Student Publications


Winsome May Saldanha
Title: Running Head: Differentiated Instruction in Science
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Program: Master of Science

Available for Download: Yes


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  Abstract

Thirty five students participated in a study that examined the question: “Differentiated Instruction in Science: What is the effect on student achievement in science and their attitude towards it?” These students also shared their feelings towards the different strategies in the instruction of science used by the high school science teacher. The method used for this research was a posttest design comparing two different methods-- posttest review of achievement scores following the students’ completion of a topic with labs and quizzes. In addition, the students responded to a Likert scale immediately following each of the treatments to determine their attitudes regarding each of the specific types of differentiated instruction utilized in the research had changed. The results of the Likert scale indicated that the style of instruction in science was different to what it had been at the beginning of the year. The results of traditional versus differentiated instruction using a one tailed t-test for correlated samples indicated that there was an improvement in achievement when the students were given differentiated instruction. In addition students liked the differentiated instruction better.

Introduction

“It’s difficult. I can’t learn this topic. I don’t know how to apply; I am not that observant in my environment, I have forgotten the concepts from the previous years.” This phrase was one common to many students taking science at the beginning of the school year 06/07. I found that not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning so that students have multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas. I started attending courses on differentiation at Teacher’s Training College facilitated by Ochen Powell. It was a rewarding experience and wanted to test out the teaching strategy on differentiation. I did a literature research on differentiation which says: Differentiated instruction (i.e., adjustment of concept, level of difficulty, strategy for instruction, amount of work, time allowed, product or performance that demonstrates learning) is used to meet the learning needs of all students.
The definition states that to differentiate instruction is to recognize students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning, interests, and to react responsively. Differentiated instruction is a process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process.
. Tomlinson (2001) identifies three elements of the curriculum that can be differentiated: Content, Process, and Products I differentiated content, process, and/or product for students
Science instruction can be differentiated to allow students to explore topics of interest, expand their research skills, and receive instruction on discrete science and inquiry skills.


Review of Literature

Differentiated instruction is a teaching approach in which educational content, process, and product are adapted according to student readiness, interest, and learning profile. Unlike individualized instruction, in which teaching must be directed to the specific needs and skills of each individual student, differentiated instruction addresses the needs of student clusters.
(Education World ® Professional Development Center Strategy of the Week Differentiated Instruction.htm)

Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction.

Another reason for differentiating instruction relates to teacher professionalism. There is no recipe for differentiation. Rather, it is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that values the individual and can be translated into classroom practice in many ways
To reach the needs of all students’ differentiated instruction is becoming more typical in all classes from kindergarten through grade twelve.
Education today too has evolved, now we can more fully understand how children learn. “To cultivate individuality, differentiated instruction is first and foremost good instruction.” (Tomlinson, 1999). Today children have to attend school and as such school populations are inclusive. Teachers need to make these accommodations for each student as they cannot modify themselves to fit the curriculum. (Tomlinson, 1999). The research into differentiation is huge. It cannot be ignored. “Differentiated instruction is teaching philosophy based on the premise that teachers should adapt instruction to student differences. Rather than marching students through the curriculum…..”(Willis, S. & Mann, L., 2000). Differentiation is how teachers need to approach their job today. This is not only applicable to the teaching of science but across the board.

Deighton ( 2006) reports that the use of learning styles was a good initial step toward differentiating her instruction; increased attention to teaching methods elevated professionalism; and use of learning styles increased her connection with her students. Now she can truly say “she teaches students not a subject.” Gaffey (2006) reported that knowing students personally and guiding them through academics was a good way to teach effectively. The results of this study suggest that it is imperative to gain insight into variables that contribute to student learning. Such information can transform an ordinary classroom into an environment that taps into individual learning potential. The value of this study has resulted in a closer teacher-student bond, a dynamic classroom environment, and a greater sense of how students learn. . Results showed that, although differentiated instruction may take extra time and effort, it had a positive impact on student learning
Wyman (2006) questions “Does differentiating instruction and assessment make teaching more successful? Does students' knowledge of their learning style improve comfort and success? Does differential instruction improve student learning and teacher responsiveness? These questions where addressed in this study. By learning and becoming aware of students’ learning styles, the teacher was able to enhance instruction. Results showed that, although differentiated instruction may take extra time and effort, it had a positive impact on student learning
As a science teacher who works in collaboration and promotes differentiation, I became interested in the effect it has on student learning. I was also interested in the student’s attitude towards a collaborative model of instruction that focuses on differentiation. To this end, my research question evolved into: “Differentiated Instruction in Science: What is the effect on student achievement in science and their attitude towards it?”

