Learning is promoted when teaching support is tailored to what a pupil or student needs.

  • In what learning activities during my teaching do I need to differentiate in particular?
  • Based on which characteristics of pupils and students should I adapt my teaching?
  • How do I find out what the learning needs of pupils and students are?
  • How do I adapt my teaching if pupils and students are not motivated to learn?
  • How do I adapt the content of my teaching to the interests of pupils and students?

What does it mean and why is it important?

In adaptive approaches, teaching is tailored to the learning needs and motivation of pupils and students so that each pupil or student learns and develops as much as possible. Therefore, this teaching-learning principle has a close relationship with the principle on Inclusive teaching.

Other related terms are personalised education and differentiated education. Adaptive teaching is more a specific way of looking at learning and teaching than a teaching approach. As a rule, adaptive education differentiates in terms of the content and level of difficulty of the subject matter, how the subject matter is mastered, and how the pupils and students respond to the teaching. Adaptive education can be organised in the following ways:

  1. Time allocation – how much time is available for assimilating the learning material
  2. Pace – how quickly learning material is offered or processed
  3. Order of tasks – order in which material is presented
  4. Practice -how and to what extent pupils and students practice with tasks
  5. Testing – way in which what is learned is tested

Adaptive teaching does not say anything about who makes this teaching adaptive or personalised. This can vary from by pupils and students themselves (as in self-regulation), by a teacher (as in differentiated teaching) or by an ICT tool (as in digital exercise programmes).

Practical implications

The Scrum© method is a method adopted from the business world to use technology to learn content incrementally and adaptively, in this case in chemistry education in upper secondary schools.

Overview (in Dutch) of game elements in digital exercise programmes for primary and secondary school pupils.

This book (in Dutch) elaborates how you can design and teach task-based and adaptive education in a practical way, by flipping and selectively omitting parts of your existing lessons. Backgrounds, tips and examples are elaborated for all school subjects.

The SpeakTeach© didactic is a method of using feedback to improve students’ language skills. But how can you tailor feedback, explanations and exercises to individual learners to improve their conversational skills in regular classes with limited time and resources? It includes tools for your teaching practice and teaching materials and ideas for improving speaking and conversation skills teaching in Modern Foreign Languages.

Research projects

NRO projects
  • DOEN use learning analytics in the classroom

Practical research at five secondary schools that are working on professionalisation for their teachers in order to use learning analytics in education and thus make their teaching more personalised.

  • Breakthrough ICT and Education

National project at 90 primary and secondary schools on how they use ICT to support personalised learning of pupils. Effects of interventions on personalised education were mapped for motivation for learning, self-regulation skills and cognitive learning outcomes. Interventions can be under the control of learners (adaptive teaching), of teachers (differentiated teaching) or ict (adaptive exercise programmes).

  • Gamification in digital exercise programmes

Literature research on the effects of gamification in digital exercise programmes for language and mathematics (po, vo, mbo and ho). Pupils and students need sufficient practice to acquire proficiency in the subjects of language and mathematics. To encourage them to practice more often, digital practice programmes with game elements (gamification) are used.

  • Use of automated feedback in the classroom

Practice study on teachers’ use of learning analytics. Five Dutch teachers from the Fons Vitae school in Amsterdam have used in the first grade of Dutch secondary education (K12) to let their students practise spelling and grammar and, based on the data generated, tailor their teaching to the needs and abilities of their students.

PhD tracks

Scholarly publications

  • Admiraal, W., Post, L., Lockhorst, D., Louws, M., & Kester, L. (2020). Personalizing learning with mobile technology in a secondary school in the Netherlands: Effects on students’ autonomy support, learning motivation and achievement. The European Educational Researcher, 3(3), 119-137.
  • Admiraal, W., Vermeulen, J., & Bulterman-Bos, J. (online first). Teaching with learning analytics: How to connect computer-based assessment data with classroom instruction? Technology, Pedagogy and Education. DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2020.1825992.
  • Vogelzang, J., Admiraal, W. F., & Driel, J. H. van. (2020b). Effects of Scrum methodology on students’ critical scientific literacy: the case of Green Chemistry. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 21(3), 940-952.
  • Vrind, E. de, Janssen, F.J.J.M., Jong, N.H. de, Driel, J.H. van, & Stoutjesdijk, E.T. Naar een praktische adaptieve aanpak voor spreekvaardigheidsonderwijs in modern vreemde talen. Pedagogische Studiën, 96, 15-29.
  • Wang. J., Tigelaar, D., & Admiraal, W. (2021). Rural teachers’ sharing of digital educational resources: From motivation to behavior. Computers & Education, 161, article 104055.

Contact person for this principle
Roeland van der Rijst