullying, talked to us about their desire to have an open conversation with the school in order to support their child.

With the support of my mentor and expert colleagues, I believe I supported students well in my first placement, though this may be in part because I did not teach any classes with high levels of need. Moving forward, I would like to develop a practice of planning for adaptive teaching that supports all pupils without increasing the amount of time I spend on my lesson plans. As my understanding of the curriculum and the abilities of specific groups grows, I would like to better connect new knowledge to existing knowledge and recognise areas that require additional pre-teaching.


Department of Education (2019) Early Career Framework (online). Available at: [accessed 13.1.23].

Mould, K. (2021) EEF Blog: Assess, adjust, adapt – what does adaptive teaching mean to you? (online). Available at: [accessed 13.1.23].

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