Method
To answer my research question I used a one group posttest design test that compared students’ achievement under three conditions: traditional text, differentiation of content, by topic choice, differentiation of process by activity choice, and differentiation of product by product choice. I also compared the students’ attitudes towards the differentiated instruction of science and looked for a change in their attitudes as the semester progressed. I hypothesized that student science achievement scores would improve, as a result of differentiated instruction. In addition I hypothesized that their attitude towards learning of science would improve. The ESL students and low ability students will benefit from this instruction.
The following is how I did the differentiation in my classes.
Differentiation of content refers to a change in the material being learned by a student. For example, if the classroom objective is for all students to learn to write chemical formulas some of the students may learn to know the charge on each element, while others may learn to form formulas of simple ionic compounds, then covalent compounds, compounds with polyatomic ions.
Differentiation of process refers to the way in which a student accesses material. For Example Independent water cycle activities are differentiated by interest and learning profile. Students may choose to draw a cartoon of the water cycle, creating an accurate drawing of the water cycle, designing a game, graphing, These are designed to appeal to a variety of interests and learning styles as defined by both Gardener (1993) and Stenberg(1998). My goal was to encourage students to solidify their understanding of water and cycles in nature. Observing the activity choices students made here gave me an insight into their learning preferences. Note that some of the activities are more difficult than others. I also watched to see which students took on the extra challenge.
Tiered assignments were also included as students are provided with direct instruction on the writing of formulas and are given guidance in identifying names of formulas given. Other students work in teams to identify and write chemical formulas and come up with original examples.
Compacting is another technique used on students who already know the process of chemical reactions. They are given a lab assignment in which they must develop and test hypotheses related to the topic, while other students are given more direct instruction on the concept.
Interest Centers can focus on specific topics in Earth Science, such as classifying rocks or carbon dating.
Interest Groups - Students can work in small groups to prepare and debate issues surrounding the origin of the universe.
Flexible Grouping-the teacher assign groups based on student characteristics for a lab in which each group member must take on a specific role. For example, a student who is a strong writer might take notes for the group, while a student who enjoys public speaking might present the group’s findings. Students may choose their own groups for another lab in which they will explore the properties of an inanimate object.
Choice Boards students are given a choice board that contains a list of possible activities they can complete to learn about chemical reactions.
The activities include
1. Design an experiment to test different antacids on the market and discover which one neutralizes the most acid and what by products are formed.
2. For two days record situations that show evidence of a chemical change and determine whether there is a proof of a chemical reaction. Many products are labeled biodegradable.
3. Choose several biodegradable items on the market and research the decomposition reactions involved,
4. Design a method to help out in the extraction of copper tin and zinc from waste solution in an amalgamated chemical industry.
Differentiation of product refers to the way in which a student shows what he or she has learned. For example, to demonstrate understanding of the scientific method a student may build a model, explore, investigate of their choice and participate in the science fair
.
Sample
The subjects of the research group consisted of twenty five students in two different chemistry classes and ten students from the environmental science class. These students are the thirty five out of the sixty four students I teach at ISY. All classes are taught first in the same traditional style. All classes are heterogeneous, mixed-ability, have a variety of cultural backgrounds and by majority speak English as a second or other language. The first sample size is made up of 9boys and 3 girls, in Chem. A, totaling twelve N=12. The second sample size is made up of 4 boys and 9 girls in Chem. F, totaling thirteen N= 13. The Third sample size is made up of 2 boys and 8 girls in Environmental Science, totaling N =10. The students are transient and have been previously educated in the international school setting and public and private sector. The ethnic breakdown is twenty one foreigners and fourteen host nationals. The age range is between fifteen to seventeen and mostly tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders. They are eager to do well at school, improve their attitudes and learning towards science and in turn achieves good grades. They found the teaching of science sometimes boring and did not see themselves as grasping the concepts and being able to apply to the real world.

Data Collection
Data was collected using a posttest design to determine achievement in scores through the students’ science test scores in Chemistry and Environmental Science. The results tallied are based on post test results of their science scores of non-differentiated instruction and differentiated instruction. Students were tested in the first part of the first quarter of high school where no specific differentiated instruction in science was evident and again in the later part of the first quarter and the whole of the second quarter after a model of differentiated instruction in science was administered. A 10 item Likert scale was developed to determine the students’ attitudes towards the differentiated instruction model. Students completed the scale after each treatment. Data were also collected through observations and student feedback on the teaching of science throughout the semester. The students were taught how to assess themselves as they learn science and tracked their progress by using a self assessment form which indicates the weaknesses and strengths, how to improve, what to improve and the teacher’s comments. Observations were made of the student feedback and the changes in attitudes of the students regarding both the teaching and learning of science. Changes in instruction were determined by the feedback received from students.




