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Perceived efficacy and preparedness of beginning teachers to differentiate instruction

Michelle Casey, Johnson & Wales University


Today’s classrooms are more academically and culturally diverse than ever. Teachers who differentiate instruction proactively plan varied approaches to what students need to learn, how they will learn it, and how they will show what they have learned (Tomlinson, 2003). Many teacher preparation programs fail to prepare teachers for this increasing diversity, seldom giving instruction in how to differentiate instruction (Holloway, 2000). Studies show that the more efficacious teachers are, the more likely they are to differentiate instruction. The purpose of this study was to investigate beginning teachers’ perceptions of their preparedness and efficacy to differentiate instruction among students of diverse race, culture, and learning needs. A two-phase, sequential mixed-methods design was used. The Survey of Beginning Teachers’ Perceived Preparedness and Efficacy for Differentiating Instruction assessed perceptions of Preparedness (28 items, alpha = .96) and Self-Efficacy (10 items, alpha = .90) to differentiate instruction for N = 36 graduates from one MAT teacher preparation program. A focus group with N = 10 purposively selected 2010 graduates and interviews with N = 2 graduates each from the 2008 and 2009 classes, and N = 2 faculty were conducted. Descriptive statistics, ANOVA, and t-tests were used. Findings indicated that teachers felt prepared and confident to differentiate instruction. No significant differences were found in perceptions based on number of certifications held or year of graduation. A high level of relationship was found between self-efficacy and preparedness to differentiate instruction (r = .91, r2 = .81, p < .001). Qualitative data indicated that respondents recognized the need to differentiate instruction, yet lacked a deep understanding of the philosophy. The following three areas presented the greatest challenges when attempting to differentiate: pre-existing ideas of how to teach which contradict differentiation, misinformation regarding differentiation, and classroom management skills. This often resulted in the unintentional implementation of surface-level differentiation, rather than deep-structure differentiation (Brighton, Hertberg, Moon, Tomlinson, & Callahan, 2005). The discussion of the findings supports the literature in at least four areas: (a) the current need for differentiated instruction, (b) characteristics of effective teacher preparation programs, (c) self-efficacy as it relates to teaching and learning, and (d) change on schools.

Subject Area

Instructional Design|Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Casey, Michelle, "Perceived efficacy and preparedness of beginning teachers to differentiate instruction" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3450193.