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Differentiated Instruction: An evaluation of the effectiveness of instructors strategies used in
three post secondary schools in the Caribbean region.

By:
Sasha Goodridge
Paula Marcelle
Nyeisha George-Minott

A paper in Partial Fulfilment


Of the Requirements of
EDLS 6507:
Semester 1, 2016

E-mail:

sashagoodridge.3@ my.open.uwi.edu
nyeisha.georgeminott@my.open.uwi.edu
paula.marcelle@my.open.uwi.edu

University:

University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus

E-tutor:

Madgerie Jameson-Charles

Course Coordinator:

Madgerie Jameson-Charles

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Title: Differentiated instruction: An evaluation of the effectiveness of instructors strategies


used in three post secondary schools in the Caribbean region.

Differentiated instruction is the practice of modifying and adapting materials, content, student
projects and products and assessment to meet the learning needs of students (Jesus, 2012). It
is based on the premise that students learn best when their teachers accommodate the
differences in their readiness levels, interests and learning profiles (Weebly, 2014). The
intent of differentiated instruction is to maximize each student's growth and individual
success by meeting each student where he or she is, rather than expecting students to modify
themselves for the curriculum (Huebner, 2010).

In the Caribbean, the tertiary level landscape comprises of a range of tertiary level
institutions: the regional university, national public universities, private and offshore
universities, private and public colleges, polytechnics and external colleges and universities
offering a wide range of certificate, diploma and degree programmes to students. In tertiary
institutions the teacher centered instructional strategy of lecturing is common. Academic
success however is hampered because this does not cater to students of various diversities and
backgrounds. Mastery of learning tasks can be obtained through a varied choice of
differentiated strategies (Lightweis, 2013).
Most of the literature on differentiated instruction is confined to the North American context
and mainly at the elementary and high school level. Recognizing that the cultural borrowing
of educational policies and practices has its advantages and disadvantages due to individual
societal culture, the significance of this research is to bridge the gap in the literature by
exploring differentiation instruction at the postsecondary level in the Caribbean region where
the culture is relatively homogenous. The results of this study can possibly guide future
research or current practices by educators, thus improving student attainment. Thus, the
purpose of this study is to describe the instructional strategies that are being incorporated
with differentiated classrooms in three Caribbean islands Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and
Trinidad and Tobago at the postsecondary level and determine the level of success of these
strategies in Caribbean classrooms amongst students aged 16-25 years.

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In view of the aforementioned, this research purports to answer the following research
questions
1.

What are the differentiated instructional strategies used in post secondary schools?

2.

What is the level of success of differentiated instructional strategies in postsecondary

classes?
Keywords: differentiated instruction, post secondary or tertiary education, caribbean
classroom
Literature Review
What are the differentiated instructional strategies used in post secondary schools?
Differentiated instruction is a method of designing and delivering instruction to best reach
each student (Weselby, 2014). It is based on the belief that learning experiences need to be
designed and adapted to meet students individual and diverse needs in order to facilitate
student success (Santangelo and Tomlinson, 2009). Differentiated Instruction is set in the
social constructivist learning theory, which promotes instructional strategies that facilitates
instructional enhancement, classroom change and redevelopment, within the context of social
interaction (Subban, 2006).

In educational settings, the student population is becoming more diverse. Santangelo and
Tomlinson (2009) indicated that they evidenced changes among the post secondary student
population related to race, ethnicity, gender, economic class, nationality and age. They further
stated that there has been a dramatic rise in enrollment among students with disabilities. In
this changing educational climate, it is believed that teachers need to be flexible in their
approach to teaching; a one size fit all approach to teaching is no longer appropriate
(Santangelo and Tomlinson, 2009). This means that educators are challenged to cater to the
needs of a diverse student body, by changing the teaching strategies to fit the needs of the

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learners. Teachers can differentiate instruction in three ways, content, process and products
based on their understanding of students readiness levels, interest and learning profiles
(Tomlinson and Santangelo, 2009).

Process differentiation will be the focus in this literature review. It refers to the ways in which
the content is taught, how teachers teach and how students learn (Levy, 2008). Process
differentiation can be defined as sense-making activities that allow each student to increase
his or her level of understanding about the topic being taught (Santangelo and Tomlinson,
2009). According to Joseph (2013) differentiating the process within a lesson refers to how
the learners come to understand and assimilate facts, concepts, or skills. Process tasks allow
students to begin thinking about, working with, and personalizing information after they stop
listening to the teacher or reading text materials (Santangelo & Tomlinson, 2009). Three
process differentiated strategies, which are social constructivist learning strategies will be
discussed. These are problem based learning, tiered activities and cooperative learning.

