Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Ellen Scales


Differentiated instruction (DI) is recognized as a factor that could improve the reading disparity among students despite diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Few studies have been conducted that document elementary public school reading teachers’ perspectives on differentiating reading instruction and selecting DI strategies for low-performing, low-socioeconomic (LP-LSES) students. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to understand third- through fifth-grade reading teachers’ perspectives on their abilities to differentiate reading instruction and select DI strategies effectively. The conceptual framework that guided this study was Tomlinson’s DI model and Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory. The research questions focused on the perspectives of third- through fifth-grade reading teachers regarding their ability to effectively differentiate reading instruction and select DI strategies that increase the reading achievement of their LP-LSES students. Purposeful sampling was used to select 12 elementary reading teachers to participate in semistructured interviews. Emergent themes were identified through thematic analysis, including in vivo coding. The findings were developed and checked for trustworthiness through member checking and thick descriptions. The results showed that: (a) teachers’ effectiveness in DI was perceived through years of teaching and training, (b) time was the main challenge, (c) students’ self-confidence was a factor in their achievement, and (d) tiered assignments in small groups were the most effective DI strategy. The results of this study may contribute to positive social change by providing teachers and administrators with a deeper understanding of teachers’ knowledge and ability to implement the DI model and identify DI strategies needed to increase the reading achievement of LP-LSES students within school districts.

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