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).