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The effect of differentiated instruction on student mathematics achievement in primary school classrooms

Mulder, Quinten (2014) The effect of differentiated instruction on student mathematics achievement in primary school classrooms.

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Abstract:Differentiated instruction becomes more and more important in primary education, because students of the same age differ in the extent to which they need instruction and support during learning. Providing differentiated instruction means adapting instruction to the needs of students. It is assumed that differentiated instruction leads to more student achievement, but that is not clear. The aim of this study was to determine to what extent differentiated instruction has effect on student mathematics achievement in primary school classrooms. Twenty-four primary school teachers in the Netherlands were observed three times by three observers with the purpose of determining the extent of differentiated instruction to explore what effect this has on mathematics achievement. The participants were selected on the basis of non-random sampling. The instrument used for the observations was developed for this study, partly based on the theoretical framework and partly based on the ICALT observation instrument from Van de Grift. Student mathematics achievement was measured through CITO mathematics test results. Multi-level analyses were performed to identify the effect of differentiated instruction on student mathematics achievement. Results showed that differentiated instruction has no statistically significant effect on student mathematics achievement, which was against expectations. The relationship between differentiated instruction and mathematics achievement was positive, which means that the more the teacher differentiates, the higher the mathematics achievement of the students is. However, this can also be due to chance. This result may be due to the low variation between the extent of differentiated instruction provided by the teachers. The low variation may have been influenced by the way the data was collected. The conducted evaluations of teacher behavior were quite strict, making it difficult for teachers to obtain sufficient scores on providing differentiated instruction. Another reason for the low variation between teachers may have been the selection of the schools that was made by Focus staff. Focus staff selected strong, average and weak achievement-oriented approach schools to promote variation between the schools. However, this selection tells nothing about individual teachers within schools. If schools are selected as weak achievement-oriented schools, there is still much variation possible in the abilities of teachers within those schools. Results also showed that below-average students received statically significant more differentiated instruction than above-average student from teachers. Furthermore, results showed that providing above-average students extra challenge and evaluating the learning of students during the processing of the learning content, have the strongest positive influence on student mathematics achievement. This means that the more the teachers challenges above-average students, and the more the teachers evaluates the learning of the students, the higher the student mathematics achievement is. However, no statistically significant effect was found for that, so these results can also be due to chance. In future research, to increase variation between teachers on providing differentiated instruction, the scoring system of the observation instrument has to be changed, making it more easy for teachers to achieve sufficient scores on providing differentiated instruction. This can be done by creating more variation in the scoring system. Because the internal consistency of the instrument was just below the appropriate level, the instrument should be adjusted for future research in order to ensure that all the items of the observation instrument actually measure the amount of differentiated instruction provided by teachers. Further research should also investigate how teachers actually understand, engage with, and respond to diversity in the classroom, because it turned out to be that many teachers still face problems in providing differentiated instruction. When thoughts of teachers are identified, it is possible to determine why teachers do not provide differentiation or make certain decisions regarding differentiation in their classroom, which is useful to remove the problems the teachers face in providing differentiated instruction.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
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