In educational settings, students are often part of a classroom in which they are confronted with classmates that show a variety in ability, interests, needs, preferences, and pace of learning. Teachers and educational designers have to think about how to tailor education to address these differences.
In elementary classrooms, students are often placed in age-based, mixed-ability classrooms. Therefore, the need for instructional interventions that consider differences in attitudes, knowledge and skills is especially relevant in this context. However, research on differentiated instructions is relevant in other levels of schooling as well.
In the context of inquiry learning, students are likely to benefit from differentiated support that helps them engage in a fruitful inquiry process. This support could focus on the skills that are directly related to the different phases of the inquiry cycle, or on metacognitive skills that are directly related to the success of inquiry learning processes. Research questions can be: How much support do students need without ‘over-structuring’ the process so that inquiry learning remains an active, self-regulative process? What might happen when students receive too much or too detailed support?
In the context of collaborative (or cooperative) learning, students are likely to benefit from working together with others in both homogeneous and heterogeneous settings. The group’s functioning is dependent on students’ engagement in the group process and the structure of the group assignment. Research questions can be: To what extent does specific grouping-procedures affect the group process and learning outcomes? How to structure a cooperative process so that all students feel engaged in this process?