One highly recommended strategy highlighted in the literature to facilitate process


differentiation instruction is problem based learning. It is an instructional (and curricular)
learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and
practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem
(Savery 2006). Problem based learning, can be used to provide students with topics of
interest that evoke their curiosity, inspire passion or encourage students to discover new
interests ( Santangelo & Tomlinson, 2009). Furthermore, Tomlinson and Santangelo (2009)
noted that differentiating instruction promotes engagement, facilitates motivation, and helps
students connect what is being taught with things they already value. In addition, it can
provoke serious thinking as students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem solving

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context (Jesus, 2013). Researchers believe that this instructional technique can be used to
promote interactive, engaging and collaborative instruction that is congruent with students
interests, beliefs and background experiences as well as promote efficacy in students
(Tomlinson and Santangelo, 2009). It also provides students with the thinking and
collaboration skills required in the workplace (Jesus, 2012). In a contrasting perspective to
problem based learning, a 2006 study by Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark (2006) presented
evidence for the superiority of guided instruction. These researchers suggest that despite the
popularity of unguided and minimally guided instructional approaches, these have proved to
be less effective than instructional approaches that place strong emphasis on social
constructivist instructional strategies.

Stephen Joseph (2013), noted that process differentiated strategies are sense making activities
which allow students to increase their understanding of the topics being taught. One process
differentiated strategy suggested by Joseph (2013) is tiering activities. These activities
facilitate various levels of complexity to optimize every students classroom experience. In
their study of differentiated instruction in postsecondary environments, Santangelo and
Tomlinson (2009) indicated that tiered activities were used to address varied levels of
readiness of students. In a post secondary introductory level graduate course on Education
and psychology, two groups of students with little experience or knowledge were assigned a
Jigsaw activity and each group member became an expert on one stage in the eligibility
process and taught what they learned to their peers (Santangelo and Tomlinson, 2009).
Concurrently, another group were assigned a role-play activity that simulated a contentious
placement meeting for a student with a learning disability and then reflected on the
experience. They further stated that homework assignments corresponding to tiered activities
were also structured to ensure that students had opportunities to reinforce fundamental

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understanding and to extend their inquiry when appropriate (Santangelo and Tomlinson,
2009).

Joesph (2013) noted that process differentiated strategies is not only based on how the
teacher decides to teach (lecture for auditory learners; centres for tactile learners; small group
and whole group), but also the strategies the teachers encourage students to use to facilitate
thorough exploration of the content taught. This can be done by way of higher-order thinking,
open-ended thinking, discovery, reasoning, and research (Bailey & Williams-Black, 2008).
One such strategy that can further develop research and discovery learning is cooperative
learning. Jesus (2012) in his article Differentiated Instruction recommended cooperative
learning as the main recommended instructional strategy. Cooperative learning is the
instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and
each others learning.

Findings from Joseph (2013) study on pre and post service teachers on their use of
differentiated instruction, showed that the frequently used method of differentiated instruction
by teachers is group work.

In a study of 379 teachers in the Caribbean, fifty-three percent

(53% ) of respondents indicated that their students work in groups some of the time, thirty
nine percent (39%) stated that their students work in groups most of the time, however only
eight percent ( 8%) indicated that their students worked in groups all of the time. The
teachers in the study indicated that group work is used to assist students in exploring
concepts taught in the lesson and to facilitate interaction among students with varying
abilities. However, in the same study by Joseph (2013), the most frequently used
differentiated strategy was not cooperative learning but graphic organizers, especially
creative writing and role playing to assist students. This was however in infant classes and

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not in a postsecondary setting.

Interestingly, although cooperative learning is a

differentiated strategy, according to the study mentioned above, a minority of teachers use
cooperative learning as a differentiated strategy consistently (Joseph, 2003).
What is the level of success of the differentiated instructional strategies in post secondary
school classrooms ?
Scigliano & Hipsky (2010) identified five benefits derived from differentiated learning; these
are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

A sense of self efficacy


Increased content understanding
Learner empowerment
Increased academic achievement
Inclusion of each student in the learning process
The first four benefits are clearly highlighted in Santangelo and Tomlinson (2009) study. In
their study of a post secondary course taught using differentiated instruction, Santangelo and
Tomlinson (2009) indicated that differentiated instruction made a positive and meaningful
impact on student learning. In fact, all the students enrolled in a first year education and
psychology course, successfully mastered each course objective. Fourteen (14) students
exceeded the required course expectations by completing assignments or activities that
reflected advanced goals. From the written reflections of the students in the course, the
students benefited from the course because it allowed the course to be structured in ways that
reflected diversity among members of the class.

To support these findings, a growing body of research shows positive results for full
implementation of differentiated instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (Rock, Gregg, Ellis,
& Gable, 2008). In one three-year study, Canadian scholars researched the application and
effects of differentiated instruction in K12 classrooms in Alberta. They found that
differentiated instruction consistently yielded positive results across a broad range of targeted

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groups. Compared with the general student population, students with mild or severe learning
disabilities received more benefits from differentiated and intensive support, especially when
the differentiation was delivered in small groups or with targeted instruction (Huebner, 2010).
Further to this study, a longitudinal study on k-12 classrooms was used to highlight the
research findings that students across a broad target group achieve highly, within
differentiated classrooms. These findings are supported by a study of 31 teachers and 645
students by Tiesco. The study found that high performing students who experienced
differentiated instruction performed better than high performing students in traditional
classrooms (Huebner, 2010). In Santangelo and Tomlinson (2009) assessment of their study
of differentiated instruction indicated that the efficacy associated with differentiation at the
K-12 setting can also be realized in a post-secondary environment. The success of these
strategies in the K-12 setting provides valuable input for higher education institutions to
incorporate these strategies in their classrooms. However, the lack of success may stem from
the amount of time and resources college professors would need to create a variety of
instructional materials and activities to engage students (Lightweis, 2013).

