Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Differentiated instruction is a learner-centered philosophy of teaching based on Tomlinson’s research, but stems from a constructivist belief espoused by Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky. Through consideration of three diagnostic areas: readiness, interests, and learning profiles, a teacher differentiates how diverse students access the material (content), how students make sense of the material (process), and how students demonstrate their learning (product).

Differentiated instruction has been used successfully at the elementary, middle, and high school levels showing quantitative improvements for diverse students. A limited number of qualitative studies on differentiated instruction exist at the college level, with even fewer quantitative studies.

The purpose of the current study was to further explore implementing differentiated instruction in higher education to more thoroughly understand if quantitative improvements were noted in a differentiated (DI) classroom compared to a nondifferentiated (NDI) classroom in two different sections of the same Educational Psychology course taught by the same instructor. In addition, the researcher investigated perceptions of Dl students toward the use of differentiated instruction.

The DI and NDI sections had enrollments of 39 and 38 undergraduate students, respectively. The majority of the students were preservice teachers attending a Midwestern University of about 7000 students. Six assignments that provided choices for the DI group, but not for the NDI group and three exams were utilized to measure quantitative differences in achievement between the groups. The DI group significantly outperformed the NDI group on the aggregate of the assignments and the aggregate of the exams. However, only two of the assignments and one exam showed significantly higher scores for the DI group when examined individually. In addition, the DI group perceived differentiated methods as beneficial to their learning as noted by the ratings on the course evaluation survey and their responses to open-ended survey questions.

These findings suggest that differentiated instruction can have a significant impact on diverse undergraduate students’ achievement and perceptions of learning. In addition, modeling of differentiated instruction by college professors may positively impact preservice teachers’ knowledge and use of differentiated instruction for the diverse population of K-12 students.