May 21, 2014
Smith, P. C. (2006) The effects of technology-integrated differentiated instruction on
language arts achievement. Action research exchange, 5. (2) Retrieved May 14, 2014,
The Effects of Technology-Integrated Differentiated Instruction on Language Arts
Achievement explores the effects of differentiation and technology use in a sixth grade
Language Arts classroom in central Georgia. This research study, led by Paula C.
Smith, delves into research of how combined differentiation and technology impact
student achievement and student confidence levels. In this study, differentiated
instruction is defined as “a method of teaching students with mixed abilities in a single
The study was conducted in Smith’s classroom, a sixth grade Language Arts classroom
in central Georgia during a ten-day unit on the types of sentences: simple, compound,
and complex. Smith began the unit with a pretest and survey, as well as showing a
video on the three sentence types. Her students then spent two class sessions in the
computer lab using software that differentiates based on student ability, Classworks.
Following their days in the computer lab, Smith spent two days presenting each type of
sentence and providing time for practice and review. She differentiated each lesson by
readiness, assistance, or pace that her students needed. On the final day of the unit,
they used a technology-based game to review before taking their post test.
The results of the study were that 16% of students did not want differentiated
assignments, even if they were more appropriate. Approximately half of the students
said they would prefer to have the same assignment as all other students in the class.
The class agreed that technology and different activities make a unit of study more
interesting and help students effectively learn the content that is being taught. When it
came to the content of sentence types, 50% of students showed a 10% or more gain in
their scores from the unit pretest and posttest. Students reported that they were highly
motivated and excited to integrate technology into the content and that the content,
especially complex sentences, was a lot to cover in a short time span. Smith and other
adult observers reported students being on-task and progressing, without any behavior
The study was limited by the amount of students, time, and content material, as well as
the use of technology. Smith suggests studies focusing on types of differentiated
instruction such as readiness, interest, and learning profiles. She also states that it
would be beneficial to limit the types of technology that is used. Smith also suggests
that only one skill should be emphasized or studied at a time.
Smith implies that we meaningfully engage our students and keep them motivated and
enthusiastic in their learning by involving technology-integrated differentiated instruction
in our classrooms. Although the students represented in this study were significantly
engaged in technology, this may not be the case for all students. Some students may
not enjoy using technology. Similarly, some students do not want to participate in
differentiated instruction, even though research suggests that differentiations helps
meet the needs of individual students to close the gaps in achievement. Also, it takes a
lot of professional development, collaboration, and intense planning to effectively
differentiate for all students, which can cause difficulty for teachers on tight time
constraints or without needed support.
Based on this study, more research could be completed on the use of technology to
implement differentiated instruction. Research could emphasize one aspect of
technology at a time or one type of differentiated instruction to determine the effects on
student achievement and motivation. Similar studies could also be conducted with
other content and subject matter, whether language arts or another subject, to
determine if similar data will result.
Smith’s research study focused on three specific questions:
1. How will a differentiated, technology-integrated language arts
curriculum unit influence the language arts achievement of sixth-grade
2. What effect will a differentiated, technology-integrated language arts
curriculum unit have on students’ confidence regarding their ability to
complete language arts assignments?
3. What are a teacher’s perceptions of using a differentiated, technology-
integrated language arts curriculum unit for teaching sixth-grade students
about sentence structure?
Her questions were stated clearly and emphasized exactly what her research would
focus on throughout her ten-day unit of study.
Smith included a review of different sources of literature to support the information in
her study. The definitions she provided, along with summaries of the data and articles
she cited, support her research and provides the reader with some background
knowledge on differentiation and its’ impact on student achievement. Much of her
research focuses on differentiation and reading instruction, but excludes research on
the use of technology or how it can be effectively integrated into the classroom setting.
In this aspect, her literature does not reflect all of the disciplines nor content that she is
researching. Smith would benefit greatly from including some research on the use of
technology in the classroom, especially to support why she believes the integration of
technology benefits her students academically as well as how the integration of
technology engages and motivates students.
Her reviewed literature is presented in a very organized manner that serves as the
introduction piece to her study, providing the reader with background knowledge of why
we need to differentiate to try to close the gap between different achievement levels.
She provides many quotes from the cited literature in a well structured and informative
way to introduce the topic. Smith presents much information through restating
information from others, but she did not critique, synthesize, or develop this information
any further as she did not express her opinions or experiences.
Smith directed this research study toward a targeted audience, mainly educators who
are interested in closing the achievement gap, integrating technology, and differentiating
instruction in the classroom. Smith translates the information from other sources, as
well as her data, in a way that is easy to comprehend.
The research presented by Smith applies to my research interests and my class in that I
have been trying to close the achievement gap in my classroom by my own integration
of technology. I have also begun to explore differentiation and its impact on my third
grade students. Currently, I differentiate my language arts, reading, and writing
instruction, but have found it challenging to differentiate due to lack of knowledge and
resources. I have continued to research differentiation and strategies to use in my
classroom to meet each child’s needs, as well as collaborate with my peers. Smith’s
research confirms some things I have seen in my own classroom.
By the end of the report, it is clear that integrating technology into the curriculum and
classroom engages many students and keeps them interested. It is also clear that
differentiation has some benefits for students, especially when it comes to identifying a
child’s needs, developing strategies or interventions to close the gap, and continually re-
evaluating their progress. This research study has findings similar to what I would
expect to see in my classroom, as well as many others across the nation who integrate
technology and differentiation into their curriculum. However, this study focused on the
results of a survey and assessment after a ten-day unit, not how to actually add
technology and differentiate successfully in a classroom. Smith provides her
experience in one, small unit of study, but takes it no further.
This study utilizes implicit theory, as differentiation and technological-integration can be
interpreted in various ways. The way that Smith designed her unit of study would not
necessarily be similar to the way another teacher would. Smith’s findings are also
implicit in that her data and conclusions may be understood and interpreted in different
ways when it comes to meeting the needs of a variety of learners to close the
achievement gap. Her theories are clarified to the degree of offering explanations for
misconstrued or inconsistent data and offering suggestions for more study.
This study was a fairly valuable read for me since I am interested in ways to integrate
technology and more differentiation into my classroom. I am happy to see that
technology engages her students, as does mine, but a little surprised to see how many
students want the same assignments, even if it means they are not having their needs
met. This makes me question how adding the option of student choice would impact
the results of this study or a similar study.
I believe this study was limited in that it focused on one very tiny unit for sixth graders
on the types of sentences. I would like to see more data, including checkpoints from
her students, such as quick quizzes (whether paper and pencil assessments or a whole
class quick check) to know how she could truly determine who “had it” and who didn’t—
the basis of differentiation.
This study was useful to me because it has increased my desire to learn more about
effective integration of technology and differentiation, as well as sparked my curiosity
about research about the impact of student choice on learning. At the same time, the
findings of this study are limited in application for me because my third grade classroom
is not set up like Smith’s sixth grade classroom. I can use some of her findings and
strategies to apply in different ways to my own students, but could not imitate her exact
study in my classroom.
This study did not provide me with much new information, but sparked my desire for a
greater understanding of the positive impacts of differentiation and technology-
integration. I feel the need to examine more about these topics, specifically (1) how can
technology meaningfully engage students in learning, (2) how can technology
encourage students to take ownership and find pride in their work, (3) how to determine
flexible grouping for differentiation, (4) resources for differentiation, (5) how to structure
group rotations, (6) the impact of student choice on motivation, engagement, and
learning, (7) how to promote collaborative groups and learning in the classroom, and,
possibly most of all, (8) strategies to integrate more technology, differentiation, and
student choice into my own classroom.