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Presented at 2016 AERA Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA, April 10, 2016
Differentiated instruction has been wid...
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Differentiated Instruction: Teachers’ Perceived Challenges in Hong Kong Secondary Schools


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Differentiated Instruction: Teachers’ Perceived Challenges in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

  1. 1. Presented at 2016 AERA Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA, April 10, 2016 ABSTRACT Differentiated instruction has been widely promoted in catering for learner diversity in different educational settings. Recent Hong Kong curriculum reform has highlighted differentiated instruction as an approach to cater to learner diversity (CDC, 2009). This study explores teachers' perceptions of differentiated instruction in two Hong Kong secondary schools (Grades 7-12). The main purpose of this investigation is to explore what obstacles teachers encountered in implementing differentiated instruction. Data were collected with the use of multi- methods approach, utilizing a whole-school survey and focus group interviews with teachers. Future curriculum development and teacher development will be discussed, as followed by research implications. Introduction Differentiated instruction (DI) • A term used to describe “the process of making educational expectations match individual students’ different learning needs” (Matthews & Foster, 2009: 112) • A way of structuring learning and teaching with the key elements of curriculum and assessment strategies that can be differentiated by content, process, product and learning environment (Chapman & King, 2005; Subban & Round, 2015; Tomlinson, 1999) • Individual students’ diverse needs are addressed through multiple learning options that cater to their different readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles (Tomlinson, 2003) • Help all students achieve maximum growth as learners (Tomlinson, 1999; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2013) • Based on constructivist approach, which recognizes that all learners have the right to be challenged at moderately challenging level (Tomlinson, 2001; Tomlinson et al., 2003) • Teachers should have high, reasonable expectations on student learning (Hanover Research, 2012) Conditions for differentiated instruction Key elements that hindered DI:  Lack of content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge and skills  Classroom management skills  Beliefs as required for supporting differentiated teaching  Lack of understanding on how to accommodate approaches to learning for gifted learners  Ineffective use of resources  Lack of planning time  Lack of support or encouragement by the school leadership Research Aims • To explore what obstacles Hong Kong secondary schools (Grades 7-12) teachers encountered in implementing differentiated instruction. Research Questions 1. What perceived challenges do Hong Kong teachers face when doing differentiated instruction? 2. What are in-service Hong Kong teachers’ perceptions of meanings, perceived readiness, and challenges of the use of differentiated instruction? Methodology • Multi-method approach Survey (QUAN) + In-depth Focus group interview (QUAL) • 2 subsidized Christian schools (S08, S15) • Response rate  S08 : 62.5% (N=35)  S15 : 65% (N=39) • Data analysis: Based on an extensive literature related to obstacles towards differentiation implementation, the written responses in questionnaire were categorized and quantified Acknowledgements This research was supported by the Direct Grant for Research (2012-13) [Project Code: 4058008], The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Table 1. Demographic variables for respondents.. Table 2. Basic information about interviewees. Findings & Discussion Teachers’ perceived challenges towards differentiated instruction Great diversity between high and low ability students • Biggest concern, with 17.14% (N=6) of S08 and 20.51% (N=8) of S15 respectively. • Teachers were also worried about examination due to diverse academic abilities of students. Fairness • S15 teachers were more anxious, with 15.38% (N=6) Teachers perceived that • Lower ability students would hold back those high ability students • Individual guidance or help would be regarded as unfairness. • Teachers showed concerns that provision of individual guidance may deteriorate inter-relationships among students. Time • In the written comment data, a total of 11.43% (N=4) teachers whilst 10.26% (N=4) realized time is one of the obstacles to differentiated instruction. • Hard to prepare appropriate materials for students due to shortage of time • Limited lesson time would result in weaker understanding of students’ needs. • Preparation time for learning materials was insufficient as a result of heavy workload. • DI increases their workload and shorten their lesson preparation time. Teachers’ dilemma • To cover the curriculum or to look after slower learners • Teachers felt that they had to sacrifice those slow students. Professional development • Teachers were uncertain about how to do differentiated instruction due to lack of effective professional development. • Teachers were doubted about how to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures in handling learner diversity. Sally Wai-Yan WAN Alice Hoi-Yan HUI Rita Hau-Kwan LAU Coby Ka-Yau WU Thomas Wing-Ki LEE Kelvin Shing-Pan CHONG Lik-Chun Leo WONG Ylena Yan WONG Fergus Tsz-Hin CHEUNG David Chong-Kwai YEUNG Donix Kwan-Ho CHAN Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Corresponding email: Significance of the study • Understanding teachers’ concerns is one of the ways to bringing curriculum change in a more effective way (Anderson, 1997; Hall & Loucks, 1978; Hall & Hord, 1987) • This study has examined teachers’ perceptions of obstacles towards the use of differentiated instruction in the Hong Kong context. • School leadership and administration for providing teachers with sufficient support, and teacher professional development for preparation of pedagogical knowledge and skills in using differentiate instruction should be taken into account