Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Whitney Sherman


This qualitative case study was designed to identify and analyze instructional strategies used by fifth grade teachers to meet the needs of students with disabilities receiving reading instruction in inclusive settings. Seven participants in a large suburban school system were chosen through purposeful, criterion-based sampling. Semi-structured interviews were used to gain information about how teachers use data related to student readiness, interests, and learning profiles to design differentiated instruction. Observations were used to gain information about how the teachers implemented differentiated content, process, and products in the classroom. As more students with disabilities are served in inclusive settings, teachers are finding they need to differentiate instruction to meet the varied needs of their students. Previous studies have found that adjusting one of the components of differentiated instruction (readiness levels, interest levels, learning profiles, content, process, or product) to meet individual needs increases the opportunities for students to be successful in the classroom. However, there is limited research on the impact of combining all of these components into the framework of differentiated instruction on achievement levels. There is also limited research on how teachers actually plan and implement differentiated lessons. The results of this study indicate that general and special education teachers can work collaboratively to meet the diverse needs of all students in an inclusive classroom. By using data to analyze the readiness levels, interest levels, and learning profiles of all students and planning lessons to address student needs, teachers were able to successfully teach the required curriculum to their students in an inclusive setting. The teachers that demonstrated the greatest amount of differentiated instruction had the strongest collaborative relationships. These were the teachers that described their relationship as a partnership. They analyzed student data and planned lessons together, felt a shared responsibility for all students in the class, and, as a result, provided a supportive learning environment. Administrative support, shared planning time, on-going professional development, and appropriate materials were identified by the teachers as key ingredients for a successful inclusive classrooms.


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Date of Submission

December 2009

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