Instructional strategies are being used by teachers in postsecondary settings, an investigation


into the consistency and frequency of the use of these strategies and the success of these
strategies are to be determined within the postsecondary educational context in the Caribbean
region.

Conclusion
Differentiated instruction which was developed to cater to a diverse student population, is
based on the Social constructivist theory. There are three differentiated processes; these are
content, process and product. This paper concentrated on instructional strategies that

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developed process differentiated instruction. Research has shown that when differentiated
instruction is used in secondary and postsecondary settings, students perform highly.
Caribbean research has shown that teachers use differentiated strategies but not consistently.
Further research therefore needs to be conducted to determine the process differentiated
strategies used by teachers in post secondary settings, and the success of these strategies.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Introduction
The purpose of this study is to examine the instructional strategies that are being incorporated
with differentiated classrooms in three Caribbean islands Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and
Trinidad and Tobago at the postsecondary level and determine the level of success of these
strategies in Caribbean classrooms amongst students aged 16-25 years. The methodology
chosen to explore these research questions will be explored and justified in this section.

Methodological Framework
A range of paradigms have been developed that can be applied to the field of educational
research (Scott and Morrison, 2006). The description of research paradigms has been
summarized by Bassey (1999) as a network of coherent ideas about the nature of the world
and the function of researchers which, adhered to by a group of researchers, conditions the
patterns of their thinking and underpins their research actions. The research methods that are
chosen should allow for direct investigation of the research questions. The empiricism
paradigm accepts that facts can be collected about the worlds through language that allows us
to represent those facts whereas the interpretivism paradigm emphasizes on the way human
beings give reason to their lives (Lumby and Coleman, 2007). These two paradigms support
qualitative and quantitative research methods. The quantitative positivism research is a

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rational, linear process that has been heavily influenced by scientific method with core
features of concept formation, measurement, causality, generalizations, and value-free.
Qualitative research on the other hand, has a number of features such as subjectiveness,
detailed observations, holistic, process driven and focuses on words rather than numbers used
by the quantitative methodologies. Mixed methods combine both the qualitative approach and
the quantitative approach. It has the advantage of providing the best opportunity of address
the research questions. For the purpose of this small scale research however, mixed methods
would not be used to due time limitations.

Punch (2005) asserts that the research problem influences the research methodology.
Based on the keywords of the research questions, a mixed research approach should be used.
A question such as to examine the instructional strategies that are being incorporated with
differentiated classrooms in three Caribbean islands Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and
Trinidad and Tobago at the postsecondary level is more descriptive in nature, and thus more
easily lends itself to qualitative questions. However, since mandated to limit our research to
one method, and since the researchers are focused on hypothesis validation rather than
hypothesis formulation, a quantitative approach will be used to test the frequency of themes
from the literature of differentiated classroom at the postsecondary level. The second research
questions with keywords such as to what extent, and what is the relationship, suggests a more
quantitative research design to test the strength of association between the variables that are
being considered.

Research design
A number of strategies were considered prior to selecting the survey approach.The survey
design is a quantitative research method that utilizes a questionnaire to obtain the research
data. According to Hutton (1990), the survey design is a method of collecting information by

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asking a set of pre-formulated questions in a predetermined sequence in a structured


questionnaire to a sample of individuals drawn so as to be a representative of a defined
population with questionnaires being used as the data collection instrument. The survey
design strategy will definitely provide a wealth of information on differentiated teaching
methods and learning activities both qualitatively and quantitatively. The purpose of the
survey design therefore, is to generalize from a sample to a population so that inferences can
be made about the teacher's use of differentiated teaching within the classroom and their
attitudes towards the success of these strategies (Creswell, 2009). A benefit of using survey
research in this case is that the characteristics of differentiated instruction can be explored,
and the researcher can explore relationships between variables.

The survey design was used for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is the most advisable
methodology where the research objective is to gather information about attitudes, opinions
or characteristics (Hutton, 1990) in this study to determine the differential strategies
teachers are using within classrooms. Secondly, since the data is being collected from three
different schools in three different locations, the data would be collected in a standardized
form (Hutton, 1990). Thirdly, quantifiable differences between groups or relationships
between variables could be determined and finally, it allows for the collection of data in
different geographical locations. On the flip side, survey research has the disadvantages of
being costly and time consuming for inputting data, coding and analyzing the results (Hutton,
1990).

Survey research also enjoys the advantage of flexible to the level of analysis need, thus it can
be used to give frequency counts for discovery, it can allow for two way table or correlations
between variables, and at the more complex level, it can be used for multi-variate analysis

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among variables (Fogelman & Comber, 2006). Thus, both simple and sophisticated statistical
analysis can be done on the results.

