Adaptivity of teachers’ differential instructional practice in Dutch secondary education

Lieke Jager

In their daily practice, teachers interact with diverse groups of students for whom they are expected to provide optimal learning opportunities. Within-class differentiation is currently emphasized as the mean to reach such optimal learning environments. Empirical research points to positive as well as negative effects of differentiated teacher behaviour on student outcomes, teachers’ adaptive and differential behaviours are not desirable per se and need more consideration.

Although research is available that studies teacher differentiated practice and the effects on student learning, the various perspectives from which this research has been conducted have not yet been connected well in educational research. Some studies address teachers’ differential practices as a conscious practice influenced by rational judgement regarding their student needs. Other studies investigate these practices as potentially unconscious practices influenced by teachers’ implicit beliefs regarding their students.

In this research project it is explored how teachers in secondary education come to their adaptive instructional practices combining both perspectives. The explanatory value of both perspectives regarding teachers’ differentiation practices will be studied thereby aiming to develop more fundamental theoretical as well as practical knowledge regarding adaptive teaching. Understanding the mechanisms underlying teachers adaptive instructional practices deems necessary for further theoretical understanding of adaptive teaching as well as the development of programs that aim to support teachers in their adaptive practices.