Threats to Validity
As with all research projects there were threats to validity. As we teach all the students in high school science there was no control group that we could use to measure our results against. I had to use the students for traditional and differentiated instruction as both the control and experimental groups. The students’ science test scores from traditional instruction was the comparison treatment and the same students’ science test scores from differentiated instruction using content, process and product constituted the treatment groups. The independent variable was the differentiated model of instruction. I had to use a posttest design to test the results.
Another threat to validity was the fact that the students are more mature. Whether or not differentiated instruction in science played a role in their growth in the attitude and achievement is a point of discussion and inference. To help establish credibility, I reviewed and compared their science test scores from traditional to differentiated using a model of differentiation and collaboration. The group as a whole showed some improvement in their scores through differentiated instruction.
I also had to consider the individual perseverance and resistance of the group members.
Time is too short to do the research and is not sure of the effectiveness of the instruction.
The instruction could be differentiated for certain topics and not for the whole unit. It would be better if the whole unit was differentiated and compare the test scores.
The new model of instruction was accepted by the end of the first quarter. Student feedback suggested that they felt comfortable and were attended too more frequently than in the previous year.
In science, if we go by interest level I am afraid that they might miss some concepts they need to know.
Filling up the Likert scale is another threat to validity as the data was collected after every topic in a semester. If I could spread out the data collection I think I would get more valid data.
Results
This research study asks whether student attitude towards the teaching of science became more positive as I administered a Likert scale (Appendix A) early in the year and then just prior to their specific test. From these results I was interested too if I could make an inference as to whether a difference in the instruction of science played a role in their achievement. I used the Vassar Stats computational website to determine the t-test for correlated samples (Appendix B) and recorded the mean, standard deviation, t-test and probability (p) values in the following tables.
Table 1
Research design on an environmental science class
One group Pretest – Post test design
Analysis of Likert scale totals for attitude/ motivation

In a study involving 10 environmental science students there was a significant difference in their attitude/motivation from traditional instruction to different types of differentiation.



Attitude/motivation between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (environmental)
Mean-Likert S.D t -statistic p
traditional 30.7 4.644
content 33.9 3.9285 1.89 P<.05
process 34.9 4.8178 3.04 P<.05
product 35.8 2.6162 5.38 P<.05

Table 2
This research study involving 10 high school Environmental Science students shows (t=3.47, p<.01) improvement in the test scores from traditional to content and (t=2.05, p<.05) improvement in product differentiation

Test scores between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (environmental)

Mean (achievement) S.D t-statistic p
traditional 83.45 9.2223
content 88.2 6.6966 3.47 P<.05
process 86.2 7.4244 0.91 (p >.05)
Product 90.7 8.5512 2.05 P<.05

The figure below shows the mean attitude and achievement scores under the four conditions.
Figure 1
Attitude and Achievement Means






Table 3
In a study involving 12 Chemistry students there were no significant differences in attitude/motivation among the different treatments.

Attitude/motivation between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (Chem-A)
Mean-Likert S.D t-statistic p
traditional 30.83 3.8573
content 29.8333 3.8573 0.84 p>.05
process 30.9167 3.7528 0.08 p>.05
Product differentiation 32 3.1623 1.36 p>.05











Table 4
In a study involving 12 Chemistry students there were no significant differences in test scores among the different treatments except for in product differentiation( t=1.89,p<.05)
Test scores between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (Chem-A)

Mean-achievement S.D t- statistic p
traditional 89.1875 5.5119
content 88.75 9.4448 0.18 p>.05
process 89.9333 8.8857 0.39 p>.05
Product differentiation 92.3333 4.7927 1.89 P<.05










The figure below shows the mean attitude and achievement scores under the four conditions.
Figure 2
Attitude and Achievement Means (Chem-A)









.
Table 5
In a study involving 13 Chemistry –F students there was no significant difference in the content and process differentiations but rose very high (t=3.06 with p<.01) in product differentiation.

