“Differentiation is about focusing on the quality of the learning experience in order to make learning as effective as possible within given constraints”   Waters P (1995) 

An article looking at how the Geography department differentiate by:

Through schemes of work

  • By Task
  • By Teaching style
  • Through varied stimuli
  • Through supported self study
  • Through varied learning activities
  • Through groupings
  • Tasks that help develop resilience and independence.
  • Use probing question and answer sessions.
  • Create a climate of enquiry’
  • Target Setting and Feedback

Why we differentiate in Geography?

All students, to a greater or lesser extent, have special needs and that it is the professional responsibility of the teacher to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to achieve at their highest possible level. The Department recognises that all pupils need to experience success if they are to retain their interest and enthusiasm.

The Department believes that all students should have access to the curriculum. This is achieved by

  • Varying the teaching and learning style used
  • Provision of differentiated learning materials
  • Differentiated schemes of work
  • Giving the students the opportunity for individualised learning through more open ended tasks i.e. Research Homework’s.

The department endeavours to:

  • Provide a rich and challenging curriculum that stimulates every student to fulfil their potential whether the student is most able or has difficulties in Geography.
  • Maintain high but achievable expectations of each student.
  • Emphasise student achievements in every sphere.

How we differentiate in Geography – Through schemes of work

  • Foundation schemes of work at KS3 allow for a different route through the National Curriculum Units.
  • Extension tasks are shown on schemes of work for those students who complete work ahead of the rest of the class.
  • Top groups will use the resources in different ways to other groups.
  • Initial planning of Schemes of work  needs to incorporate around the “all must”,  “most should” and “some could” headings.

How we differentiate in Geography –  By Task

  • Different pupils are set different tasks, to satisfy specific needs or extension tasks are set. This will include differentiated learning materials.
  • Tasks can differentiate by outcome. i.e. Assessments These can be controlled in terms of environment (within the classroom)  and timed to allow a fair comparison

How we differentiate in Geography – By Teaching style

  • Teacher centred – the teacher defines the theories, principles, concepts or terms that the student needs to learn and organizes them into a sequenced set of goals or objectives.
  • Demonstrations – The teacher may be the one who demonstrates the procedures; students may be the ones practicing the procedures, or some combination of both.
  • Student centred learning – much more responsibility placed on the students to take the initiative for meeting the demands of various learning tasks. Teachers typically design group activities which necessitate active learning, student-to-student collaboration and problem solving.
  • Delegation — students are given a choice in designing and implementing their own learning  and with the teacher acting  in a consultative role.

How we differentiate in Geography – Through varied stimuli

  • A wide variety of written, photographic, visual, ICT and sound stimuli are used to varying the learning experience to meet the learning styles of different learners.
  • Resource packs are used to enhance motivation and allow students to work at their own pace.
  • Use of alternative textbooks and worksheets with a different design and reading levels.
  • Use of technologies such as scientific calculators, spell-checkers, tapes, Dictaphone, laptops etc.
  • Modified photocopies {enlarged, simplified, annotated etc.}.

How we differentiate in Geography – Through supported self study

  • The provision of background materials to support specific themes or case studies, enabling students to work alone or pursue their own interests.
  • Giving the students the opportunity for individualised learning through more opens ended tasks i.e. Research Homework’s
  • Providing extra material on the VLE that supports lessons and homework tasks
  • Using “Diigo” to encourage students to read around more

How we differentiate in Geography – Through varied learning activities

  • We aim to incorporate a very wide variety of tasks in our scheme of work  thus satisfying a range of student learning styles and thinking skills. These may involve problem solving exercises, role-play, and decision- making exercises.
  • Sometimes all students in one class need not necessarily work on the same type of activity.
  • We aim to provide opportunities for choice of how the Homework is completed.

How we differentiate in Geography – Through groupings

Different groupings are arranged in lessons so that students of similar ability can work together. At other times students of a wide variety of abilities work in one group.

KS3 Year 7 groups are mixed ability. Year 8 and 9 have a top group 2 mixed ability middle groups and a Foundation group.

KS4 The Department sets GCSE classes roughly dependent upon ability if the structure of the timetable allows. Students are guided when choosing their options where possible to ensure that they are placed correctly.

The OCR B syllabus has 2 tiers of entry

  • Higher Paper (Grades A* – D)
  • Foundation Paper (C – U)

Decisions about entry are made using

  • Coursework marks
  • Mock performance
  • Standard of written analysis

The Controlled Assessment has been designed to ensure that it is accessible to the full range of abilities and that it also allows the most able to achieve 100%.

KS5 Despite the fact that “AS / A2” level classes are differentiated by the selection policy for allowing students onto “AS /A2” level courses it is important to remember that they are, like all groups of people, a mixed ability group. Differentiation is primarily by outcome.  The opportunities for differentiation are restricted by the fact that the material delivered must be of “AS / A2 “ standard.  Differentiation is achieved through

How we differentiate in Geography – Tasks that help develop resilience and independence.

This is often best done with research tasks or open ended problem solving activities. Such activities are integral to geography and staff must ensure that the nature of the tasks set is challenging but also provide necessary knowledge and skills. A number of assessments in Geography include difficult questions to try and make students think differently or consider how they have made decisions.

How we differentiate in Geography – Through questioning.

Rigorous and searching questioning is a vital tool for differentiating in the classroom. This will  also allow the incorporation of  Higher order thinking skills (HOTs).

How we differentiate in Geography – Create a climate of enquiry’

In the classroom,  students should feel able to speak, confident to air their ideas and unafraid of being wrong. An able student should be allowed to take risks in their thinking and to ‘think out loud’.

How we differentiate in Geography – Target Setting and Feedback

This needs to be done on an individualised basis from which students are made aware of “What went well” (W.W.W.) and how they could improve their work “Even better if” (E.B.I.).  Individual oral target setting by staff in lessons is needed to accompany Individual target setting by staff when marking of books.



  • Differentiation and classroom practice, Waters P (1995), Teaching Geography
  • Image from Wikimedia