Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Anju Jolly

Abstract

Despite a rural Georgia school district's effort to increase the academic performance of all students, the achievement gap persists between general education and special education students. The purpose of the study was to explore what factors hindered coteachers from consistently applying differentiated instruction in elementary inclusion classrooms. The conceptual framework for the study emanated from Vygotsky's social development theory as it related to teachers learning from each other through professional collaboration. The research questions explored coteachers' perceptions about differentiated instruction for students with disabilities. Using a case study methodology and purposeful sampling of 6 general education and 6 special education teachers, who met the criteria and agreed to participate, qualitative data were gathered through surveys, semistructured teacher interviews, and lesson plan documentation. Open-ended surveys, transcribed interviews, and lesson plans were coded and analyzed through open and axial coding to generate themes. The major themes identified included teacher perceptions of differentiated instruction, implementing differentiated instructional practices, and supports needed for successful differentiated instructional practices. The findings indicated a need for a systematic approach to professional development on differentiated instructional strategies to improve educational growth for students with disabilities. The recommended professional development may contribute to positive social change by increasing coteachers' impact on the learning environment for special needs students. This increased impact may lead to higher graduation rates and more self-sufficiency among students.