Author(s)

Brian JonesFollow

Date

8-2014

Department

School of Education

Degree

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Chair

Lucinda Spaulding

Keywords

best practices, differentiated instruction, middle grades, science

Disciplines

Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching | Science and Mathematics Education

Abstract

The purpose of this grounded theory study was to develop a model explaining the role of differentiated instruction (DI) in effective middle school science teaching. The study examined the best teaching practices and differentiated elements from eight general education middle school science teachers, all scoring at the highest level of a teaching effectiveness measure on their evaluations, through a collection of observational, interview, survey, and teaching artifact data. The data were analyzed through the methodology of a systematic grounded theory qualitative approach using open, axial, and selective coding to develop a model describing how and to what degree effective middle school science teachers differentiated their best teaching practices. The model that emerged from the data shows instruction as a four-phase process and highlights the major elements of best practices and DI represented at each phase. The model also depicts how teachers narrowed the scope of their differentiating strategies as instruction progressed. The participants incorporated DI into their pedagogies, though in different degrees at each phase, and primarily by using variety to present concepts with multiple types of instruction followed by a series of sense-making activities related to several learning modalities. Teachers scaffolded students carefully, using informal and formal assessment data to inform future instructional decisions and especially their plans to reteach or extend on a concept. The model is intended to provide insight into the value of DI for middle school science teaching.