Date of Award
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership for Learning Dissertations
Dr. Tak Cheung Chan
First Committee Member
Dr. Reta Ugens Whitlock
Second Committee Member
Dr. David Buckman
Scholars have purported that teachers infrequently implement differentiated instruction due to self-imposed obstacles or misconceived notions that promote barriers. This study was designed to generate an awareness of the differences between school administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions of instructional leadership practices towards implementation of differentiated instruction. From the existing research, six functions of instructional leadership and 27 practices were identified as being effective in supporting the implementation of differentiated instruction. These functions of instructional leadership along with related practices served as the basis for a two-part, six subset, and 27 item researcher-designed survey. Data were collected from 34 middle school administrators and 171 teachers from a major metropolitan school district in the southeast United States.
When viewed separately, the middle school administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions derived from this study reflected a high degree of agreement with the positive statements of the survey. Similar findings were discovered when examining administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions of instructional leadership in support of differentiation among middle schools of different school achievement status. However, when comparing administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions, teachers were not in complete agreement with administrators in 4 of 6 subsets including the total average of all subsets. Teachers consequently perceived survey statements about supervision and evaluation of instruction, protection of instructional time, providing incentives for teachers, and providing professional development as not being experienced to the same extent as believed by administrators to be in practice. These results are in alignment with the literature indicative of teacher perceived barriers towards the differentiation of instruction often hampered by a lack of administrative support. Additional evidence for this viewpoint may be seen in the results of the total average of all subset functions of instructional leadership practices. A high degree of disagreement between administrators and teachers for the statements of the survey raises the concern that misconceptions exist. Given this outcome, school administrators may not be as attuned to the teachers’ perceptions of their support for the practice of differentiated instruction.
Future research into the impact of competing priorities upon administrators’ focus of instructional leadership may offer insights into the attentiveness of administrators toward teachers’ instructional needs. Furthermore, policy makers should take into account the perceptions of principals for an innovation before requiring its institutionalization.
The researcher concluded by asserting that administrators have the responsibility to attend to teachers’ perceptions. A misalignment of beliefs and attitudes held for innovations by school administrators and teachers can unfortunately contribute to creating additional barriers for implementation. Planning for differentiated instruction, or any instructional change, should be informed by the perceptions of all stakeholders for the innovation.