Research Review: Differentiated Instruction, Professional Development, and Teacher Efficacy

Phase 1: Summary

The article Differentiated Instruction, Professional Development, and Teacher Efficacy by Dixon, Yssel, McConnell and Hardin (2014), articulates the results of a study performed to investigate and examine teacher efficacy pertaining to teachers’ desires to differentiate their instruction. Indeed, the growing student diversity in today's classrooms calls for appropriate instructional strategies.

The two research questions are addressed in this article are as follows:

1) Do teachers who express higher teacher efficacy differentiate instruction more in their classrooms than teachers who feel less efficacious?

2) Does professional development in differentiation relate to teacher efficacy?

In terms of the participants for the study, two school districts were chosen and the research was thus conducted in four schools in each district ( two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school). District 1 that was chosen for the study is essentially characterized as a white-collared demographic community that has a population of more than 4,000 students in high school through grades 9-12. This district is known to pride current educational practices and is also associated with high socioeconomic status. The second chosen participant is district 2 which is in a midsized industrial city and is characterized as “blue-collared” in demographics that is comprised of a diverse student body.  The researchers recommended 5 different teachers in these two districts of each of the four schools to participate in the study.

To collect the data, two scales were utilized in the study, the Teacher Self-Efficacy Scale (TSES) and the Teacher Efficacy Scale (TES). The results of the study  were conducted through a series of questionnaires that were distributed to teachers in the two districts. The first step the researchers did to conduct their study was to distribute the instrument of the teacher self-efficacy scale to the participants. The teacher self efficacy scale is a questionnaire that consist of 24 items in a Likert-type response format of nine choices with options that range from none at all to a great deal. There are also 3 subscales in this section; 1) instructional strategies, 2) classroom management and 3)student engagement that were included in this study as they are all relevant to issues of differentiation. A second instrument of teacher efficacy scale was also distributed to the participants. This scale consisted of 22 items with a 6-point linker type response and contained two subscales: 1) personal efficacy and 2) teacher efficacy.  

The results in the study revealed that there was a significant difference on the teacher self-efficacy scales in the two districts that participated in the study. The findings suggested that the demographic differences between the two districts varied as the results showed that District 1 which was described as a white collared community with a high SES, may be the reason that teachers saw themselves as more efficacious as opposed to District 2. The study concluded that a greater number of professional development hours in the differentiation of instruction was positively linked with both teacher efficacy and teacher sense of efficacy beliefs. The researchers established that teacher efficacy is in effect an important element for the process of differentiation, regardless of what grade level they taught. The results of the study also demonstrated that greater teacher efficacy and sense of self-efficacy beliefs were in fact associated with greater levels of differentiating instruction in their classrooms.

In retrospect, given the study examined, it is evident that the research yields several limitations and further research must be conducted in regards to differentiation of instruction, professional development training and teacher attitude. One research limitation was that the researchers used only two school districts in their study although they had 4 schools per each district that represented the different levels of education and all of the responders were Caucasian teachers. The authors also describe that there was no evidence to indicate the precise formula” in determining effective ways that will contribute to the increase of teacher behaviours according to professional development (p.125).