Research Tools
As the teachers are geographically dispersed in three different countries, single-handed onsite research had practical limitations. Participants will be informed about the research by an
introductory email. A hyperlink for an electronic-survey is provided for the site that hosts the
survey questionnaire.

Research Instrument:The Questionnaire


An online questionnaire will be used as a method of data collection The questionnaire
consists of a combination of open-ended (question 10), closed-ended questions (questions 1
to 5 for example) and likert questions. The likert questions, question 6, were based on a
scale 1 to 5, 1 being strongly disagree to 5 strongly agree and questions 3-5 . The closedended questions asked mainly for factual information such as length of teaching, will force
respondents to select the most suitable answer, and the choices were based on the literature.
All question types utilized were used to answer the two research questions.

The Survey Monkey online product was chosen as it allowed the researcher to create the
survey with answers in logic order, and post the survey to website for the participants with
the link to complete. This also allowed for ease of analysis as all researchers are
geographically dispersed. The software program also allowed for the results to be generated
with some statistical analysis to each question and the results could have been exported to
other statistical software for further statistical analysis of the data. The online survey software
has the additional advantage that allows for the results to be displayed in real time. On the

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other hand, despite the real-time and statistical analysis features of online surveys, low
response is an issue as Fogelman and Comber (2002) asserts that respondents may not be
motivated to complete the online questionnaires.

The questionnaire as a survey instrument allowed for the teachers perceptions and practices
of differentiating instruction and their level of success with this process. The front page of the
questionnaire consisted of a covered letter (see appendix A), which introduced the study;
describe the purpose of the study, and a statement on the confidentiality of the participant
answers. The success of this instrument involved beginning with the end in mind and
carefully crafting questions that were measurable, unambiguous, precise and non-complex.
Given that the review of the literature proved that there are many sub activities associated
with the differentiation of the content, process, and the product through consideration of the
learners readiness, interest, and learning profiles, substantial amount of data needed to be
gathered on each of these variables to determine whether the instructors lessons followed
these characteristics. The items in the questionnaire were designed around the variables in the
framework from the literature. An explanation on the type of scales used e.g. ranking 1 to 5,
and continuous scales e.g. strongly agree to strongly disagree were done for each questions to
ensure the respondents understood what the scales mean for the questions.

Context Issues

The researchers have worked at the institutions used as facilitators, thus accessing the
organization was not difficult. Formal letters will be sent to each schools administrators
informing them of the research, and to the IT department of each school for the electronic
survey link to be electronically mailed to the tutors as well. The time period the survey link

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would have been active for was also stated. The IT department also made several follow up
emails reminding participants to assist the researcher by completing the questionnaire. . The
familiar cohort of tutors were chosen as a matter of convenience as the tutors knew the staff
and had more interactions with them, and thus were more likely to open up and discuss
curriculum issues. Using this cohort also meant the researchers were familiar with context
and its associated challenges specific to the course taught, thus minimizing misunderstanding
of instructional issues.

The population
The population under study is 130 instructors or teachers. The population is the total number
of teachers or instructors at three tertiary educational institutions in Antigua and Barbuda,
Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sample and Sampling method


The sample was chosen using the systematic sampling method, with a desired sample size of
30 respondents. This method required all the teachers in the population to be placed in
alphabetical order. The sampling interval was determined by dividing the population by the
desired sample size. In this case, the population of 130 was divided by 30, which gave a
sampling interval of 5. Starting from the first person on the alphabetically list, every fifth
person was selected until the sample size of 30 was obtained. This sampling method was
chosen due to its ease of sampling a population as well as the fact that it facilitates choosing
an even sample without bias (Ross, 2014).
Ethics
The researcher acknowledges the claim that fully ethical research is impossible (Busher and
Clarke, 1990). Despite this fact the researcher had taken into account several ethical
components when conducting this research project.

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An explanatory letter was given on the front page of the online questionnaire survey, which
allowed for informed consent about the objectives of the research. The letter also promised to
protect the participants from harm, violation of privacy and the assurance of complete
anonymity. As the interviewees were all peers of the researchers, it was expected that the
information exchanged was truthful as there was no perceived threats to job security due to
the level playing field between the two.

Validity
Validity tells us whether an item measures or describes what it is supposed to measure or
describe. If an item is unreliable, then it must also lack validity (Bell, 1987). The
questionnaire tool can be considered to be internally valid as the items on the questionnaires
investigate the themes of differentiation based on the themes and the findings from the
literature review.

In relation to the questionnaire survey, internal validity may be comprised in cases where the
respondents did not complete the questionnaires accurately. This accuracy should have been
checked by the methodological triangulation of the semi-structured interviews. Since all the
respondents would have been schooled up to the bachelor degree level minimum, the
respondents should have been able to complete the questionnaires accurately, thus improving
internal validity. Additionally, internal validity may have been compromised due to the low
response rate, as those lecturers who did not participate may have responded differently to
those who have participated significantly enough to change the results and hence the
conclusions that were drawn. Other than internal validity issues from the respondents, the
questionnaire survey instrument was piloted and discussed with peers to determine whether
the objectives of the research could have be obtained from the nature of the question items.

