My thesis topic is “Teachers’ experiences and perceptions of differentiated instruction in a school for gifted students in Karaganda”. I have chosen the issue of differentiated instruction because it has direct relation to the principles of inclusive education as it is a value-grounded approach towards teaching which puts learner first. It is evident that differentiated instruction has become a “buzz word” lately in the vast body of literature alongside personalization and individualization of teaching due to the shift of teaching paradigms from teacher-centered to student-centered approach.
Another reason for the choice of the topic is that the school I am working at has set differentiated instruction as the priority for the teachers’ professional development. I believe, that differentiated instruction is more than a mere set of strategies and methods of how it is possible to tailor learning and lesson objectives to the needs and interests of each individual learner by differentiating content, process, and learning outcomes. This approach might be dangerous as teachers, due to the lack of conceptual understanding, might consider differentiated instruction to be about a mere design of multi-level tasks for stronger and weaker students. As I have already mentioned, it is far beyond that. It is a teaching philosophy which is embedded into understanding of the uniqueness of each individual learner and this awareness brings about the ability to see differences not as weaknesses, but strengths. These strengths, as I believe, might contribute to the enrichment of the classroom diversity, by demonstration and celebration differences as a part of individual identity. This will undoubtedly foster respect towards diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as tolerance and empathy among students.
So, my research purpose is to identify and analyze how teachers understand the concept of differentiated instruction and apply it to engage students meaningfully in all classroom activities and ensure their academic achievement. In order to be able to analyze and reflect upon the findings of my research, it is necessary for me to establish a strong theoretical framework of the phenomenon, its diverse features and relations to the principles of inclusive education. The research findings will be beneficial for my own professional development as a practicing teacher and growth as a leader in inclusive education.