Heterogeneity, diversity and differentiated teaching: a focus on multi-level learners in foreign-language classes

All foreign language classrooms are very heterogeneous, especially at the university, regarding the age of the students but also their profiles, goals, languages, cultures, and their levels in the foreign language. In this situation, the teacher may propose a differenciated teaching in order to answer the different needs. However, teaching in this kind of context is quite challenging. Indeed, teachers may spend a lot of time building several learning programs before, during and after the class, without having enough time, being sometimes frustrated because of the several levels in the same class. Nonetheless, heterogeneity means also diversity, which, far from always proving to be an obstacle to be overcome, is very rich both for the learner and for the teacher.

How to differentiate then? With what supports? What steps? How to highlight diversity? How does the heterogeneous context contribute to developing the plurilingual and intercultural competence of the learners?

The lecture will deal with this problematic of heterogeneity vs diversity in a didactic methodological approach by questioning the teaching act in the heterogeneous context of foreign language classrooms.


• Reflect on the challenges of differentiation applied to the field of Foreign language teaching

• Develop our lessons (resources, methods, supports) taking into account the heterogeneity of the groups (in terms of knowledge, needs and university / professional projects)

• Create tools to differentiate or adapt existing tools


Catherine DAVID is an Assistant Professor at Aix-Marseille University in France. She is member of the Laboratoire Parole et Langage (LPL UMR 73 09), "interaction" team. She has been teaching French to multinational students for about twenty years (London, Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence). Her research is about the teaching gestures in foreign language classes, especially about how to deal with the heterogeneity of publics (Phd, 2013). She has written a book on the subject especially focused on the differenciated teaching in French as a foreign language classes (David, C. et Abry, A, 2018, Multi-level classes and differenciated pedagogy,).

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