A definition of the 'stretch and challenge' principle and an explanation of why it is vital to good classroom practice.
What is ‘stretch and challenge’?
While it is vital to ensure that learners who may be struggling receive the support that they need, it is equally important to make sure that those who are excelling are supported in their learning and development. Lawson et al. (2009, p. 84) view stretch and challenge as a means ‘to make sure those students deemed to be academically talented are […] given the scope to display their abilities at the highest level’. However, ‘stretch and challenge’ does not refer exclusively to supporting the most able learners; all learners should be stretched and challenged, but this must be done in accordance with their personal abilities. If learners are not challenged, they are more likely to grow bored with their learning and thus disengage from it. Making sure that there is an additional ‘stretch’ task for learners who finish work early is a common way of doing this. In some circumstances, adding a task with additional complexity is also beneficial (such as giving learners a ‘why’ question rather than a ‘how’). Stretch and challenge is a method which should be approached carefully, however, as ‘a perceived challenge for one child may raise achievement, but may hinder progress for another’ (Blandford and Knowles, 2014, p. 206). Ultimately, ensuring that challenges issued are in keeping with a particular learner’s ability is the key.
Blandford, S., and Knowles, C. (2014). Developing Professional Practice 0-7. London: Routledge.
Lawson, T., Heaton, T. and Brown, A. (2009). Education and Training. Basing stoke: Palgrave Macmillan.