Expertise in differentiation : a preservice and inservice teacher make their way

Brimijoin, Kay, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tomlinson, Carol A., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert W., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
McNergney, Robert F., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Richards, Herbert C., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The literature on differentiation offers insights and recommendations on principles, models, and pedagogy. There has been minimal evidence presented, however, about how an inservice teacher learns about differentiation and virtually no research about how a preservice teacher comes to understand and practice responsive teaching. This qualitative study attempts to describe how an inservice and preservice teacher come to understand and practice differentiation and how that process affirms or refutes existing research about competence in addressing student diversity.

The study focuses on one inservice and one preservice teacher over four months in a fifth grade classroom. The key components for data collection were eight interviews with the preservice teacher and six with the inservice teacher, seven observations of the preservice teacher and three of the inservice teacher, and reflection journals from both participants that spanned the entire study. A case study in the final report presents general and particular description of each participant and their lived experience together. Evidence of rigor in the research includes triangulation through interviews, observations, reflection journals, documentation, and videotaped lessons; peer debriefing; member checking; and attestation of an audit trail.

The following four assertions emerged from the study: the practice of differentiation is dynamic, influenced by changing beliefs and knowledge; beliefs and understanding about differentiation are enacted through continuous assessment; a context that supports differentiation is critical for successful translation of beliefs and understandings into teaching and learning; and key differences exist in the process of understanding and practicing differentiation for the preservice and inservice teacher.

By bringing together what and how a preservice and inservice teacher learn about differentiation it is possible to define specific developmental stages as the content, context, and process of their experience takes shape. While they often find themselves at the same point in development, they move through each stage at different rates of speed and levels of sophistication. Self-system processes, prior experiences, and the complexities of learning to differentiate define the distance between them. The findings show that, in contrast to existing research, the novice teacher is capable of beginning to teach by addressing diverse student needs. However, it is clear that extensive support structures are necessary to remove roadblocks and enhance the progress of the preservice teacher as well as to sustain the momentum of the inservice teacher as they refine their efforts to respond to student variance. Leadership, Foundations, and Policy Curry School of Education University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia APPROVAL OF THE DISSERTATION This dissertation, "Expertise in Differentiation: A Preservice and Inservice Teacher Make Their Way," has been approved by the Graduate Faculty of the Curry School of Education in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
inservice teachers, differentiation, preservice teachers

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:38:12.

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