Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Marcia B. Imbeau

Committee Member

Jennifer Beasley

Second Committee Member

Michael Wavering

Third Committee Member

Kathleen Collins


Education, Differentiated instruction, Differentiation, Elementary education, Gifted education, Teacher support


Differentiated instruction as a philosophical approach to teaching has been around for decades. In recent weeks differentiation has come under fire as being an approach to teaching that is simply too difficult for teachers to implement. While teachers may attend a workshop or take a graduate class on the topic of differentiation and choose not to embrace the philosophy, there are also teachers who have successfully implemented differentiation. The argument against differentiation is based on the amount of effort required to simultaneously implement all components of differentiation.

To address these concerns the following question provided guidance for the present multi-method qualitative study: What does differentiated instruction look like in an elementary classroom? The purpose of this multi-method qualitative study was to unpack the thinking of teachers who have successfully implemented differentiated instruction. This goal was achieved through interviews, observations, and an analysis of artifacts from three case studies following three elementary teachers over a four-week window during the final quarter of the school year.

The research was conducted in a large school district in southwest Missouri. Results indicated teachers who implement differentiated instruction share common beliefs, attitudes and characteristics. Additionally, ongoing professional support is important for the successful implementation of differentiated instruction.