Differentiation can be defined as “the process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that all students in a group have the best possible chance of learning” according to the TDA in BBC Active (2010). Moreover BBC Active (2010) states three areas which may result in differentiation: “readiness to learn; learning needs and interest”. Although it acknowledges that these are very broad terms, BBC Active suggests further methods.
The DCSF (2008) however, uses the term ‘Personalised Learning’ where the expectation is that “a child’s chances of success are not limited by their socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity or any disability”. The definition and shift in term used, suggests a holistic approach as opposed to an occurrence which is only apparent within the classroom environment. The DCSF (2008) suggests that ‘Personalised Learning’ encompasses: high quality teaching and learning; target setting and tracking; focused assessment; intervention; pupil grouping; learning environment; curriculum organisation; the extended curriculum and supporting the child’s wider needs, with an emphasis on using these nine key features to form evaluative evidence for schools. Adversely, the NCETM (2014) challenges the way teachers have historically differentiated in primary school classrooms stating that the way teachers differentiate “…has had, and continues to have, a very negative effect on the mathematical attainment of our children at primary school and throughout their education.” Continuing to discuss how teachers challenge the ‘more able’ children and limit the ‘less able’ children, the NCETM (2014) discuss how teachers often share only half of the content with the ‘less able’ and create a ‘race-like’ classroom with the higher attaining children. Gibb 2014 (in DFE 2014) agrees that “differentiation in primary schools saw classes being taught in different groups, pupils expected to progress at different rates and acceleration on to new topics for those doing well rather than consolidation.”
Differentiation, according to BBC Active (2010) can be achieved by focusing on seven methods: task; outcome; pace; resources; grouping; assessment; dialogue and support. More recently, Learning Wales (2015) suggests that the seven methods for differentiation are: learning objectives; tasks; questioning and dialogue; resources; time and grouping, noting the exclusion of ‘outcome’ and ‘pace’ with a replacement of ‘learning objectives’ and ‘time’ and ‘dialogue and support’ being replaced with ‘dialogue and questioning’.