Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Differentiated instruction (DI) research has shown many benefits of implementing instructional practices within an inclusive classroom. However, many teachers do not utilize this instructional practice regularly. An instrumental qualitative case study design that included teachers from one middle school in a rural school district in a southeastern state was used in this study to explore rural middle school teachers' experiences with incorporating the components of DI to support special education students in an inclusion classroom. The challenges faced when incorporating DI were also examined. Tomlinson's model of differentiated instruction framed this study, as it explores the need for teachers to provide responsive instruction to meet the needs of each of their students, regardless of a student's ability. A purposeful sample of 10 middle school teachers' Grades 6–8 from various content areas participated in an interview, an instructional observation, and submitted documents for review. Inductive analysis was used to analyze data of teacher use of DI components, and hand-coding was used to identify emerging thematic relationships and patterns. When asked about incorporating the components of DI to support special education students within an inclusion-based classroom, participants revealed concerns with class size, lack of resources, knowledge/preparation, and professional development. Based on the results, a 3 full day program was created as a project to incorporate DI into improve middle school inclusion-based classrooms for all content teachers. The program may contribute to positive social change by helping middle school teachers use the components of DI in their inclusion-based classes providing support to increase academic success for special education students.