Nurture and Differentiation

May 27, 2024
Emer Cunningham
School Engagement at Nurture


Today’s classrooms are inarguably increasingly diverse places, a testament to the work of policy makers in creating more inclusive classrooms. In 2009, Diane Heacox reflected “today’s classrooms reflect astonishing levels of academic diversity and teachers report that the diversity of students seems to increase each year”. As a teacher, it is safe to say that this level of diversity has grown exponentially since Diane Heacox’s article in 2009 and that the teachers of today face even further challenges than their predecessors in the early 2000’s. 

Heacox’s answer to accommodating the changing landscape of teaching is differentiation; “in standards-based classrooms, differentiation is essential. It is what we do to increase the likelihood of students’ success in learning”. In this regard, Nurture offers a simple, convenient and time-saving solution to differentiating assessments and feedback for students with a variety of learning and developmental needs including students with English as an Additional Language. 

The increasing diversity within classrooms has posed a significant challenge for many countries striving to meet the varied needs of their students amidst growing class sizes. This shift has placed additional demands on teachers, requiring them to adapt their instructional strategies to address the unique learning profiles of each student effectively.

Amidst these evolving educational dynamics, the emergence of 'Gen AI' presents a timely opportunity for educators and learners alike. AI-powered tools, such as Nurture, are revolutionising the way teachers approach differentiation and facilitate student growth. Nurture's AI chat feature, the Nurture Assistant, serves as a valuable resource for teachers, enabling them to provide tailored assessments and feedback that meet the diverse needs of their students in a manner that is efficient, effective, and yields exceptional results.

Differentiating Assessment

In addition to instructional strategies, which are crucial elements of teachers' lesson planning, another effective approach to differentiate the curriculum for students with Additional Learning Needs involves the design of assessments and the implementation of tiered assessments.

Differentiated Common Assessments

Creating common assessments is a method of differentiating assessments that challenges all students in the class with a single assessment. This approach fosters a sense of inclusivity among students, as they all engage with the same assessment, promoting a shared learning experience.

Using the Nurture Assistant's assessment creation tool, teachers can design differentiated common assessments by leveraging the curriculum boundary. By integrating differentiated instruction into their Schemes of Work or Termly Plans, teachers can upload these plans to the curriculum boundary, enabling the AI tool to generate assessments tailored to the specific needs of their classroom context.

It is essential to recognise that teachers possess valuable insights into their students' needs and capabilities. Through pre-assessment and observation, teachers can effectively design common assessments that address the diverse learning requirements of their students. These assessments are then distributed to all students via Teams, ensuring equitable access to the same assessment content.

Tiered Assessments

Another approach to differentiation is through tiered assessments or the creation of individualised group assessments to accommodate students' varying learning needs. Diane Heacox describes tiered assessments as “teacher-prescribed learning activities that are specifically designed to respond to differences in readiness, interests or learning preferences”. For instance, in a mixed-ability classroom setting, teachers may need to design different assessments for students following Higher Level, Ordinary Level, or Learning To Learn Programme pathways.

In such scenarios, teachers can develop distinct assessments for each student group and assign these assessments accordingly. By setting up sub-channels within Teams for different curricula, teachers can enhance differentiation by uploading Marking Schemes and curricular documents specific to each group's summative assessments or exams. This strategic organisation not only enriches the curriculum boundary but also supports tailored learning experiences for diverse student groups.


Self-assessment plays a crucial role in fostering student growth and learning. According to Geoff Petty (2009), “each student will need their own individualised feedback, and, more importantly, will need to act on this to learn at their best. This will help students learn content, but also the skills needed for progression and for high grades or marks”. Within this feedback loop, Petty also recommends using “self-assessment [to] ask students to set themselves targets” which can further empower students in their learning journey. Both of these features of the feedback loop are reflected in the Nurture process. 

Within Nurture, self-assessment tools are integral components of accurate differentiation for all learners. These tools, available both on-submission and on-feedback, enable students to reflect on their work and set personal targets. When students provide self-assessment comments upon submission, the Nurture Assistant leverages this information to tailor its feedback, addressing students' concerns and offering encouragement based on their articulated needs. This level of self-assessment and feedback design serves as a valuable evaluation metric for teachers to assess students' learning needs and progress over time.

While self-assessment may pose challenges for some students, particularly those with Learning Difficulties or English as an Additional Language, consistent practice and support from teachers can help students navigate this process effectively. The long-term benefits of cultivating self-assessment skills are significant, as they empower students to take ownership of their learning and drive continuous improvement in their academic endeavours. For more information on how to encourage effective reflective-practice in your classroom, please see our article on Nurture and Reflection here. 


As previously discussed, feedback is a vital component for differentiating instruction and answering to the learning needs of our students. At Nurture, we see feedback not as the last step in the assessment process but as the first step for the students' movement forward in their learning. In keeping with the Universal Design for Learning method, Nurture views feedback and assessments as data points from the student and, “when feedback is provided, students understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process” (Grant P. 2014).  The Nurture Assistant is designed to give effective, personalised feedback to all students, which focuses on the process rather than the outcome, differentiating feedback from the outset. Furthermore, the teacher can provide the Nurture Assistant with further context with prompts such as, ‘please decrease the reading age of this comment’ or, ‘this student has a diagnosis of ASD, please adjust the feedback to focus on the students’ emotional and social growth in this assessment’. In this way, the students’ individual needs are answered even further by the Nurture Assistant, in collaboration with the teacher. Check out the video below to see some examples of prompts to differentiate student feedback.

Students with English as an Additional Language

Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the resulting global displacement of people, teachers are facing increased pressure to support students with English as an Additional Language in their classrooms. Despite teachers' dedicated efforts to provide tailored feedback, students with limited English proficiency may not fully benefit from this feedback, leading to a lack of confidence as they struggle to gauge their progress. Moreover, students with relatively good English skills may face challenges if their parents are not proficient in the language, leaving them unaware of their children's academic development. With the help of AI, Nurture now offers a more advanced approach to feedback differentiation by providing bilingual feedback for students. Watch the video below for a demonstration.


In conclusion, the evolving landscape of today's classrooms underscores the increasing diversity and complexity that teachers face in meeting the varied needs of their students. With the rapid growth of diversity since 2009, educators are challenged to adapt their instructional approaches to cater to the unique learning profiles of each student effectively. The introduction of AI-powered tools like Nurture presents a valuable opportunity for educators to revolutionise the way they differentiate assessments and feedback, nurturing student growth in a more efficient and effective manner. By embracing innovative approaches to differentiation, teachers can create inclusive learning environments that empower all students to succeed and thrive academically.