Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Jerita Whaley


Students in a local rural northeastern high school have demonstrated decreasing academic performance in social studies courses for the past 5 years. The purpose of this bounded qualitative case study of the local social studies department was to investigate how social studies teachers and administrators for grades 7-12 describe differentiated instruction (DI) and professional development in DI. This study was grounded in the zone of proximal development, which stressed the importance of providing instruction at students' instructional levels, and DI, which emphasized tailoring instruction to address students' needs. Three research questions focused on how social studies teachers and administrators viewed teachers' use of DI and described the professional development training for DI. Open ended interviews of 3 administrators and 9 secondary social studies teachers in the local school who volunteered to participate , observations of the teacher interviewees' classroom lessons, and reviews of documents related to instructional materials or professional development provided the data for the bounded case. The data were analyzed in an explanation building technique which flowed from the research questions. The findings indicated that the participants had positive perceptions of DI, the social studies teachers used DI strategies with struggling students and wanted effective professional development training and resources for using DI, and instructors wanted more administrative support. The results of this study may impact social change in the local school by providing effective DI techniques to use with struggling students. Professional development training in effective DI techniques may promote collaboration among the faculty and improve student performance in social studies.