Are New Zealand teachers adapting their lessons for student needs, and does it matter?

Publication Details

This paper describes what adaptive teaching looks like in New Zealand using data from international research studies. Examining how often teachers implement adaptive instruction and how confidently they do so shows whether teachers are prepared and willing to use this instructional technique.

Author(s): Emma Medina [Evidence, Data and Knowledge: Ministry of Education]

Date Published: August 2019


This paper also explores the relationship between adaptive instruction and student outcomes, such as academic performance and motivation. The findings will be relevant to those seeking a deeper knowledge of the instructional tools teachers are using in today’s classrooms.

Key Findings

  • There is strong evidence of Year 5 reading teachers adapting their lessons regularly. Nine out of ten reading students have teachers who provide materials appropriate for the reading levels of individual students in every lesson or almost every lesson.
  • Year 5 maths and science teachers are less confident in implementing adaptive instruction compared with their international peers. Despite this, students report that adaptive teaching occurs often, with the majority agreeing their teacher does a variety of things to help them learn, similar to the international average.
  • A slightly smaller proportion of Year 9 students report that adaptive teaching occurs, but this proportion is also similar to the international average. And secondary teachers report relatively high confidence in implementing adaptive teaching methods compared with international averages. According to 15-year-old students, their science teachers adapt their science lessons more than teachers in most countries.
  • For many students, adaptive instruction methods are associated with higher performance, on average, across subjects and year levels. However, for Māori 15-year-old students, adaptive instruction is associated with lower science performance, after accounting for student and school socioeconomic characteristics.
  • Adaptive teaching in 15-year-old students’ science lessons is also associated with a positive disciplinary climate, supportive teachers, teachers giving students feedback, increased student enjoyment, interest in and epistemic beliefs about science, greater confidence and motivation in science, and an increased sense of belonging.

Where to find out more

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