All 3 entries tagged Adaptive

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September 18, 2023

Just make it up as you go along? Improvisation and adaptive expertise for teachers

In this SEDA blog post Richard Bale explores the space where adaptive expertise meets improvisation:

SEDA is the Staff and Educational Development Association.

May 15, 2023

Reflections on adaptive teaching – Asimina Georgakopoulou

My initial perception of “adaptive teaching” was that it was synonymous to differentiation—a term which is still used in teaching publications (DfE, 2021, T.S.5, p.11) and which the Times Educational Supplement used, to describe the practice of “putting the student first” (Amass, 2021). As the two terms are often used interchangeably, I began my practice unsure about which approach I was truly implementing. A broad understanding of both terms dictates that differentiation involves assigning certain needs to students while planning, assuming an objective can only be met a certain way. Adaptive teaching involves adjusting to address progress by providing scaffolding or challenge to support achievement of a unified objective in a flexible way (Deunk et al., 2018, p.31-54). After focused conversations with my placement colleagues, I was intrigued by the general consensus that the main difference between the two concepts in practice centres around the teacher’s understanding of “high expectations”.

I struggled with this concept originally, as my understanding lacked practical depth. During English writing objectives, I was expected to scribe for certain children after probing them to articulate themselves. I found this problematic, as it assumed that these children could express themselves orally and only struggled with writing. I understood that this was a genuine effort to avoid differentiating by task and communicating to the children that they were capable of completing the same task. In reality, the children were not expressing any ideas, and this resulted in them copying a board. Upon questioning them, I discovered that they still perceived their task as different, because they were not doing it independently.

Discussing this with my teacher, we ascertained that high expectations could be more effectively communicated by expecting all children to work independently and regularly changing support groups (CCF, 5.20). Although it seems like the same few pupils require constant small group support, I now realise that adaptive teaching is an approach meant to broaden our understanding of how to provide support. When the children were given a word mat that indicated meaning with symbols, they were able to start expressing their understanding independently, with little guidance. While other children did not have this support, all children were working independently and were given equal attention. I observed the positive psychological impact on students who felt that we were raising prior expectations.

As Coe et al. (2020, p.6) highlight, feelings of competence and autonomy are pivotal in promoting “learner motivation”. Additionally, they point out that “progressing…from structured to more independent learning” aids pupils to activate “hard thinking”. Adaptive teaching has the potential to lift children from the cycle of constantly requiring support to superficially meet an outcome that will not progress their understanding and will only lead to them requiring more support in future.

Although I do regret not taking initiative sooner, as I will not be able to observe long-term outcome improvement, my developed understanding of high expectations and adaptive teaching will have strong implications in my next placement, as I have grown my confidence and resourcefulness in supporting children appropriately. This is a point in my teaching where the WTV of creativity will greatly support development. By finding creative ways to scaffold learning, it is possible to communicate high expectations and creating a supportive learning environment.


Amass, H. (2021) “Differentiation: the dos and don’ts,” Tes Global Ltd, 16 April.

Coe, R. et al. (2020) Great teaching toolkit: Evidence Review, Great Teaching Toolkit. Cambridge Assessment International Education. Available at: (Accessed: April 14, 2023).

DfE (2019) ITT Core Content Framework available online at:

Department for Education (2011) Teachers' Standards. Available at:

Deunk, M., Smale-Jacobse, A., de Boer, H., Doolaard, S. and Bosker, R. (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) pp.31-54.

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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