Explained: Adaptive Teaching

Welcome to the new Explained series, demystifying education theory, ideas and buzzwords.

What is adaptive teaching and why do we need it?

Adaptive teaching is an evolution of differentiation that focuses on the entire class while still responding to individual student needs. It involves knowing your pupils’ prior levels of attainment and providing targeted support.

We need it mostly because it is a hallmark of good teaching and it is proven to raise student outcomes. It is also an integral part of the Teachers’ Standards, Early Career Framework, and Ofsted inspections.

What are the benefits of adaptive teaching?

  • PISA states that “adaptive instruction” is one of the approaches most positively correlated with student performance.
  • Teachers can develop an understanding of pupil needs and provide opportunities for all pupils to experience success.
  • Adaptive teaching is a useful strategy for the creation of a fully inclusive classroom.

What are the dangers and challenges of adaptive teaching?

  • Easily slips into the dilemmas plaguing differentiation – namely, reducing the curriculum and therefore outcomes for certain groups of students.
  • Tempts teachers to engage with debunked educational theories, such as learning styles or children’s stages of development.
  • If utilised inappropriately, prompts teachers to splinter classes into too many different groups, creating an impossible workload.
  • Is a challenge to implement correctly.

What are the key questions you need to think about when discussing adaptive teaching in your school?

  • Are there existing assumptions about differentiation that need addressing?
  • Are staff aware of the term ​‘adaptive teaching’? What do they understand by it? How could you find out?
  • If it’s relatively new, what would be the rationale for introducing it?
  • What will motivate staff to value this approach? What will sustain the momentum and help embed the approach?
  • Is there a helpful sequence for building staff knowledge and techniques for effective adaptive teaching?

Want to learn more? Watch the video below.

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The Explained Series

This series of videos and blogs is all about demystifying the latest ideas, concepts, theories and buzz words you hear about in education.

Do you have a topic you need to get a better grip of and want to cut through the waffle? Let us know! Email Luke.Kemper@haringeyeducationpartnership.co.uk

About the Author:

Luke Kemper

Luke Kemper is Insight and Intelligence Lead at HEP. He recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development. Before that, he worked for seven years as a university lecturer and high school teacher in China and Poland.

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