One issue in education practice is the purpose of differentiation. Is the aim to reduce differences between students? We call this creating convergent educational outcomes. Or is the aim (or result) to increase differences between students? We call this creating divergent educational outcomes.

A teacher who strives for convergent educational outcomes will devote extra time and attention to low-achieving students so that they will achieve the learning goals. This is done because low-achieving students need more time and support to master certain subjects than higher-achieving students do. But, as a result, higher-achieving students may sometimes have to wait to work on new subjects or other new learning goals, and they may progress less quickly than they would if they were allowed to learn at their own pace.

A teacher who strives for divergent educational outcomes will devote the same share of time and support to all students to help them achieve their learning goals. This practice does not compensate for lower achievements or disadvantaged family backgrounds (e.g., less support at home or less-educated parents compared to those of other students). This may result in an even larger gap between the educational growth and development of students from families with low and high SES. This can come at the expense of equal educational opportunities because students with different backgrounds have different starting points.