Session 307: Differentiation for all

Thursday 16th June 2016

Following our online poll, the winning topic chosen was for this UKEdChat session was, “Differentiating for all – Best strategies / resources to ensure effective personalisation”.

The questions asked were:

  1. Is differentiation even desirable? Why (why not)?
  2. How do you ensure differentiation works in your classroom?
  3. With the constraints we face, is true personalised learning possible?
  4. How many levels of differentiation do your normally plan for? Is it manageable?
  5. Marking and differentiation. How does this work in your classroom?
  6. What does personalised learning look like in your classroom?


Differentiation. The bane of a teacher’s life. Planning for differentiation can be a monotonous task. Some pupils will be great at one subject, yet weak on another subject. Differentiation by outcome; differentiation by planning; differentiation by activity. Or just teach to the middle, and hope those at the opposite ends of the spectrum can keep up! Aaarrgghh! Although differentiation is desirable, is it really workable, especially as pressures to reduce workloads are promoted.

“Children and learning are not uniform-teaching shouldn’t be either”, was the call from Sharon Smith whereas Mr Brogan observed that, “Differentiation should provide multiple ways to achieve the outcome”. So by ensuring differentiation works in your classroom, we were interested to know what it all looks like in reality. The model shared by Sharon Smith sounded reasonable, “learning outcomes, range of tasks, frequent use of AFL, flipped learning tasks and loads of peer/group interaction”, although Andy Knill advocated the use of SOLO taxonomy which, “most pupils found easy as a concept to access”. Debbie Fisher noted how, “sometimes pressure to show obvious differentiation. sometimes differentiation by support I.e. prompts allows all to do same work”, which is when many problems with differentiation can emerge from.

An interesting challenge about differentiation was offered by Ben Culverhouse who argued, “I think that a lot of kids these days often lack the desire to do their best, and that things like differentiation don’t help” – Certainly a worthy discussion point which could be discussed in staff meetings, along with the reply from Jensonator claiming, “we promote “high expectations” but excessively “dumb down” challenges and call it differentiation”. Anyone guilty of this?

The discussion progressed onto talking about personalised learning, which can be beneficial once set up carefully. Nico Van den Abeele pointed out that, “with technology on our side, this is perfectly possible, eg flipping the classroom!” – very much so, but many individuals still have some way to go with their own personalisation goals to improve technical competence – not necessarily our pupils.

When asked what is the normal number of differentiation that is planned for, the general concurrence was 3, although a few admitted to four or five, but when ‘marking’ is added to the mix, a combination of strategies were revealed. Miss Wright noted that, “oral,peer,written,recorded on digital portfolios. Mix it up to keep it meaningful & avoid heavy workloads”

Read through the Storify archive below to see more from the session.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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