A scoping review of 20 years of research on differentiation: investigating conceptualisation, characteristics, and methods used

Linda J. Graham, Kate de Bruin, Carly Lassig, Ilektra Spandagou

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    The use of a pedagogical practice known as ‘differentiation’ has become more common over time as educators have sought to respond to increases in the diversity of students enrolling in their local school. However, there are now so many misperceptions and definitional inconsistencies that it is difficult to know what is being enacted in the name of differentiation or indeed what is being researched internationally. The aim of this scoping review was to identify key characteristics of and conceptualisations within peer-reviewed empirical research on differentiation published between 1999 and 2019, as well as to map the ways in which this body of research was produced. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used to inform a systematic screening process and resulted in a final sample of 34 articles focusing on differentiation in regular schools. Half were conducted in the United States and most in the elementary school phase. Survey and case study designs were dominant, as was research of and influences on teacher practice. Only a small group of studies focused on differentiation's impact on student outcomes and these typically only examined specific elements of differentiation or its use in specific academic domains. The diversity of focus and methodological approaches across the 34 studies prevents comparison of findings and weakens the evidential basis to make claims of either differentiation's effectiveness or indeed its ineffectiveness. The review concludes with recommendations for future research and practice in this important area of practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-198
    Number of pages38
    JournalReview of Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


    • differentiation
    • inclusive education
    • student diversity
    • teacher practices

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