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The findings of the questionnaire survey do have external validity, as the sample size was the
entire population, although the respondents would represent those who have responded to the
e-mail survey link. Thus, each element or respondents can be considered to be representative
of the wider population of facilitators. Thus generalizations can be made. Another researcher
should also be able to replicate the findings in another higher-education distance institute and
obtain similar results barring cultural differences in order for external validity of this study to
be widely accepted.

Reliability
Reliability demonstrates that the operations of a study such as the data collection procedures
can be repeated with the same results (Yin, 1994). In an attempt to safeguard reliability of the
questionnaire survey is obtained through the fixed order of appearance of the question items
to all participants on their computer screens and mobile devices. Thus, the questionnaire
instrument was standard.

Analysis of data
The data collected will be analyzed depending on the nature of the question. Question 1 and 2
the mode and percentages will be utilized and this will determine whether the population
surveyed has engaged in differentiated instruction either in the past or presently. In question 3
through 5 a bar graph and a comparative bar graph will be drawn to compare the frequency
each strategy is used for each mode of instruction. This will allow for a visual depiction on
the strategies teachers use to be displayed. Question 6 will be analyzed using correlational
analysis to determine the effect of each identified qualifier had on level of perceived success
of differentiation instruction. Question 7 and 8 will be described on histograms as they are
continuous data. To determine whether years of experience affects teaching strategy a
correlation will also be done for question 7 and 8. Question 9 will be described via
percentages and this shows whether the composition of the sample is reflected of the gender
divide of the teachers in general. For the open ended question 10, content analysis will be
performed to determine whether there are additional emerging themes that provide greater
insight into the phenomena and by the frequency and use of key terms conclusions can be
drawn.

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Presentation of Findings
The questionnaire consisted of ten questions and were distributed to three different tertiary
education institutions in Barbados, Antigua and Trinidad and Tobago. Thirty questionnaires
were distributed over a period of five days, however, 26 questionnaires were returned.This is
a 87% return rate.
Demographic Data
The demographic data indicated that more females responded than males. Out of the 26
respondents, 21 were female and 5 were males. In terms of work experience, as seen in table
1, the majority, 35 % of the respondents have been teaching for between 6 to 12 years, while
only 4% were teaching for over 25 year.31 % have been teaching between 13-18 years and
15% of the respondents respectively have been teaching for 0-5 and 19-24 years.
Years of
experience

No of respondents

0-5 years

15

6-12 years

35

13-18 years

31

19-24 years

15

Over 25 years

Figure 1: A frequency table of the years of experience of the respondents.


The average class size that the teachers teach is between 16-30 students, this accounted for
73% of the respondents. Only 4% of the respondents have classes between 30-45, while none
of the teachers have class sizes that have 46 or more students. However, 20% of the teachers
have classes 15 students or less.

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Use of differentiated instruction in the classroom


Ninety six percent of the teachers respectively use differentiated instruction within the
classroom at some point or presently use differentiated instruction in the classroom.

Type of differentiated instruction


The below table shows the Face to Face frequency distribution by type of differentiated
activity.

Activity

Every
class

once a
week

1-3 times a
month

once a term never

jigsaw

42

19

19

tiered activity

23

19

19

19

12

cooperative learning

15

15

46

20

tactile learning

23

23

19

15

whole-group
discussion

54

23

small-group
discussion

12

12

31

35

problem-based
learning

12

23

15

35

12

Figure 2.1: A table showing the differentiated strategies used for face to face
differentiated classrooms.
For a visual representation of the above data a comparative bar graph was drawn and is
depicted in the chart below:

The differentiated instructional strategy teachers use the most in face to face interaction in a
differentiated classroom is the jigsaw method. Forty two percent of the respondents use

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jigsaw every class, while 19% use it once a week, 19% use it 1-3 times a month, and 8% once
a term. Teachers also use tiered activities and tactile learning every class 23 percent of the
time respectively.

The below table shows the use of differentiated instruction strategies in an online classroom..
Activity

Every
class

once a
week

1-3 times a
month

once a term never

jigsaw

42

12

tierred activity

31

19

cooperative
learning

31

12

12

tactile learning

27

whole-group
discussion

15

19

15

small-group
discussion

15

15

12

problem-based
learning

27

12

Figure 2.2: A table showing the differentiated strategies used in online classes

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Figure 2.3: A bar chart showing the differentiated strategies used for online classes
The data from figure 2.2 and 2.3 show that jigsaw is the strategy used most in online
classrooms. This strategy is used every day. Similar results were obtained from face to face
classrooms. However, cooperative learning

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Figure 2.4 A bar graph showing the differentiated strategies used in hybrid classrooms

Comparative analysis of differentiated strategies used by teachers in various classroom


every class
Comparative

face to face

online

hybrid

jigsaw

42

42

31

tiered activity

23

31

31

cooperative learning

31

12

tactile learning

23

27

27

whole-group
discussion

15

12

small-group discussion

15

15

problem-based
learning

12

27

23

Figure 2.5: A table

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The data from the table above clearly shows that the most frequently used strategy for three
types of classroom is the jigsaw method was jigsaw, and the least method used on a daily
basis in the different types of classes is whole group discussions.

