Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Mary Lou Morton


According to a 2015-2016 fall term end-of-course survey at a university in the southern United States, differentiated instruction (DI) was minimal and student participants reported that they may have performed better on coursework if given a variety of learning options. The purpose of this study was to determine how instructors at 4 U.S. universities perceive use of DI and their ideas about the necessary tools and strategies to practice it. Research needed to be conducted so instructors could successfully meet the diverse needs of students by having the necessary tools to practice differentiation. Tomlinson’s theory that focuses on the need for DI methods to be present to connect with the needs of learners, and Gardner’s theory based on how people learn in different ways, formed the conceptual framework that guided this study. The research questions focused on instructor experiences, perceptions, and attitudes regarding use of DI and being equipped with necessary tools and strategies to practice differentiation. An exploratory case study was used to capture the insights of 11 instructors purposefully selected from 4 campuses and various subject areas through a 13-item questionnaire. Five themes were identified through open-ended coding of emerging ideas, and the findings were checked for trustworthiness through transcript review. The themes were (a) implementation of DI varied but was limited, (b) professional development opportunities using DI were desired, (c) positive and negative attitudes toward DI were reported, (d) perceptions of DI varied, and (e) diversity of learners was present in all classrooms. This study has implications for positive social change by suggesting ways that faculty can implement differentiation of instruction that may enable students to be more successful in higher education.