Chapter 4: Meeting Individual Differences

Chapter 4 is about meeting individual differences. It has six sections, covering grouping, adolescence, cognitive development, diversity, values and inclusion.

The explainer video summarises these six key areas to provide an overview of the chapter.

To support you with unit 4.1, we have provided you with Task 4.1.4 ‘What do you understand by adaptive teaching?’. This asks you to use the EEF website link and reflect on your understanding. We’ve also provided the weblink for Task 4.1.6 ‘Lesson planning for adaptive teaching’ so that you can select a set of photos to carry out the lesson planning task.

To support you with unit 4.2, we have provided the summary and key points from the book.

To support you with unit 4.3, we have provided a set of additional materials provided by the author as a downloadable PDF. As well as this, there is a free test based on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. The pendulum task referred to in this chapter relates to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development – we’ve provided a video link, which will explain this in more depth. Use this knowledge to think about the common-sense beliefs and naïve conceptions you may encounter in your classes with different aged pupils. Getting to know the curriculum structure and content will help you to engage with pupils at their level of cognitive development. Finally, we have linked Sarah Jane Blakemore’s introduction to the workings of the brain, which illustrates important changes that take place during adolescence.

To support you with unit 4.4, we have provided a set of link because actively recognising different pupil characteristics is important for meeting their needs, so you may find it useful to look more deeply at data for yourself.

To support you with unit 4.5, we have provided a PDF on managing discussion and Task 4.5.1 Reflecting on Teacher’s Values from p. 272 of the book. As well as these, we have given a values-based education video link and suggest you watch the video and consider how you might adapt the completed positive human values diagram at 01:35. Apply your learning to Task 4.5.5 Critical Incidents from p. 275 of the book.

To support you with unit 4.6, we have provided you with Chapter 4.6 from the 8th edition as a PDF download, which will give you a good historical policy overview. We’ve also provided a Special Educational Needs Provision Timeline and Task 4.6.2 Diversity in the classroom from p. 280-81 of the book. We also invite you to explore the SENCO website.

Meeting Individual Differences

Understanding and meeting individual needs

4.1 Pupil Grouping, Progression and Adaptive Teaching


Task 4.1.4 What do you understand by adaptive teaching?

How would you describe the term adaptive teaching?

You might like to read the blog by Mould (2021) to help you with this task.

Using this description, what do you think this means for practice in the classroom?

Observe your mentor or another teacher teaching a class and write notes on:

  • How they organised the class to enable learning needs to be addressed (e.g. seating arrangements, how pupils were grouped)
  • Whether learning outcomes were adapted (in which case, how different pupils knew which learning outcomes they were working towards) or whether different tasks were set to enable pupils to work towards the same learning outcomes
  • How work was scaffolded to support some pupils and what work some pupils moved onto in order to challenge them further
  • What teaching approaches they used to cater for different learning needs
  • How subject content was presented for pupils with different learning needs
  • How work built on pupils’ interests, social and cultural experiences
  • Whether the pace of work was appropriate for all pupils to have a chance to learn effectively and achieve success.

After the lesson, discuss with your mentor or teacher observed:

  • if and how the lesson was adapted prior to the lesson so it was appropriate for this specific class and/or if it was adapted during the lesson for the needs of that class in that particular lesson
  • how effective the various adaptations to the lesson were for the needs of all pupils.

Task 4.1.6 Lesson planning for adaptive teaching: one stimulus with different tasks and/or outcomes

You have a set of photographs showing the changing landscape of London from 1850 to present. (If you do not like the choice of photographs, choose your own stimulus, for example, an astronaut working in a space lab, a contemporary image/photo from the news, or an environmental activist at work. Images can be found on websites like Describe two or more ways in which you could use these photographs to teach your subject. Confine your discussion to one to two lessons with a class you teach. For each example, identify:

  • how you use the photographs;
  • the activities you set your pupils;
  • the objectives and learning outcomes;
  • how you assess outcomes;
  • the ways in which the activities are adapted.

Discuss with your mentor your plan, how tasks and/or outcomes have been adapted for your pupils and why your choice of task, learning outcomes and assessments (e.g. through different outcomes of different types of assessment) are appropriate.


