Preservice Teacher Application of Differentiated Instruction

Jan. 10, 2011

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 46, Issue 1, p. 53–70, (2011).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to explore the manifestation of differentiation for special education students in work sample lesson plans written by preservice teachers working toward an elementary credential at a private university in the Pacific Northwest.
Specifically, using archival data and employing content analysis, the author examined the nature, characteristics, and evidence of instructional differentiation included in the work samples prepared by preservice teachers from this institution.
The objective of the study was to gain greater understanding of the types of adaptations this sample identifies as appropriate for diverse learners.

Research Methodology
Preservice teachers produce the work sample with guidance from both the university supervisor and the cooperating teacher, who must meet professional requirements set by each teacher education institution. The work sample, then, exemplifies the best possible teaching done by the preservice teacher in the final stage of teacher education and should reflect best practices, methods, and differentiation. Analysis of all sections of the work samples revealed the types of differentiation preservice teachers use in their lessons and teaching.

A stratified sampling method allowed the study to focus on an equal number of work samples from both undergraduate and graduate students.

Discussion and Conclusion

Six themes emerge from the research into the extent to which preservice teachers plan for the instruction for students with disabilities in the general education classroom.
First, no evidence of purposeful planning for students with IEPs appears in the sequence of the lesson plans.
Second, accommodations written into the work sample lessons center around partner or group work.
Third, preservice teachers have an undeveloped or inaccurate understanding of special education and its terminology.
Fourth, preservice teachers tend to use multiple intelligences and the use of manipulatives for differentiation.
Fifth, preservice teacher reflections focus on the teacher and his or her actions rather than student learning.
Sixth, very little evidence of meaningful planning or differentiation for students with disabilities appears in the work samples generally.

The author concludes that the data from this study pointing to over one half of students with IEPs leaving the general classroom for special education services, point to a need to reassess how we include students with disabilities in the general education classroom. 


Given the research results, it follows that teacher candidates need explicit instruction and guidance in implementing differentiation skills, strategies for remediation, in-depth understanding of IEP requirements, and they must intern with professionals well versed in such knowledge and who teach in inclusive environments.
Additionally, teacher education programs must ask preservice teachers to demonstrate course content in practicum experiences to ensure skills transfer to practice.

Updated: Sep. 14, 2011