Improving Instruction for English Language Learners: Benefits of Differentiated Instruction
Bowhuis, Gregory Bernard
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Background: The prevalence of standardized testing in America’s schools has been on a continual increase. With such importance being placed on raising student scores, and to demonstrate both growth and proficiency, there are increased pressures being applied to those delivering instructional content to perform at a high-quality level. However, with an ever-increasing population of English language learners in classrooms across the United States, having content delivered, which matches the instructional level of each student can be a daunting task for those educators not exposed to effective instructional practices. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the impact and approach to implementing differentiated instructional practices for English language learners. The specific differentiated instructional practices that were analyzed as part of this qualitative study are small group instruction and academic sentence stems, both of which are believed to assist in the delivery of authentic, meaningful, and purposeful content. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted and audibly recorded in face-to-face meetings with participants who have been trained in differentiated practices by the researcher, and then after observing the researcher, conducted their own small groups using the approaches. The study examined the implications of the perceptions for future English language learner instructional practices by triangulating data from notes made in a reflection journal, along with information obtained from the two participant interviews. Results: The study yielded five themes pertaining to the effectiveness of differentiated instruction as was determined by the researcher in correlation with previous literature. These themes were; (1) instructional practices, (2) instructional support, (3) student backgrounds, (4) language support, and (5) classroom management. Conclusion: Based on the outcomes from participant’s experiences with differentiated approaches and triangulating those with experiences of the researcher, it was determined that small group instruction and sentence stems are advantageous when teaching English language learners.