A Qualitative Study of Gifted Teachers' Perceptions of Differentiated Instruction

Ashley Gatling, Walden University


Underachievement among gifted students in a southern K-5 Title I elementary school has become a concern for county and school administrators and teachers. A 32% decline in Grade 3 social studies scores on the state test became a catalyst for the school system to implement the Talented and Gifted Program (TAG). The purpose of this case study was to explore gifted support teachers' and TAG teachers' perceptions of the implementation of differentiated instruction (DI) for gifted students. The conceptual framework that guided this study included Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, which emphasizes the importance of teachers' use of instruction to support each student's independent and potential instructional level, and Tomlinson's DI, which involves the adoption of strategies for mediating instruction. Two gifted support teachers and 6 TAG teachers who had taught a minimum of 5 years, were certified or in the process of certification, and had experience teaching gifted students were interviewed. Data from the individual interviews, classroom observations, and document reviews were content analyzed. Findings indicated that these 8 gifted support teachers and TAG teachers perceived DI positively, used differentiated instructional strategies with gifted students, identified barriers to implementation of DI, desired appropriate professional development training and workshops for DI with gifted students, engaged in formal and informal collaborative practices for gifted students, and identified a need for additional administrative support and resources for DI with gifted students. Implications for social change may include professional development for teachers designed to increase their instructional use of DI for gifted students to improve gifted academic achievement.