Comparative analysis of the strategies teachers have never used in the various
classrooms
Comparative

face to face

online

hybrid

jigsaw

tiered activity

12

cooperative learning

20

tactile learning

15

whole-group discussion

23

small-group discussion

35

15

problem-based learning

12

12

Figure 2.6
The data from the table above indicate that many of the teachers in the three different
classrooms have never used used small-group discussions (35%) , whole group discussions
(58%) or cooperative learning (24%).

Teacher opinions on the the level of success of differentiated instruction within the
classroom.

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From the data collected, teachers agree that differential instruction is beneficial in improving
student engagement, improving comprehension of subject matter, improve academic
performance and making a successful learner.
The benefits are as follows:

Engagement
In terms of student engagement, the data clearly shows that the majority of respondents, 92%
agreed that using differentiated instruction within the classroom engages students in the class.
While only 8% disagree that students do not benefit from differentiated instruction. Not only
engages them in the classroom but also makes them more connected with what is taught.
Eighty four percent of the respondents, indicated that they agree that students connect with
the material more when differentiated instruction is used while 8 % disagree and 8% are
unsure.

Engagement of Students in a Differentiated instruction class

Figure 3 :A pie chart showing engagement of students due to differentiated instruction.


Comprehension of material
The data clearly shows that teachers agree differential instruction assists students in
understanding the instruction better. The data clearly shows that 80% of respondents believed

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differential instructor helps students understand what is taught,. Furthermore, 84% of the
respondents, noted that differential instruction improves problem solving skills while 78% of
the teachers helps student understand concepts better.

Figure 3.0 a bar graph showing Differentiated classroom helps student to understand
concepts better
Skills students learn
The data clearly shows in figure 3.1 that students are successful in obtaining skills from a
differentiated learning classroom, These skills are research skills, problem solving skills and
collaboration skills.Figure 3, noted that seventy seven (77%) of teachers believe students
learn collaboration skills from a differentiated classroom while only 8 % disagree and 15%
are unsure. A higher percentage of teachers however agree that problem solving skills are
learnt in collaborative classroom. 84% of the teachers agreed on this, while 8% disagreed
only 4% were unsure. The least skill teachers believe students learn in a differentiated
classroom is research skills. Sixty one percent of the teachers indicated that research skills are
learnt, 23% are unsure and 16% disagree.
Skills learnt by students in differentiated classrooms

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Strongly
disagree

Disagree unsure

Agree

Strongly
disagree

Total

Collaborative skills

4%

4%

15%

42%

35%

100%

Research skills

8%

8%

23%

38%

23%

100%

Problem solving

8%

0%

4%

42%

42%

100%

Figure 3.1: A Table showing teacher views on if differential instruction helps students
understand

Benefits to students.
Differentiated classrooms benefit students in a number of ways. It allow students to be
successful learners and it improves the performance of students in tests. The data clearly
indicates this. The diagram 4 shows clearly that 73% of the teachers agree that differentiated
instruction improves the performance of students on tests.

Figure 4: A bar graph showing teachers opinion on differentiated instruction students


performance on tests

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However, 16 % disagree and 11% are unsure. Interestingly figure 5 shows that, although
most teachers , 69% agree, that differentiate instruction makes students better learners 23% of
the teachers were unsure and 8 % disagree.

Figure 5: A pie chart showing differentiated instruction makes students more successful
learners
Benefits of Differentiated instruction to teachers
As indicated in figure 6, Seventy four percent (74%) of the teachers agree that differentiated
instruction allows them to structure their classes in a way that supports a diversity of learners.
A minority, 12 percent do not believe differentiated instruction allows them to structure their
class, while 8% are unsure. One teacher did not respond.

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Figure 6: A pie chart showing teachers opinion of differentiated instruction allowing to


structure classes to reach students with diverse ability.

In terms of the ability to reach students with different ability within the class, 84% of the
teachers agree with the statement, however 12% disagrees with this statement and 4 % are
unsure.

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Figure 7: A histogram showing teachers opinion on if differentiate instruction reache


students with different ability.

Discussion of Findings
The frequency of use of various differentiated activities were analyzed by the mode of
instruction. In the face to face mode of instruction, the most dominant type of activity was
whole group discussion which was used once per term accounting for 54% of the time,
followed by cooperative learning accounting for 42%, whilst the jigsaw method was used
with the greatest frequency of every class by 42% of the face to face instruction. Thus the
jigsaw method was the most frequently used differentiated activity for face to face
instruction.

With respect to the online mode of instruction, the jigsaw method was also most popular and
most frequently used of all the differentiation strategies which was similar to the face to face
settings. This similar trend suggests that the teachers are most comfortable with this
technique and view it as viable method for increasing student chances of success.

For the hybrid learning or the mix between online and face to face modes of instruction, the
results seem to average off as tiered activities scored equally to the jigsaw method as the
modal differentiation technique. Whilst there was a notable decline in the percentage of
respondents who used these techniques in the hybrid setting, this may have been due to a
lower response rate by participants in this section of questionnaire. The trend of jigsaw
method still dominated.

