What to teach




The most widely accepted theory of learning is that people actively make their own understanding by interpreting, processing and making meaning of new knowledge in relation to their current existing knowledge. This presents challenges for a teacher.

If personal experiences are integral to learning, then not all learners share the same opportunities to learn. Different learners bring different backgrounds and capabilities to learning.

Depending on how their previous experiences influence their thinking, they might understand a task in quite different ways, use different reasoning or skills in trying to achieve the learning, and/or understand what constitutes ‘success’ in quite different terms.

Given this state of affairs, how can the teacher offer equitable opportunities to learn in his or her classroom? How can a teacher meet the individual learning needs of each learner in the class?

This burden of differentiating instruction for each learner is most often placed on the teachers but is this even possible to achieve? How much more powerful can differentiation be if shared with the learner? How can we do this?

  • share their results with them,
  • assist them in the interpretation of their results and their feedback,
  • guide them in the analysis of their own understanding – what do they already know? What don’t they know yet but are expected to know?

Technology offers opportunities to customise learning especially in catching up backlogs. On-line resource libraries such as Khan Academy can be used to match particular videos to learners’ diagnostic assessment results to target learning gaps.

Remember: if we can show learners what grade they are stuck at for specific topics then they can engage with resources at their effective grade level to catch up themselves.

Learners for Excellence students were guided through this approach while receiving catch-up support customised to each of their identified gaps.

For the next two years, the students continued to receive grade-level support. But no further focus on catching up was needed.




  1. Differentiation: Closing the Gap between Frustration and Success – by Kelsey Eursery