Influences on beginning teachers’ differentiated instructional practices with diverse students
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Farah, Yara N., 1987-
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Teachers need to consider diversity when making decisions about differentiating their instructional practices since children come to school with varied experiences, abilities, learning preferences, interests, and talents. Previous studies have shown teachers’ resistance to differentiation, as well as their lack of success in implementing differentiation practices. This limited implementation may be associated with different influences such as the teacher’s knowledge and beliefs, the classroom, the campus, the school district, and state rules and regulations. Since no research examined these influences on beginning teachers’ differentiation practices, the purpose of this study was to identify these influences within the context of a complex educational system. The primary research question was: what factors influence beginning teachers’ differentiated instructional practices with diverse students? The researcher used the Classroom Instructional Practices Scale (CIPS) to determine the beginning teachers’ current level of differentiated instructional practices and compared current ratings to the ratings of their differentiation practices during their intern or senior year. The CIPS focused on four major areas of individual differences requiring differentiation: content, rate, preference and environment. The Influences on Differentiation framework (IoD), a researcher-developed framework that adapted Bronfenbrenner’s theory, was used to identify the influences on any changes in their differentiation practices implemented during their pre-service program to their current teaching. This framework suggested five possible systems: (a) individual or the teacher, (b) the microsystem or the elements at the classroom level (c) the mesosystem or the campus level and the interactions within the campus (d) the exosystem or the school district level and (e) the macrosystem or the state level. In an effort to closely examine variables, the researcher observed the teachers in their classrooms, conducted interviews, reviewed archival data, including e-folio entries, observation notes, candidate reflections, and conference summaries. Using the two frameworks, the researcher analyzed each individual case and then conducted a cross-case analysis to identify expected findings, as well as surprising and conceptually interesting information. Overall, the findings showed the importance of teacher preparation programs, each individual’s knowledge and beliefs about differentiating for children, and supportive environments that nurture differentiation practices.