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Research has shown that differentiated instruction has many benefits to teachers and students.
Scigliano and Hipsky (2010) identified five benefits derived from differentiated learning.
These are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

A sense of self efficacy


Increased content understanding
Learner empowerment
Inclusion of each student in the learning process
Increases academic performance.
The data has clearly shows that the above benefits identified by Scigliano and Hipsky (2010)
are similar benefits identified by the teachers in their differentiated classrooms.The findings
of the study indicated that eighty percent (80%) of the teachers believe using differentiated
learning improves students performance. While 73% of the teachers agree that students
performance on tests improve as a result of differentiated learning. It stands to reason that if
students understand the content better they will be able to perform better on tests.
Interestingly student engagement increases with the use of differentiated classrooms, an
overwhelming 92% of teachers indicated this, which could lead to what Scigliano and
Hipsky, 2010) termed learner empowerment.

In addition, Santangelo and Tomlinson (2009) indicated that differential learning allowed
classes to be structured in ways that reflect diversity and this assisted students in mastering
the content. The findings in this study supported the findings of Santangelo and Tomlinson
(2009). Data collected from teachers in the three Caribbean countries of the study indicated
that 74% of teachers believe differential learning allow them the opportunity to structure
classes to assist students in mastering content. This has the net effect of more students
engaging in class, engaging with the content and obtaining better grades. The data also
suggest that because students work in small groups, they learn collaborative skills as well as
problem solving skills. 88% of the teachers identified problem solving skills while 77%

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identified collaborative skills. To a lesser extent teachers identified research skills as a benefit
of a differentiated classroom.

Conclusion
Differentiation is a strategy that is popularly used by teachers in post secondary institutions in
the Caribbean at post secondary institutions despite the paucity of documentation on this
practice. From the type of activities that teachers used along with the frequency in which they
are applied in their lessons, there seems to be an inherent belief that there is some worth to
this practice. This is also reflected in the attitudinal response where teachers expressed
favourable beliefs in the practice of differentiated instruction and the effects on their efficacy.
Teachers have indicated that the differential strategy used most frequently in all three types of
classrooms is the jigsaw method,which is a cooperative learning method. They also indicated
that students benefit greatly from differentiated instruction. These benefits include improving
engagement in class, to understanding content better to improving performance on tests as
well as learning collaborative and problem solving skills. Teachers also benefit from a
differentiated classroom, it allows them to cater to the needs of a diverse student body as well
as affording them the flexibility needed to structure their classes to cater to the needs of the
students.
In summary, the differentiated classroom strategies used in the three Caribbean islands is the
jigsaw strategy, which is a small group, cooperative strategy, that allows students to foster
collaborative and problem solving skills with other students..

Recommendations
Teachers at the postsecondary level in the Caribbean should be more involved in the
documentation of their success in the implementation of differentiated instructional strategies.

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This can be operationalized through symposiums and conferences on teaching strategies, as


well as special editions of Caribbean Educational journals that are dedicated towards this
topic.
Training teachers at the postsecondary level in pedagogy and andragogy would be useful as it
will expose them to various instructional strategies and the principles of differentiation which
will encourage the teachers to adapt strategies that promote diversity success in the
classroom.

References
Bailey, J. P., & Williams-Black, T. H. (2008). Differentiated instruction: Three teachers
perspectives. College reading association yearbook, 29, 133-151.

Bassey, M. (1999). Case study research in educational settings. McGraw-Hill


Education (UK)
Bell, J. (1987). Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in
Education and Social Science. Open University Press.

Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University press.

Busher, H., & Clarke, S. (1990). The ethics of using video in educational research. using
Video Recordings for Teacher Professional Development, Leeds: University of Leeds,
School of education.

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Creswell, J. (2009). Research Design:Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method


approaches 3rd edition. California, SAGE Publishing, Inc.

Fogelman, K., & Comber, C. (2002). Surveys and sampling. Research methods in
educational leadership and management, 93-107.

Huebner, T. A. (2016). What research says about.../Differentiated Instruction. Educational


Leadership volume 67 (5), 79-81 Retrieved from
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb10/vol67/num05/DifferentiatedLearning.aspx

Hutton, P. F. (1990). Survey research for managers: how to use surveys in management
decision-making. Springer.

Jesus, O. (2012). Differentiated Instruction: Can differentiated instruction provide success for
all learners?. National Teacher Education Journal, volume 5, number 3, p. 5-11.

Joseph, S. (2008). Differentiating Instruction: Experience of pre-service and In-service trained


teachers. Caribbean Curriculum vol.20, 31-51

Kirschner A. P., Sweller J., & Clark E. R. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction
Does Not Work: An Analysis of the failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-based,
Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), pp 75-86.

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Lee C. (2016). Difference Between Secondary and Post Secondary Education.Retrieved from:
Synonym: http://classroom.synonym.com/difference-between-secondary-postsecondaryeducation-1288.html
Levy, H. M. (2008). Meeting the needs of all students through differentiated instruction:
Helping every child reach and exceed standards. The Clearing House: A Journal of
Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 81(4), 161164. doi:10.3200/tchs.81.4.161-164

Lightweis S. (2013). College, Success: A Fresh look Differentiated Instruction and Other
student-centered Strategies. College Quarterly, 16(3).Retrieved from:
http://collegequarterly.ca/2013-vol16-num03-summer/lightweis.html

Lumby, J., & Coleman, M. (2007). Leadership and diversity: Challenging theory and practice
in education. Sage.

