Research corner

13th March 2015 at 00:00

`The importance of job resources and self-efficacy for beginning teachers' professional learning in differentiated instruction' by De Neve, D, Devos, G and Tuytens, M

Teaching and Teacher Education,

47: 30-41, April 2015 (Elsevier) bit.lyBeginningTeachersResearch

All classes will have students of varying levels of ability and confidence. So, as this study notes, teaching in ways that support the group as a whole while also catering for the needs of individual students is vitally important.

But implementing differentiated instruction is a tough ask for many new teachers. Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium explored the hows and whys.

The study examines a questionnaire given to 746 teachers in 65 randomly chosen schools in Belgium. Of these, 227 were new to the profession, having worked for less than five years in their respective schools.

Teachers were asked to give scores on several key parameters, based around their school's environment and how it contributed to facilitating and improving differentiated instruction.

The research also focuses on the impact of personal factors on teachers' proficiency at differentiation. What the academics term "self-efficacy" is found to be most important. This comes down to a teacher's self-confidence and is linked to the school environment, because teachers working well together to improve their teaching become more confident as a group.

A number of recommendations flow from the researchers' findings. They stress the need to create a positive, collaborative working environment to improve teaching. However, this must not be to the detriment of teachers' autonomy, because those who feel confident working on their own are more likely to excel in differentiation.

The academics argue that this has ramifications for policymakers as well as individual schools. "Central policy has to protect teacher autonomy by providing schools with the necessary autonomy to develop their vision on differentiated instruction and to support their teachers to implement differentiated instruction," the study concludes.

Alexander Tyndall

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