Inclusive Education and Differentiated Instruction: An Ongoing Challenge

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Special and Inclusive Education".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2023) | Viewed by 3492

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
1. Inclusion and Participation in the School Context, Professional School of Education, Humboldt University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2. School of Psychology, University of Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico
Interests: inclusive education; differentiated instruction; student diversity; inclusive teaching and learning; motivation

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Guest Editor
Section for Teacher Education and Research, University of Trier, Trier, Germany
Interests: inclusive education; differentiated instruction; digital learning

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Guest Editor
1. Center for Teacher Education, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2. Research Focus Area Optentia, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Interests: inclusive education; linguistic and cultural diversity of students; social participation of students; teacher self-efficacy

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Guest Editor Assistant
Center for Teacher Education, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Interests: inclusive education; schooling in times of crisis; student diversity; educational inequities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Worldwide, inclusive education is a highly important topic of policy debate that “emphasize[s] the concepts of efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and inclusion as a means of ensuring quality education for all” (Watkins, 2017, p. 1). With this background, the concept of inclusive education has shifted from the inclusion of students with disabilities to the provision of equal opportunities in education, celebrating the diversity of all learners (Schwab, 2021; Watkins, 2017). To achieve this aim, schools need to become “more responsive to children with a diverse range of abilities, cultures, gender, religions, and other situations and issues that present are in the classroom” (Loreman, 2017, p. 2). Differentiated instruction (DI) is considered as one possible vehicle to achieve inclusive education that aims to meet students’ individual learning needs by maximizing learning opportunities (Gheyssens et al., 2020). DI is defined as the intentional, systematically planned and reflected practices that enable teachers to meet the needs of all learners in heterogeneous classrooms (Graham et al., 2021; Letzel et al., 2020).

Given the relevance of DI to addressing students’ broad array of learning needs, there has been an increase in empirical research on the topic. However, recent literature reviews have identified important knowledge gaps and challenges within the inclusive education and differentiated instructional research (Bondie et al., 2019; Eikeland and Ohna, 2022; Graham et al., 2021; Smale-Jacobse et al., 2019: 1) a lack of methodological rigor employed in research studies, rich and varied multi-perspective research designs that explore how teachers differentiate their instruction (i.e., frequency, duration, magnitude) as well as the effects of DI on student educational experiences and various outcomes (e.g., socio-emotional variables), 2) research that considers all school levels (i.e., primary and secondary education) and different student populations (e.g., at-risk and non-at-risk students), 3) studies on the development and implementation of DI interventions, and 4) studies that investigate DI by considering those cultural conditions which facilitate and hinder within an organization or system (e.g., policy).

The aim of this Special Issue is to tackle the aforementioned limitations and to advance the state of knowledge and expertise in inclusive education and DI. The Special Issue is broad in scope and welcomes contributions from all over the world. Articles are sought that present original and methodologically rigorous qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method research, such as review and meta-analysis studies.

The readership will be broad. These might be specialists in the field of elementary education, primary education, secondary education, inclusive and special education, as well as higher education. Furthermore, researchers in education in general, as well as researchers in the field of teacher training, specialists in digital media and digital learning processes and teachers as well as politicians will also be considered as the potential readership. Additionally, the articles should provide insights into DI research to all educational stakeholders and the public.


Bondie, R. S., Dahnke, C., & Zusho, A. (2019). How does changing “one-size-fits-all” to differentiated instruction affect teaching?. Review of Research in Education43(1), 336-362.

Eikeland, I., & Ohna, S. E. (2022). Differentiation in education: a configurative review. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 1-14.

Gheyssens, E., Coubergs, C., Griful-Freixenet, J., Engels, N. & Struyven, K. (2020). Differentiated instruction: the diversity of teachers’ philosophy and praxis to adapt teaching to students’ interests, readiness and learning profiles. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1–18.

Graham, L. J., De Bruin, K., Lassig, C., and Spandagou, I. (2021). A Scoping Review of 20 Years of Research on Differentiation: Investigating Conceptualisation, Characteristics, and Methods Used. Review of Education, 9(1), 161–198.

Letzel, V., Schneider, C., and Pozas, M. (2020). Binnendifferenzierende Herangehensweisen zum Umgang mit Heterogenität im Unterricht der Sekundarstufe I: Vorschlag einer Taxonomie zur Systematisierung [Differentiated instruction as a means to handle in-classroom student heterogeneity in secondary education: proposal of a taxonomy]. Empirische Pädagogik, 34(4), 331-349.

Loreman, T. (2017). Pedagogy for Inclusive Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.

Schwab, S. (2021). Inclusive and Special Education in Europe. In U. Sharma & S. J. Salend (Eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Inclusive and Special Education (pp. 807–819). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smale-Jacobse, A. E., Meijer, A., Helms-Lorenz, M., & Maulana, R. (2019). Differentiated instruction in secondary education: A systematic review of research evidence. Frontiers in psychology10, 2366.

Watkins, A. (2017). Inclusive Education and European Educational Policy. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Retrieved 9 Dec. 2021, from

Prof. Dr. Marcela Pozas Guajardo
Dr. Verena Letzel-Alt
Prof. Dr. Susanne Schwab
Guest Editors

Flora Woltran
Guest Editor Assistant

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  • inclusive education
  • differentiated instruction
  • student diversity
  • inclusive teaching practices

Published Papers (1 paper)

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24 pages, 7011 KiB  
Evidence-Based Design of a Teacher Professional Development Program for Differentiated Instruction: A Whole-Task Approach
by Kyra Meutstege, Marieke Van Geel and Adrie Visscher
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(10), 985; - 26 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2865
Teachers are urged to provide differentiated instruction (DI), that is, deliberately adapting instruction to the learning needs of all students. DI can positively affect students’ academic achievement and their social and emotional development, as well as foster teacher job satisfaction. However, international research, [...] Read more.
Teachers are urged to provide differentiated instruction (DI), that is, deliberately adapting instruction to the learning needs of all students. DI can positively affect students’ academic achievement and their social and emotional development, as well as foster teacher job satisfaction. However, international research, as well as research in the Dutch context, has shown that teachers feel unprepared to provide DI. Hence, the development of teacher professional development (TPD) programs is necessary. In the current paper, the design of a TPD intervention to support DI is presented, in which the content and design approach were deliberately chosen. The intervention content was based on an analysis of the skills and knowledge expert teachers use when providing DI. The design of the intervention was based on the whole-task approach from the 4C/ID model to promote the transfer of learning, among other things. Based on the experiences of the teachers participating in the training pilot (n = 4), we provide our recommendations for future TPD for DI. The next step will be to study the effects of this TPD program on a larger scale to obtain insight into what design characteristics do or do not work, which can be used to further improve this TPD intervention. Full article
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