Punch, K. F. (2005). Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative


Approaches. SAGE.

Rock, M. L., Gregg, M., Ellis, E., & Gable, R. A. (2008). REACH: A framework for
differentiating classroom instruction. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for
Children and Youth, 52(2), 3147. doi:10.3200/psfl.52.2.31-47

Ross, S. (2014). What are the advantages and disadvantages of using systematic
sampling? Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/042415/what-areadvantages-and-disadvantages-using-systematic-sampling.asp

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Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of Problem-based Learning: Denitions and


Distinctions.Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1). Retrieved from:
http://dx.doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1002
Scigliano, D. & Hipsky, S. (2010). Three ring circus of differentiated instruction. Kappa
Delta Pi Record, 46 (2), 82-86

Scott, D., & Morrison, M. (2005). Key ideas in educational research. A&C Black.

Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated instruction: A Research basis. International Educational


Journal 7 (7), p. 935-947

Weselby, C. (2014). What is differentiated instruction? Examples of how to differentiated


instruction in the classroom. Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/teachingstrategies/examples-of-differentiated-instruction
/
William, M. (2006). Descriptive Statistics. Retrieved from
http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/statdesc.php.

Yin, R. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods . Beverly Hills.

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Appendix A
Sample Invitation E-mail (Cover letter)
Dear Respondent,
I am a graduate student of the Instructional Design and Technology programme at the
University of the West Indies Open Campus. As part of a project for the course EDLS6507 Research Methods my group members and I are interested in examining the instructional
strategies that are being incorporated with differentiated classrooms in three Caribbean
islands Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago at the postsecondary level
and to determine the level of success of these strategies in Caribbean classrooms.
Your responses will help provide a detailed description of instructional strategies
currently in use in the Caribbean and will be compiled into much needed documentation
which seems to be lacking in the caribbean context.
If you are willing to participate in this voluntary study you will be asked to complete a
simple online survey. This is unfunded research and is purely for completion of a mini project
as per the requirements of the course indicated. The research will be confidential in nature
and the survey results will be reported in an aggregate manner.
If you have question, concerns or complaints contact (state name) (state email
address) and (contact number). We appreciate your time and would like to thank you in
advance for participating. To access the survey, click on the link below:
http://surverymonkey.com/.

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Questionnaire
Differentiated Instructional strategies in the Caribbean context

1.

Gender
a.

2.

Male

Total years of teaching experience

a.

0 5 years

b.

6-12 years

c.

13-25 years

d.

Over 25 years

3.

4.

Approximate class sizes


a.

1 - 14 students

b.

15 - 29 students

c.

30 49 students

d.

Over 50 students

Have you ever used differentiated instruction in your classroom?

Yes
5.

b. Female

No
Do you presently use differentiated instruction in your classroom?

Yes

No

If yes, answer questions 6 to 8 where applicable, if no go to question 9


6.

For each differentiated instruction listed below, select the frequency of use within

your face to face classrooms.


Every class

Jigsaw

Once a

1-3 times a

Once a

week

month

term

Never

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Tiered activities

Cooperative

Tactile learning

Whole Group

learning

discussion
Small group
discussion
Problem Based
learning
7.

For each differentiated instruction strategy listed below, select the frequency of use in

your online classrooms.

Every class

Once a

1-3 times a

Once a

week

month

term

Never

Jigsaw

Tiered activities

Cooperative

Tactile learning

Whole Group

learning

discussion
Small group
discussion
Problem Based
learning
8. For each differentiated instruction listed below, select the frequency of use within your
hybrid classrooms.

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38

Once a

1-3 times a

Once a

week

month

term

Never

Jigsaw

Tiered activities

Cooperative

Tactile learning

Whole Group

learning

discussion
Small group
discussion
Problem Based
learning
9. Using your understanding of differentiated instruction, please tick in the grid your beliefs
on the following
1-Strongly Disagree

2-Disagree

3. Unsure

4. Agree

5. Strongly

Agree

1
Differentiated Instruction engages students in class.
Differentiated instruction helps students connect
with what is being taught.
The use of Differentiated Instruction strategies
helps students to understand better what is being
taught than traditional methods of instruction.
Using differentiated instruction in the classroom
improves students problem solving skills.
Differentiated instruction assists students in
developing collaborative skills
Using differentiated instruction in the classroom

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helps students to understand the concepts better


Using differentiated instruction strategies develops
students research skills
Using differentiated instruction has improved my
students performance on tests
Differentiated Instructions reaches students with
different ability in one class
Using Differentiated instructional strategies allow
me to structure my classes in a way that supports a
diversity of learners.
Differentiated instruction makes a more successful
learner.

10. Please provide any feedback on this survey which may include unique strategies used or
your perception on the level of success of your differentiated instruction practices that you
think may be useful for the researcher.