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Thesis

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ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to determine if differentiated instruction had an effect on student achievement. The researcher sought to answer two research questions “Does differentiated instruction have an impact on student achievement?” and “Are there components of differentiated instruction that have a greater impact on student achievement than others?”
The study followed a mixed method design and consisted of two parts. First, a quantitative analysis of test scores from the Michigan Education Assessment Program
(MEAP) and teacher and student survey results were analyzed as a means to outline broad relationships from the data. Results from the quantitative findings directed the researcher on how to frame the qualitative design. Second, a qualitative analysis of classroom observations and interviews with teachers was conducted. The qualitative portion of this study followed a social interactionism orientation adopted by social interactionism theorist (Blumer, 1969). This approach allowed the researcher to analyze relationships between the differentiation variables.
The quantitative data methods of surveys and test scores, qualitative techniques of classroom observations, and teacher interviews were triangulated. Triangulation of data was used to support research findings through independent measures to point to the same conclusions (Webb et al., 1965). The conceptual framework (Hall, 2004) served as the foundation in the identification of the differentiation variables to be studied.
The research findings supported the work of learning styles theorists (Dunn, Griggs,
Olsen, Beasley, and Gormann, 1995). Findings also suggested that the differentiation strategies of choice and interest play a vital role in achievement and student satisfaction iv in learning. Findings suggested that teachers just beginning differentiation should first administer a learning styles inventory to their students. The administration of this inventory will provide the teacher with the necessary information to differentiate for choice and interest, two manageable techniques with which to begin differentiation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS................................................................................................ ii
ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... iii
LIST OF TABLES........................................................................................................... viii
LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................... ix
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION....................................................................................... 1
Conceptual Framework................................................................................................... 9
Sample Differentiated Reading Lesson ........................................................................ 11
Purpose of the Study ..................................................................................................... 14
Significance of the Study .............................................................................................. 14
Overview and Setting.................................................................................................... 15
Research Design............................................................................................................ 16
Limitations .................................................................................................................... 17
Definition of Terms....................................................................................................... 18
Summary ....................................................................................................................... 19
Organization of the Study ............................................................................................. 19
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................ 21
Introduction................................................................................................................... 21
A Review of Brain-Based Learning.............................................................................. 21
A Review of Concept-based Teaching ......................................................................... 26
A Review of Student Grouping..................................................................................... 29
A Review of Multiple Intelligences/Learning Style ..................................................... 31
A Review of Student Motivation .................................................................................. 36 vi Summary ....................................................................................................................... 37
CHAPTER III: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS.............................................. 38
Introduction................................................................................................................... 38
Purpose of the Study ..................................................................................................... 39
Methodology................................................................................................................. 40
Quantitative Design ...................................................................................................... 41
Qualitative Design ........................................................................................................ 46
Sample Selection........................................................................................................... 47
Qualitative Data Collection Methods............................................................................ 49
Quantitative Data Collection Methods.......................................................................... 49
Reliability...................................................................................................................... 50
Validity ......................................................................................................................... 51
Summary ....................................................................................................................... 52
CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS AND RESULTS OF QUANTITATIVE DATA ............... 54
Introduction................................................................................................................... 54 t-Test Results ................................................................................................................ 55
Survey Results .............................................................................................................. 57
Regression Analysis Results......................................................................................... 67
Summary ....................................................................................................................... 71
CHAPTER V: ANALYSIS AND RESULTS OF QUALITATIVE DATA ................... 73
Introduction................................................................................................................... 73
Theme Analysis of Teacher Interviews ........................................................................ 77
Multiple Uses of Pre-Assessment Data......................................................................... 77 vii Formal Pre-Assessments Determine Readiness............................................................ 77
Informal Pre-Assessments are Ongoing and Diverse ................................................... 81
Convergence of Choice and Interest in Relationship to Learning Styles ..................... 84
Summary ....................................................................................................................... 92
CHAPTER VI: SUMMARY, IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS......... 94
Introduction................................................................................................................... 94
Summary of Findings.................................................................................................... 95
Implications for Practice ............................................................................................. 100
Implications for Further Research .............................................................................. 107