Modifying lesson planning

Select one of these pupils and consider how their presence in your class would modify your lesson planning.

4.2 Adolescence, Health and Wellbeing


Summary and key points

  • Adolescence involves physical, mental, social and emotional changes leading towards maturity and results in dramatic changes in young people. These changes may cause nervous introspection: ‘Am I growing normally, am I too tall, too short, too fat? Am I physically attractive to others?’
  • Personal appearance assumes a growing importance and causes sensitivity. Girls mature physically earlier than boys, but the range of development of both boys and girls is wide. The range of physical differences between pupils means that, at the same age, pupils react quite differently to tasks and situations in school.
  • Young people are taller and heavier than previous generations, in part owing to improved diets. But the obesogenic environment of modern society, the more sedentary lifestyle and increased consumption of unhealthy foods can lead to overweight and obesity. There is growing concern about the rising numbers of overweight and obese pupils and adults and the physical, social, and psychological effects this may have on the individual (DoHSC, 2020).
  • The social and emotional effects of obesity on young people can be as damaging as the health risks. A number of other issues affecting the health of adolescents have not been raised including smoking, drinking and drug use, mental health and sexual health. These are discussed further in the report on children and young people’s mental health (British Medical Association, 2016).
  • Schools have a big role to play in helping pupils through adolescence with the minimum of disruption, to understand the changes in their bodies, to be comfortable with themselves as they are and how they look.
  • Schools play an important part in ensuring that pupils have access to a healthy diet and that they understand its importance to them now and in the future. Involving pupils in understanding and learning about themselves through active participation encourages confidence and supports a positive self-image (see also Unit 5.2). The pupil who feels valued for their contribution is a pupil who is likely to have good self-esteem.
  • All teachers have the opportunity to contribute to the health and wellbeing development of their pupils and engender the self-confidence in young people to take control of this aspect of their lives. Self-confidence may help them to resist advertising pressures related to certain foods or, for example, to challenge what is said to be a fashionable appearance.
  • Check which requirements for your ITE programme you have addressed through this unit.

4.3 Cognitive Development


Additional materials to support Chapter 4.3

Use this download to learn some more about the nature of intelligence. Included in this download are Tasks 4.3.5, 4.3.6 and 4.3.7.

4.3 Additional Materials to Support Chapter 4.3

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Follow this link to have a go at a quiz based on Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. This will allow you to understand your competencies and preferred learning styles.


Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

The pendulum task referred to in this chapter relates to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development – this video will explain this in more depth. Use this knowledge to think about the common-sense beliefs and naïve conceptions you may encounter in your classes with different aged pupils. Getting to know the curriculum structure and content will help you to engage with pupils at their level of cognitive development.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development


The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

See also Sarah Jane Blakemore’s introduction to the workings of the brain and illustrates important changes that take place during adolescence.

4.4 Responding to Diversity


Actively recognising different pupil characteristics is important for meeting their needs. In addition to the tasks within the chapter, you may find it useful to look more deeply at data for yourself:

GCSE and A Level results

EAL (english as an additional language)

Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils

4.5 Values Education: Discussion and Deliberation


Managing discussion

Managing Discussion Download

Task 4.5.1 Reflecting on teacher’s values

The task draws on the Teachers’ Standards in England (DfE, 2011b, updated July 2021). Look particularly at the Preamble as well as the standards.

Look particularly at the Preamble as well as the standards.

  • Do you believe that these should be your core values as a teacher? Are there any you do not agree with?
  • Are there any aspects that may be more difficult to apply than others?
  • Are there any issues that you think you might experience in putting these values into place?
  • Are there any aspects of the values relating to teaching that you think are missing here?

Discuss this information with your mentor.


Values-based education

Watch the values-based education video and consider how you might adapt the completed positive human values diagram at 01:35

VbE Doodle


Task 4.5.5 critical incidents

Read through the following extracts and discuss the two cases with another beginning teacher, or in a group. There are prompt questions to support your reflections.

