Date of Conferral

2014

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Li-Ching Hung

Abstract

Middle schools in Georgia and all over the United States face unique obstacles for enhancing the academic accomplishment of an increasingly diverse group of learners. Under pressure to implement innovative research-based teaching practices to overcome these challenges, many schools and teachers adopt differentiated instruction (DI), a teaching approach designed to accommodate different learning styles and levels of ability. This study was grounded in Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences and Lev Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD) theory. The research questions investigated in this study were designed (1) to explore the perceptions of science teachers regarding how they apply DI and (2) what obstacles they encountered in their application of DI methods. The data collected were analyzed using occurring themes through individual interviews, observations, and artifacts from 5 regular education science teachers and 2 special service teachers who implemented DI in their classroom. Findings of the study revealed that the teachers experienced successes and difficulties in implementing DI strategies in science. They addressed these difficulties by changing their lessons to coincide with available materials or resources and applying low-preparation DI strategies to meet the needs of each student. Data from this study informed social change by assisting teachers in providing enhanced instruction which promotes student engagement and academic success through the grades. In turn, empowers students to graduate from high school prepared for advanced learning, which leads to productive careers.