Implications for Theory .............................................................................................. 108
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................... 110
APPENDICES ................................................................................................................ 116
APPENDIX A Classroom Observations/Differentiated Variables Coding Sheet ......... 117
APPENDIX B Staff Consent For Study Participation................................................... 118
APPENDIX C Parental Consent For Student Participation........................................... 120
APPENDIX D Student Survey Document..................................................................... 122
APPENDIX E Staff Survey Document.......................................................................... 124
APPENDIX F Normally Distributed Variables............................................................. 126
APPENDIX H Residuals ............................................................................................... 133
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Codes Assigned to Differentiated Instructional Strategies.............................. 46
Table 2 Results of t-Test for Differentiated vs. Non-Differentiated Classrooms..........55
Table 3 Results of t-Test for Poverty vs. No Poverty....................................................56
Table 4 Results of t-Test for Female vs. Male...............................................................56
Table 5 Multiple regression Impact of Differentiation Variables to
Reading Achievement.......................................................................................68
Table 6 Multiple Regression Impact of Learning Style to Reading Achievement........68
Table 7 Multiple Regression Impact of Differentiation Variables to Writing
Achievement......................................................................................................69
Table 8 Multiple Regression Impact of Differentiation Variables to English
Language Arts Achievement.............................................................................70
Table 9 Multiple Regression Impact of Differentiation Variables to Mathematics
Achievement......................................................................................................71
ix
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1 Conceptual framework of differentiation....................................................10
Figure 2 Student survey results for Classroom 1..................................................... 59
Figure 3 Student survey results for Classroom 2...................................................... 60
Figure 4 Student survey results for Classroom 3.......................................................61
Figure 5 Student survey results for Classroom 4.......................................................62
Figure 6 Student survey results for Classroom 5.......................................................63
Figure 7 Student survey results for Classroom 6.......................................................64
Figure 8 Student survey results for Classroom 7.......................................................65
Figure 9 Teacher survey results................................................................................ 66
Figure 10 Conceptual framework for differentiated instruction..................................105
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
The stakes have risen for public school systems across the United States. When
President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation into law in January of 2001, the meaning of student achievement took on a broader definition. Not only were schools expected to show improvement in test scores overall, schools were also expected to show documented improvement for every child testing within the system. Under
NCLB, disaggregated data must be included for the following subgroups within a population of 30 or more students testing at the grade level: disadvantaged
(socio-economic), disabled (special education), limited English speaking, migrant, gender, and ethnicity. This type of data disaggregation made many districts realize that certain populations of their students were underperforming.
In essence, schools always knew there were certain populations of students not making as much achievement growth as others. This has been documented with disadvantaged students for years. According to Lee (2002), “Since the Coleman Report in the 1960’s brought attention to racial inequity in student outcomes, the achievement gap between white and minority students has raised a multitude of concerns and resulted in a significant body of empirical research. This achievement gap is argued to have lifetime consequences limiting opportunities for minority students in higher education” (p. 3).
School districts were also aware that students at the high end of the spectrum continued to show less achievement gains than those students in the middle of the achievement spectrum. This research indicated that most classrooms have taken on the
2
role of teaching to this “on grade level” student population, leaving the learning needs of the challenged and under-challenged groups unmet.
According to Westburg, Archambault, et al. (as cited in Gubbins, 1992 ):
Despite several years of advocacy and efforts to meet the needs of gifted students in this country, the results of this observational study indicate that little differentiation in the instructional and curricular practices is provided to gifted and talented students in the regular classroom. This is of particular concern because special programs for gifted learners outside of the regular classroom are being eliminated in many parts of the country due to economic cutbacks. When this occurs, the needs of gifted and talented students must be addressed in regular classrooms. (p. 5)
Educators who view classrooms as whole entities and do not account for the variances in the levels of readiness with which students enter the room may either over-challenge or under-challenge the learners. According to Vygotsky, 1962; Howard, 1994, as cited in
Tomlinson (2001), “We know that learning happens best when a learning experience pushes the learner a bit beyond his or her independent level. When a student continues to work on understandings and skills already mastered, little if any new learning takes place.
On the other hand, if tasks are far ahead of a student’s current point of mastery, frustration results and learning does not” (p. 8). Vygotsky (1962) hypothesized that children should be stimulated through a sequence of goals that increase in difficulty. A child who is not challenged in this way fails to reach the highest stages of thinking or reaches them with great delay.
3
No Child Left Behind has forced districts to view students as individuals, not as a classroom of students as a whole. In classrooms where one lesson is designed for all learners, limits are placed on students’ achievement. Students who are advanced academically are left behind because they are under-challenged, and students who may be struggling are left frustrated and confused. Classrooms in which differentiation is taking place may help to close the achievement gap that has been prevalent for years in
American schools. According to Tomlinson (1999), teachers in differentiated classrooms use time flexibly, call upon a range of instructional strategies, and become partners with their students. Educators are diagnosticians, prescribing the best possible instruction for their students. Differentiation suggests that all learners can achieve and be appropriately challenged within any classroom. One knows that children have basic needs that must be met before learning can occur. According to Prince and Howard (2002), children need not only to survive but also to thrive. In a differentiated classroom, fear is removed and children are free to take risks in their learning. By developing lessons appropriate to students’ readiness levels, interest, and learning profiles, teachers will be able to draw upon prior knowledge and student experiences outside of the school environment which will empower students to ask questions and share their opinions because they already have knowledge or interest in the topic. With modifications made to lessons, students are challenged at appropriate levels to eliminate frustration and boredom. Maslow (1998) emphasized that before higher level needs are even perceived, lower level needs must

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