Some questions to support discussion:

  • What would you do in each of these cases if you were the teacher?
  • What advice would you give to the pupils?
  • Can you imagine any difficult decisions you might have to take? If so, explain the considerations.
  • If you didn’t know what to do, do you know where to get the advice and support you need to help you manage challenging situations?
  • How do the situations relate to the particular formulation of the ethical responsibilities of teachers as stated in your course requirements or accreditation standards?

M level – What issues are raised by these cases. Discuss and justify your response with relation to theory and research (1,500 words).

4.6 An introduction to inclusion, special educational needs and disability


Chapter 4.6

This chapter from the previous edition of Learning to Teach in the Secondary School has been included as it gives a good historical policy overview.

Chapter 4.6 from 8th edition

Historical context to policies and statutory frameworks

Historical context to policies and statutory frameworks

This section discusses key SEND policies and legislations – also see the downloadable chapter above (Peacey, 2019) and Hodkinson’s historical analysis (in Key Issues in Special Educational Needs, Disability and Inclusion, 2019) which provide a comprehensive policy explanation. The Warnock Report (1978) was a significant UK education milestone, replacing outdated categories of ‘handicap’ with the continuum of special needs. Warnock pushed to include parental input in the education of children with SEND, recommending where possible that children with SEND be educated in mainstream schools. The subsequent Education Act 1981 included many of Warnock’s recommendations, such as educating children with SEND in mainstream schools, requiring every teacher to have responsibility for educating pupils with SEND, and the development of the Statement, a legal document for children with more severe SEND outlining provisions and entitlements after a statutory assessment.

In England and Wales, the first SEN Code of Practice (CoP) was developed in 1994, mandating all local authorities to provide SEN provisions for pupils regardless of school placement settings (DfE, 1994a). The CoP 1994 outlined five stages in SEN assessment and introduced the role of SENCos. The practical guidance in this CoP echoed the global push for inclusive education (e.g. Salamanca Statement by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO, 1994b)). Whilst the CoP 1994 made an important contribution in terms of SEN assessment, it incorporated little guidance about inclusive classroom practice. Consequently, schools increasingly relied on local authorities to fund provisions and statutory assessment referrals. A revised CoP (Department for Education and Skills (DfES), 2001) introduced ‘School Action’ and ‘School Action Plus’ in England, a staged approach requiring schools to demonstrate that they had used their own resources to work with a child before requesting local authorities for support.

Despite progress in recent decades in including children with SEND within mainstream schools in England, parents of children with SEND were still excluded from key schooling decisions. The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced an updated SEND CoP (DfE and DoH, 2015) which superseded all previous CoP. This chapter will reference the SEND CoP 2015 throughout.

The CoP 2015 outlines a graduated approach to identifying and supporting pupils with SEND, involving four stages of action: assess, plan, do and review which is coordinated by the SENCo (DfE and DoH, 2015, p.100). A pupil with SEND could avail two levels of support depending on ongoing assessment and review of their difficulties:

  • SEND support: If a pupil is identified with SEND, schools should utilise their own resources to arrange provisions to support learning and remove barriers. This may entail working with external stakeholders and specialists. If the pupil does not progress as expected, the school or parents can seek referral for Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment.
  • Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP): Usually formulated after an EHC assessment from the local authority involving different professionals. EHCP outlines statutory guidance for requisite resources and interventions, and the roles of different stakeholders to ensure the pupil makes sufficient academic and social progress.

Task 4.6.2 Diversity in the classroom

The CoP outlines your statutory responsibilities as a teacher in England in relation to pupils’ SEND.

  • Talk to your mentor about the range of diverse needs in your classroom, and the specific statutory duties that you have as a beginning teacher – e.g. what is the government guidance on the identification, assessment and diagnosis of SEND?
  • What are the statutory documents that you need to maintain in order to evidence provision for a pupil – e.g., an individual education plan (IEP) or a pupil passport?

Are there national guidelines for all schools to follow, or does your school have its own guidelines regarding the evidence of support you need to collate for each pupil?

SENCO website

Explore the SENCO website in addition to the links given in the chapter. This website was created to provide SENCOs and other professionals with evidence based approaches and resources to help meet the needs of vulnerable children.

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