an extract from an email I recently sent to whole staff with a few useful links (not sure links have worked here so copied them again at the bottom):
More recently in SEND, the idea of differentiation has had a bad press and the term has fallen out of favour. There are a few reasons why this is the case, probably most importantly because it risks a lowering of expectations for SEND students. The idea of differentiation has been to modify content, environment, expectations or presentation, but this is problematic because the interpretation could be to modify by lowering and reducing, thus giving our SEN cohort an inferior educational experience, albeit that differentiation was done with the best intentions for the learners. Instead, as teachers, we need to maintain really high expectations of SEN students and adapt the learning opportunities that all students are given.
In parallel to the shift from differentiation, there was a move away from the practice of routinely withdrawing students from lessons to give something different to meet their needs, particularly with non-teaching staff, because research has shown that this is disadvantageous to students. (See research around Maximising the impact of TAs, for example here: DISS Home | classsizeresearch or here: The deployment and impact of support staff in schools: research brief – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) . This transformed the way in-class support is deployed to where we are now with LSAs working with you in lessons to meet needs. Students with SEND are having the same quality teaching as their peers, but with the adaptation of carefully deployed support staff.
Today’s expectation is for learning to be adapted to allow those with SEND to progress and achieve, with reasonable adjustments in place to support their needs.
Moving from differentiation to adaptive teaching
The Education Endowment Fund have an easy to read blog delving into adaptive teaching, Jon Eaton of Kingsbridge Research School writes about looking at existing assessment procedures before implementing adaptive teaching in his school trust:
Adaptive teaching requires us to respond to on-going assessment, adapting pedagogy. It “is what you think it is: being responsive to information about learning, then adjusting teaching to better match pupil need. In that respect, it’s a helpful term that does what it says on the tin.”
Read more here.
As an article in TES says, the adaptive teaching approach “emphasises the need for teachers to personalise learning for their pupils while doing away with the idea that this requires entirely different learning activities to match each child’s level of understanding, as is the case in certain iterations of differentiation.”