First Advisor

Dannelle D. Stevens

Date of Publication

Spring 6-5-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction




Individualized instruction, Middle school teachers -- Attitudes, Educational change



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 192 pages)


Diversity across U.S. classrooms is on the rise which is leading to renewed calls for teachers to meet individual learning needs. Studies indicate the failure to address individual learning needs can lead to higher rates of student disengagement, off-task behaviors, and diminished learning outcomes. Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching that meets the growing diversity of individual learning needs by considering students' readiness, interest, and learning styles. Differentiated instructional approaches help teachers meet individual learning needs by allowing them to modify instruction as needed. However, despite the apparent benefits of differentiated instruction, teachers are hesitant to abandon other educational models. Research has shown beliefs about student learning influence teachers classroom practices. If teachers do not possess beliefs supporting differentiated classroom practices, then calls for additional implementation may go unheeded. Thus it is important to examine teacher beliefs that may help or hinder implementation of differentiated instructional practices. The purpose of this study was to explore teacher beliefs connected to teaching, learning, and differentiated instruction in diverse classrooms. This study used qualitative case study methodologies to interview, survey, and observe the beliefs and practices of four white, female, veteran middle level educators operating in diverse classroom settings. Data analysis revealed the following themes: (a) differentiated instruction is considered essential, (b) teachers' diversity definitions influenced their differentiated instructional strategies, (c) the classroom environment influences teachers self-efficacy, and (d) professional development sessions support differentiated instructional practices. Conclusions drawn from this study may be used to help improve teacher practices--and ultimately learner outcomes--by informing teacher preparation and professional development, state and local educational policies, and curricular reform efforts.


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