Differentiation in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom

Essay, 2017
10 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Summary of articles

2.1 Hass, Frank (2008): „Keiner wie der andere. Im differenzierenden Unterricht Lernprozesse individualisieren“
2.2 Mindt, Dieter; Wagner, Gudrun (2009): „Differenzierung“
2.3 Böttger, Heiner (2012): „Differenzieren? In MEINER Klasse geht das nicht!“

3 Discussion

4 Conclusion


1 Introduction

The importance of differentiation should be clear to every teacher. In their classes they will always be confronted with heterogeneity, differentiation is the only way to deal with this fact. Often heterogeneity is seen as a problem, homogeneous learning groups are wanted. But can heterogeneity only be understood as a problem? Or can it even be a chance?

Heterogeneity can also be seen as a totally normal and even wanted starting point from teaching, learning and education. Differences between the pupils in a class are normal, in relation to their age, their intellectual capacity, their ethnical background and much more. It is a pedagogical duty to handle this diversity as a chance and as an enrichment for the whole group. Teaching must intentionally be planned considering the inner heterogeneity, by the use of variety of methods, differentiation and individualized learning (cf. Tillmann 2007, p. 1-2). The following essay will sum up two articles and one chapter about differentiation in the EFL classroom, it follows a short discussion of the topic and then it ends with the final conclusion. After reading the essay everybody should have a fundamental overview to the topic and should be able to understand that differentiation is indispensible in the EFL classroom.

2 Summary of articles

2.1 Hass, Frank (2008): „Keiner wie der andere. Im differenzierenden Unterricht Lernprozesse individualisieren“. Der fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch. 94/2008

Heterogeneity of pupils increases in all schools types, also in primary level and even in the EFL classroom.

On the one hand, teachers have to handle this heterogeneity and have to support every single child in its own development and on the other hand they have to prepare them all for central testings („zentrale Leistungsüberprüfungen“). Teachers have to differentiate their teaching in the classroom to reach every child.

Factors in which the pupils can vary very much are for example the relation from their age to their individual development, their private background in their familylife as well as their cultural background/experiences, their linguistic skills and their general intellectual skills. They also differ in their interests, pre-knowledge and attitude to learn. All these factors are parts of heterogeneity.

According to Frank Hass heterogeneity is seen ambivalent in schools and teaching. Many teachers are not well prepared and qualified for the handling with heterogeneous learning groups.

The outcomes of the PISA-studies caused the change from the input-orientation to the output- orientation with concrete competence levels. There are special test instruments like comparative researches, central „Lernstandserhebungen“ and „Zentralabitur“ for standardization and as a control if the learners have reached the expected competence level. There is no general valid structur in human thinking and learning. Learning processes depend on cognitive, emotional and motivational structurs from the learner and because of that it is different from human to human. It is important to know, that scholastic learning is always social learning. It should be always a balance between individual and social learnarrangements. Nowadays teachers use less individual learning methods, individualization in a didactical sense means using methods, which give every learner the possiblity to learn according to his own individual learning possibilities.

Unfortunately we differentiate more at the aspect of what the pupils are able to do as at the aspect of interestings in Germany, although it would help to raise the motivation when children can choose topics in which they are interested.

Frank Hass says, that it is the responsibility of school to qualify every pupil best as possible. In the practice in classrooms that means to define the starting situation of the learners („Lernausgangslage“), to pick the learners there up, where they stand at the moment. Next step is to determine individual learning goals, which are realistic and reachable. Teachers have to vary their methods and differentiate in a qualitative (degree of difficulty) and in a quantitative (number of tasks) way. It is also important to make different ways of learning possible for different learning types. The faster children should not be intervened, while the slower children should not be overtrained. Here the teachers have to find their way between what they wish to do and what they really can offer.

Learning arrangements in the EFL classroom should make different ways („Zugangsweisen“) possible for the pupils to reach all learning types. Even in frontal teaching it is possible to differentiate, for example with the use of opened or closed questions. English teachers should use varied reading and listening tasks, quizzes, puzzles and brainteasers, pictures and films, role plays and so on for the support of different intelligence types. It is also very important to say, that a relaxed learning atmosphere is significant for successful learning. Positive feelings stimulate neural functions, while situations of fear do the opposite. In heterogeneous learning groups are mutually respect, acceptance and appreciation a basic requirement.

