AdapDif: A Case Study on an Online Application Supporting Teachers' Differentiation Efforts

Author: ORCID icon
Moran, Melinda, Curriculum and Instruction - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tomlinson, Carol, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This study traces the experience of an educational technology start-up, AdapDif, that developed and tested an online application addressing the following educational problem of practice: Teachers are expected to differentiate instruction to improve learning for the diversity of students in their classroom, yet they struggle to do so. As a Capstone Project, the resultant implications, recommendation and actions are targeted to AdapDif’s specific context. Two research questions drive the study: What can be learned in the development process of an educational technology with a pedagogical mission? In what ways do teachers engage with an online tool designed to support their attempts to differentiate instruction? Findings suggest that the processes recommended for start-up companies can conflict with the processes of an early stage venture trying to develop an educational product meant to solve a problem of practice. The rush to an MVP and the emphasis on market analysis can lead to a fragmentation or oversimplification in the solution. Phase II findings reveal that AdapDif’s solution—an online application—did not help teachers fully realize differentiation principles and practices; however, a more complex version of the application could nudge them in that direction. Further, findings reveal that the problem of practice may be distilled to teachers’ perceptions of time as proxy for complexity.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
differentiation, differentiated instruction, educational technology, personalization, Tomlinson, flexible grouping
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