Attitude/motivation between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (Chem-F)

Mean-Likert S.D t -test Probability p
traditional 30.9231 4.591
content 30 4.062 0.9 0.192077 p>.05
process 31.7692 2.9199 0.67 0.256457 p>.05
Product differentiation 35.1538 3.6251 3.06 .004 P<.05










Table 6
This research study involving 13 high school Chemistry F students shows no significance difference from traditional to content but significantly improved (t=2.01,p<.05) in the product differentiation.
Test scores between Traditional and Differentiated Instruction (Chem-F)

Mean-achievement S.D t-statistic p
traditional 88.2062 4.2633
content 88.6538 11.7976 0.17 p>.05
process 87.7308 10.6568 0.19 p>.05
Product differentiation 93.3077 8.5087 2.01 (p<.05)

The figure below shows the mean attitude and achievement scores under the four conditions.
Figure 3
Attitude and Achievement Means (Chem-F)



Discussion
Overall I think differentiation had a positive effect on the students in terms of motivation. I think students are very aware of differences among themselves. I think they fully understand they are not cookie cutter images of one another. They see that in many facets of their lives. When teachers engage students in talking about their particular strengths, weaknesses, interests, and ways of learning -- and in developing a classroom where everyone gets the help and support they need to grow as much as possible -- I see students who are very enthusiastic about that approach to teaching and learning. Without having opportunities to engage in conversation about what makes a classroom effective, how such classrooms need to operate to be effective, and how they can contribute to that, it's likely that many students would feel uncomfortable because of uncertainty about how things work.
Through this research I learned that the students showed some growth in test scores.
They seemed to perform equally as well on all units. They are basically good students and work up to their ability on all my assignments. I think as a teacher my teaching method has changed over the years although I referred to as traditional method of teaching. The results indicate that, especially in the chemistry classes my traditional method didn’t have a significance difference to the differentiated instruction strategy.
Likert scale and my observations demonstrated that the students were more motivated especially in terms of product differentiation.
.Whether a model of collaborative teaching and in particular, differentiated instruction will play a role in their test scores should be investigated. I gathered informal and formal feedback from the students via questionnaires and interviews throughout the year.
A common surprise for is that many students who are restless, uninvolved, or misbehave in one-size-fits-all settings become "less problematic" in effectively differentiated classrooms. I think we often worry particularly about students who pose behavior issues in the classroom and conclude that in more flexible settings, the problems would intensify. In fact, they often lessen because the system is working better for the student.

The following are some responses from the students on differentiated instruction.
Does differentiation make a difference? The data suggests so but more compelling is the feedback from students.
“It gave me a better chance to understand more about things that I was interested in. It gave me another opportunity to get a close view of other people’s experiment and learn it. I got to learn how to cooperate better with others.”
“The science fair was very useful to learn something about science .And I was very excited that I could discover something through the science fair.”
“In chemistry there are always results which allow me to learn more. I end up learning more than just the purpose.”
“The science fair project provides me with numerous experiences such as handling the apparatuses more accurately and carefully. I also learn how to carry out the project scientifically.”
“I have been able to really understand chemical equations. I used to be really confused about balancing, net ionic equations and classifying but now I get a sense of what to do”.
“My opinions on having projects of my choice is very helpful for my learning, I get to observe reaction in real life.”
“It is quite useful because I can see the chemistry along other things in real life and it attracts me to think about chemistry. This sort of project is really helpful to understand chemistry.”
“I think it helps me relate chemistry so that it applies to my life. It also helps me learn the material better.”
Action Plan
In the future I plan to study the students in any moment and in any way I can. I will learn to see them as individuals rather than a group. I will ask them how the class is working for them and how to make it work better. They will begin to respond to what I see. Each step I take will teach me, if you want to learn. If I combine that with regular pre-assessment of student competencies and begin to think about teaching with student needs in mind, that would be a great start.
With an increased emphasis on testing science achievement comes a corresponding need to make science interesting and exciting to students.
According to Baum and Nicols (2007) the four keys to differentiation are:
1. I should know my students ( and myself as a teacher)
2. I should know my curriculum
3. I will develop a repertoire of strategies for effective differentiation.
4. I will keep it simple ,start slowly and be social

References

Baum, S. & Nicols, H. (2007). The keys to differentiation. Personal communication.
May 14 in Yangon, Myanmar.
Deighton, Y. (2006). Planning for and using Styles to differentiate instruction. Master of Science in Science Education.htm Capstone Projects.
Gaffey, G. (2006) you got to reach them to teach them. Master of Science in Science Education.htm Capstone Projects.
Gardner, H. (1983, 1993) Frames of mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,
New York: Basic Books. Retrieved April, 2007.
(http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm)
Stenberg, R., Torff, B. &Grigorrenko, E. (1998).Teaching triarchically improves student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90,374-384
Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The Differentiated Classroom. Retrieved February 11, 2005,
from http://pdonline.ascd.org
Willis, S., & Mann, L. (2004, November/December). Differentiated Instruction. Retrieved January 24, 2005, from http://www.ascd.org
Wyman, R.C. (2006) what impact does differentiating instruction and assessments have
on teaching and learning? Master of Science in Science Education.htm
Capstone Projects.






 
 
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