2.2 Mindt, Dieter; Wagner, Gudrun (2009): „Differenzierung“. Innovativer Englischunterricht für die Klassen 1 und 2. Westermann, Braunschweig (S. 261-269)

The chapter about differentiation from the book 'Innovativer Englischunterricht für die Klassen 1 und 2' by Mindt and Wagner says at large part the same main points as in the article from Frank Hass.

Even if children are at the same age in a class, they can differ very much in their development and ripeness, their cultural background and their needs in context of learning.

The authors accent the meaning of a interesting and motivating teaching. It is also important that the children notice that they can understand and communicate more and more in a language, which is spoken all over the world, that can impact very motivating.

The authors mention three successive steps: common classes („gemeinsamer Unterricht“), determination of the current stage of learning („Lernstand“) and differentiation as compensation of differences.

Even like Frank Hass they speak about differentiation in relation to quality and quantity. Teachers can also realize differentiation by variation in their methods and social form in learning. The chapter gives an overview over the different forms of differentiation and is in this cause a good practical complement to the first article from Frank Hass.

In the chapter Mindt and Wagner shortly name the different ways of differentiation, structured in quality, quantity, by variate the methods and media and by the social form. It would go beyond the scope to summerize every point here, but as an EFL teacher it is important to know the possibilities how you can differentiate in your classroom. So this summary will only give a very small overview and can maybe be an inspiration.

Differentiation in a qualitative way means to respect the different development of attainments by the pupils. Learning-weak children need more time to develop receptive attainments like understanding what they listened and read in English, while other children develop this attainments faster. In a writing task differentiation can be realized by the gaps, which have to be filled by the pupils. For some it could be only letters, while others could fill in words or whole sentences.

Differentiation in a quantitative way is based on the scope of the task. The scope can be differentiated by the inidividual reached learning level of the pupils, concerning for example the vocabulary, the grammar or the pronunciation.

The variation of methods and media is part of every differentiation and they have to be adapted to the individual learning level. The teacher can modify the duration of teaching phases, the frequency of repetition even like the frequency of change of the learning form. Some children need more support with media than others, the teacher has to perceive who needs what. Differentiation by different social forms can take place by the change between frontal teaching with the whole class or group- and partnerwork or working individual. New topics should be introduced for the whole class together but then can be differentiated in which ways the individual child prefers to learn.

2.3 Böttger, Heiner (2012): „Differenzieren? In MEINER Klasse geht das nicht!“ Grundschule Englisch. Heft 39. 1/2012

The author Heiner Böttger says in this article that in no other school form the heterogeneity is so distinctive like in primary schools, but the heterogeneity increases in all school forms and is in this case a „problem“ of all teachers.

For some teachers it is a special problem in the subject English, they are able to differentiate in other subjects, but not in English, in spite of a big assortment of individualized teaching and learning materials.

The evaluation of an english-didactic study explored the teaching reality in EFL classrooms in Germany. One main argument against differentiation is the shearing effect, the growth of drifting apart in their competences by differentiated education. While the learning-weak children get supported, the stronger pupils widen their protrusion and this is unwanted, because most teachers strive for homogeneous classes.

Learning English, or a different language, is a very individual process, because of that fact internal differentiation is a must. But many teachers do not differentiate in their classes, because they do not want the effort of time and they are afraid that the learning levels in their class will get more apart.

Teachers need concrete, practicable and easy to implement possibilities and materials for the differentiation. A very important point is to consider the individual learning styles of pupils, which helps very much in language learning. If teachers do not do that, they will always over- or understrain pupils.

However the author says, that teachers already use methods of differentiation unconsciously, whenever they use forms of partner- or groupwork, when one child should explain something to another child as a form of peer teaching or when they use media.

Heiner Böttger points out, that the complex topic of differentiation requires comprehensive preparation of teachers which must be part of the teacher training. He mentioned some tequnices of qualitative and quantitative differentiation as a fundamental basis on which can be


Excerpt out of 10 pages


Differentiation in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom
University of Potsdam
Englisch im Anfangsunterricht
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
differentiation, english, foreign, language, classroom
Quote paper
Jennifer Siehms (Author), 2017, Differentiation in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/456960


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