Teachers’ Perceptions of Differentiation and the Struggle for Consistent Implementation
1Felicia D. Fordyce, 2Michelle McCraney, 3Glenn R. Penny, 4Sunddip Panesar-Aguilar, 5Chris Cale
1,2,3,5 Walden University, Minneapolis, MN
4Univeristy of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, St. Augustine, FL

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A problem at three elementary schools in an Appalachian state was that some or all instructors were struggling to implement differentiated instruction in the classroom. Because differentiation is a research-based best practice, teachers should be consistently using this strategy to meet the varying needs found within the inclusive classroom. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate perceptions of third- and fourth-grade teachers on their knowledge, implementation, and selfassessment of using differentiated instruction in classrooms in three elementary schools in one Appalachian state. The two research questions that guided this study asked how third- and fourth-grade teachers used differentiation to support all students and what perceived opportunities and struggles these teachers believed affected their ability to implement this strategy. Nine out of the 14 third- and fourth-grade inclusive teachers who volunteered were asked to participate in semistructured phone interviews and lesson plan analysis. Data were hand coded and analyzed using a spreadsheet to look for reoccurring categories and themes. Six themes emerged within the collected qualitative data to include ability grouping, technology, planning for differentiated instruction, professional supports, lack of training, and instructional support. With the findings, specific professional development was created to help the teacher more consistently use differentiation in the classroom. This study has positive social change implications because it might lead to a stronger administrator and teacher understanding of the perceived uses of differentiation as well as the perceived opportunities and struggles to fully implement the strategy.


Differentiation, English Language Learners, Inclusion, Special Education, Teacher Education.


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