The effects of differentiated instruction on understanding middle school science concepts
Scardino, Robin M.
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Through daily observation, I realize that my traditional classroom environment does not sufficiently meet the learning needs of the wide variety of students in my classes. For example, as students work through daily laboratory experiments and class work, I consistently sense boredom in my high-achieving students alongside of confusion in my low-achieving students. The goal of this project was to better meet my students' diverse learning needs. This project took place in two sixth-grade general science classes at a large international school in Hong Kong, China. It focused on how implementing differentiated instruction, which is instruction designed with student differences in mind, such as students' background knowledge, instructional level, interests, and learning styles, affected students' understanding of introductory chemistry concepts. Lessons implementing four differentiation methods of scaffolding, alternative learning products, tiered homework assignments, and graphic organizers were compared to traditional lessons where all students completed the same assignments and demonstrated their learning in the same format. Data revealing students' understanding of concepts were collected through pre and postunit assessments, writings, and interviews, which included concept mapping and conceptual questions. Data regarding effects on my own attitude, planning time, and motivation were also collected through writings, surveys, and a time log. The project's results indicated that differentiated instruction did not have a positive effect on my students' overall understanding of concepts or cognitive level of understanding. Neither did the differentiated instruction have a positive effect on the understanding of my high, middle, or low-achieving students. My attitude, planning, and motivation yielded both positive and negative results.