Research Article


Natasha Oliel February 12, 2019, 4:25 AM

Phase 2: Critique In the article, it is evident that the authors emphasize the purpose of the study and hypothesized their beliefs of the relationship between differentiated instruction, teacher efficacy as well as a sense of self-efficacy beliefs. The research questions addressed in the study, are in effect valuable as not only do they provide the audience with enough specifics on the focus of the research, but it is also stated in a clear and concise format for the audience to easily understand. More specifically, the research question addressed clarifies exactly what will be the aim of the study and serves as a guide for the audience to further discover the results that will eventually unfold and come together. Moreover, the authors of the article clearly state the steps the researchers did and how it was done, allowing the audience to explore the research question and further evaluate the research methods used in the study. The article comprises a method section which adequately describes the participants chosen for study and explains the procedure of the research design. For instance, the research study was comprised with the participation of two school districts; district 1 and district 2. The researchers differentiates these two districts by its population and major characteristics as the participants were chosen based on the teachers characteristics and the demographic information which included gender, ethnicity, and where and what the teachers taught. In effect, it is evident that the choice of participants considered for this study vary to represent the credibility of the research and provides the readers with enough information to further explore the research question addressed. Additionally, the authors describe each step of the research procedure in specific detail in which they used to collect their data and findings. The methods used to measure teacher self efficacy are considered to be reasonable as it provides enough evidence for construct and validity. Nonetheless, the second instrument of teacher efficacy scale that was distributed also accurately assessed the report of measurement for validity for each of the subscales as they were associated with issues of differentiated instruction. Furthermore, the data collected, and the main results obtained for the research was demonstrated in sufficient detail that enables the audience to understand how the conclusion and findings have been reached. The research included all relevant data and procedures the researchers took to answer the research question addressed based on their hypothesis. For instance, the researchers explain how they initially conducted a predictive discriminant analysis with teacher self efficacy scales and teacher efficacy scales predicting the number of professional development hours as reported by teachers in their questionnaires. The researchers then performed a predictive discriminant analysis with the three subscales of instructional strategy, classroom management, and student engagement and predicted the professional development hours as reported on the questionnaire. The researchers took all data into account to find out whether a greater teacher sense of efficacy beliefs and teacher efficacy would be associated with greater levels of differentiating instruction in the teachers’ classrooms. The researchers also performed a simple linear regression with these scales and a stepwise multiple regression with the subscales of Instructional Strategy, Classroom Management, and Student Engagement predicting differentiation. The results of the study have been interpreted and discussed with references to the research question, the hypothesis and theoretical framework. The results for both TES and TSES have predicted that teachers who had more professional development in differentiation and had more professional development hours regardless of what school they taught at, felt more efficacious in differentiating instruction in their classrooms. Both TES and TSES also indicated that the teachers who had more professional development hours predicted more efficacy. Thus, the findings suggest that the subscales of the measures that was used in the study found that the instructional strategy subscale of TSES was the best indicator of differentiated instruction, while the other subscales such as classroom management and students’ engagement were unrelated to differentiation. In effect, this study confirmed the researcher’s hypothesis that the greater professional development in differentiation is in fact associated with greater levels of teacher efficacy and sense of self-efficacy beliefs.

Hanna Serruya February 12, 2019, 4:25 AM
Replying to Natasha Oliel

Phase 3: Analysis A fundamental aspect of inclusive classrooms is teacher’s understanding and readiness levels regarding the use of differentiated instruction in the classroom in order to maximize students’ learning experiences. As discussed in the article, the methodology of differentiated instruction is responsive to the learning preferences, interests and readiness of the individual learner, thus, promoting student engagement, motivation and optimal success. Furthermore, it is eminent for teacher education pre-service programs to educate beginning teachers about the essential elements of differentiated instruction as well as the meaningful impact it has in the world of education. These developing teachers should be provided proper training, support and encouragement through effective professional development with the guidance of professionals. Drawing from the results examined and emphasized in the study teacher self-efficacy beliefs, (confidence in their ability to effectively teach) play a crucial role in teacher’s desire in implementing differentiation strategies into their classroom. That is when schools come into the picture as they have the power to offer workshops and guidance in assisting teachers when planning and creating for diverse levelled lessons. In addition, teachers can rotate turns to observe one another’s performance while differentiation is incorporated into a lesson as feedback is salient to professional development and growth. As developing teachers, we recognize the immense importance of reminding ourselves that one size does not fit all. Indeed, in our future classrooms, we will encounter students with diverse learning needs, interests, learning styles, readiness levels and backgrounds. Thus, it is our ultimate responsibility to refine the learning opportunities we offer in order for them to be effective for each individual student (ex: through collaboration with students, modifications and adaptations). Based on what we have explored, teachers should make it a priority to develop and strengthen their knowledge on how to effectively differentiate instruction in order to meet the diverse needs of each individual student in an inclusionary classroom as every student has the right to an education, and a meaningful one! We must work to build on our self-efficacy, as teachers and gain that confidence to embrace the strategy of differentiation in our teaching practices. An interesting question that is in our interest as well is exploring various concrete ways that will foster a positive increase in teacher self-efficacy as we believe that only once teachers feel skillful and competent about their ability to differentiate their teaching, the path to success suddenly doesn’t feel too rocky after all.

Natasha Oliel February 12, 2019, 4:25 AM
Replying to Hanna Serruya

Reference Dixon, F. A., Yssel, N., McConnell, J. M., & Hardin, T. (2014). Differentiated instruction, professional development, and teacher efficacy. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(2), 111-127. doi:

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