A Practical Approach to Differentiated Instruction: How Biology Teachers Redesigned Their Genetics and Ecology Lessons

Arjan de Graaf*, Hanna Westbroek, Fred Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study we investigated how a theoretical framework we developed for making differentiated instruction practical worked out in a trajectory (1 year, 5 sessions) that aimed to support 5 secondary biology teachers in designing differentiated instruction practices. The key feature of the framework is the development of cost-effective procedures—heuristics—that aim to support teachers in redesigning their lessons into differentiated instruction (instrumentality) that sufficiently match their work context (congruence), within a limited amount of time and with limited resources (low cost). Our research questions were as follows: Did the heuristic support enable the 5 biology teachers to design differentiated instruction lessons? Did the teachers consider the design and enactment of the lessons practical? To answer our questions we collected the following data: lesson designs and recordings of regular lessons and of redesigned lessons, expected value and perceived advantages and disadvantages to determine how the teachers valued the redesign of their lessons and why, and student responses to a short questionnaire to gain some insight into how they valued the lessons. We found that all 5 teachers were able and willing to apply the heuristics in a way that balanced their goals of controlling the learning processes combined with handing over responsibility to the student. Although it was conducted on a small scale, we contend that our study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of what teachers consider to be practical support for changing their teaching practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-23
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Science Teacher Education
Issue number1
Early online date16 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • differentiated teaching
  • practical design support
  • secondary biology education


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