Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Teaching the Duck, the Rabbit, the Eagle and the Squirrel: Teachers Talk Differentiated Instruction

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posted on 2021-11-12, 13:08 authored by Orban, Michèle

Student differences become more and more acute in today’s classrooms. Our modern world is rapidly changing and the classroom societies become more and more diverse. There is an urgent need for teachers to react to these changes and particularly the classroom diversity in order to ensure learning. This thesis examines instruction methods that create a differentiated learning environment. It built on the experiences of teaching experts in the area of differentiated instruction and sought to discover effective methods to teach in a differentiated way. The methodological approach was a multiple case study lead under a constructionist approach. Four teachers who considered themselves as experts in the area of differentiated instruction volunteered to take part. They have been observed in their work environment, and their experiences and methods have been questioned in two interviews. A vivo approach has been used to transcribe the interviews and data has been analysed through analytic induction. Teachers generally agreed on differentiated instruction being a key feature of modern teaching. They admitted that they wouldn’t want to teach in any other way. All four participants organised their instruction majorly around ability group teaching and differentiated according to the students’ readiness to learn. They sometimes differentiated through interest but only rarely considered differentiation through learning styles and learning preferences when planning their activities. Nevertheless they used many methods aiming to reach every student’s preferred sensory channel or intelligence at some point rather than differentiating through it. Overall, the researcher could observe students that seemed to be at ease and to be working according to their needs. The findings from the research identified that differentiated instruction is not a myth which only exists in literature, but that it actually can be put into practice. Various teaching methods were considered and the difficulties they implicate were being discussed. Readers can learn from the participants’ teaching methods and reuse them in teaching situations. In observed classroom situations, their methods proved to be valuable and of considerable use. They can offer the readers an exciting approach to teaching and give teachers new ideas to vary their instruction. Nevertheless they cannot be generalized. There are many successful ways of teaching, in order to get to know more, further research would need to occur.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy


McDonald, Lex; Mortlock, Anita