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Exemplars of increasing the degree of challenge

When you plan a series of activities which build on one another in terms of demand and cognitive complexity, there will be stumbling blocks which can be anticipated. These are points in the teaching sequence where we know students often have difficulties and may need support. For example, students may:

  • have difficulties understanding key concepts
  • have problems accessing the necessary skills
  • hold alternative viewpoints

How students respond at these points will help you decide what they need next to move their learning forward. We’ve provided an example of four activities of increasing complexity. (The four activities are based on work by Ben Law, a PGCE trainee at King’s College, London, 2016.)


If Activity 1 is your starter activity, what stumbling blocks or misconceptions would your expect, and how would these affect which of Activities 2 or 3 you would then use?

What would need to have gone before to make it appropriate to ask students to attempt Activity 4?

Summarise your views in a short contribution in the comments below. (If your knowledge of wave theory is sketchy then just focus on responses from other learners.)

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This article is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre