Differentiation is a pedagogical approach that considers student heterogeneity in the classroom. Most of the literature on differentiated teaching proposes a constructivist or socio-constructivist perspective. This pedagogical vision is not based on evidence. Jobin and Gauthier stated in 2008 that “the general meaning of this concept [differentiated instruction] still eludes us, as do its methods of application”. This is similar to what Kershner and Miles affirmed in 1996: “I think it's a term that is like a bar of soap, you try to grab it and suddenly it's out of your hand”. However, there is a different, more research-based approach to differentiation, namely the Response to Intervention (RtI) model.
Research from last decades have shown that school plays a critical role in the achievement of students from disadvantaged social backgrounds and that the teacher’s pedagogical choices can be decisive for students’ academic achievement. Among the existing pedagogical orientations, two methods stand out and are frequently contrasted.
Teaching or confusing the students? What the research tells us about the idea that «the teaching method must be varied»
Belgium and several other countries are discussing the possibility to base pedagogical choices on the competencies approach, the discovery approach, and pedagogical differentiation. Based on recent research, Clermont Gauthier, Steve Bissonnette and Marie Bocquillon criticise those proposals, but they point out that the teacher's action must maintain a stable orientation and vary learning activities according to the subject and the students, and not because of the idea that it is necessary to vary.