Readiness-based differentiation in primary school mathematics: Expert recommendations and teacher self-assessment
Number of pages
SourceFrontline Learning Research, 3, 2, (2015), pp. 90-116
Article / Letter to editor
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Frontline Learning Research
SubjectLearning and Plasticity
The diversity of students' achievement levels within classrooms has made it essential for teachers to adapt their lessons to the varying educational needs of their students ('differentiation'). However, the term differentiation has been interpreted in diverse ways and there is a need to specify what effective differentiation entails. Previous reports of low to moderate application of differentiation underscore the importance of practical guidelines for implementing differentiation. In two studies, we investigated how teachers should differentiate according to experts, as well as the degree to which teachers already apply the recommended strategies. Study 1 employed the Delphi technique and focus group discussions to achieve consensus among eleven mathematics experts regarding a feasible model for differentiation in primary mathematics. The experts agreed on a five-step cycle of differentiation: (1) identification of educational needs, (2) differentiated goals, (3) differentiated instruction, (4) differentiated practice, and (5) evaluation of progress and process. For each step, strategies were specified. In Study 2, the Differentiation Self-Assessment Questionnaire (DSAQ) was developed to investigate how teachers self-assess their use of the strategies recommended by the experts. While teachers (N = 268) were moderately positive about their application of the strategies overall, we also identified areas of relatively low usage (including differentiation for high-achieving students) which require attention in teacher professional development. Together, these two studies provide a model and strategies for differentiation in primary mathematics based on expert consensus, the DSAQ which can be employed in future studies, and insights into teachers' self-assessed application of specific aspects of differentiation.
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