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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02366

Differentiated Instruction in Secondary Education: A Systematic Review of Research Evidence

  • 1University of Groningen, Netherlands

This paper provides an overview of theoretical conceptualizations of differentiated instruction and prior findings on its effects for student achievement. Furthermore, by means of a systematic review of the literature from 2006-2016, empirical evidence on the effects of within-class differentiated instruction on secondary school students’ academic achievement is evaluated. Although differentiated instruction has currently gained a lot attention in education, only eleven empirical studies on the topic were selected for review. A narrative description of the selected papers shows that differentiated instruction has been operationalized in many different ways. The selection includes studies on generic teacher trainings for differentiated instruction, ability grouping and tiering, individualization, mastery learning, heterogeneous grouping and remediation in flipped classroom lessons. The majority of the studies show small to moderate positive effects of differentiated instruction on student achievement which gives some indication of the possible benefits of differentiated instruction. However, more research is needed before drawing convincing conclusions regarding the effectiveness and value of different approaches to differentiated instruction for secondary school classes.

Keywords: effectiveness, Student performance, Secondary education, ability grouping, Adaptive teaching, differentiated instruction (DI), differentiation, review

Received: 14 May 2019; Accepted: 04 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Smale-Jacobse, Meijer, Helms-Lorenz and Maulana. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Annemieke E. Smale-Jacobse, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands,