Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 111 Number 1, 2009, p. 214-247
Because of its special education association, differentiated instruction (DI) is a topic of concern for many educators working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners, whereby bilingual, multicultural, and culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is considered more appropriate for responding to cultural and linguistic diversity. Furthermore, although the literature base on DI recognizes cultural and linguistic diversity, it offers little in terms of ways to address these differences.
This research took place at two CLD elementary schools serving ELLs in North San Diego County, California. Schools were chosen because both are reaching high levels of academic achievement and are closing achievement gaps, dispelling the myth that high levels of poverty and/or CLD student populations lead to lower student achievement.
Data Collection and Analysis
Over 5 years, observations, recorded conversations among teachers, administrators, students, and parents, and supporting documents collected from both schools were initially coded by researchers reading through responses and documents. Using a qualitative analysis procedure, codes were generated to identify data relevant to general features of DI and CRT. This was followed by more focused coding wherein previous codes were reviewed, erroneous information was eliminated, and smaller codes were then combined into larger ones. Finally, codes were organized into larger themes identified and grounded by DI and CRT literature.
The best teaching practices are those that consider all learners in a classroom setting and pay close attention to differences inherent to academic, cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity. Through a closer examination of two different theoretical models that have rarely been linked or reconciled, educators may be able to determine what is appropriate for particular groups of students in particular classrooms in particular locales. In implementing school reform efforts to improve student achievement, reconciliation of best teaching practices and the creation of hybrid pedagogies are critical in addressing a future of an increasingly diverse country and global community.