Defining Differentiation in Cyber Schools: What Online Teachers Say
TLRPTIL Volume 61, Number 6, ISSN 8756-3894
Online education has grown over the last ten years and with it has been an increase in diverse learners. In an effort to understand how online teachers meet the needs of diverse learners, researchers surveyed teachers in two cyber schools. 118 participants were asked their definition of differentiation and how differentiation is seen in their practice. After the survey was collected, NVivo qualitative software was used to continually reduce the data through constant comparison. The results from the survey data revealed that online teachers defined differentiation from two distinct perspectives: a) why a student needs differentiation, and b) what a student needs differentiated. Online teachers stated learning styles as their primary reason for differentiation. This result was not only different from findings in face-to-face classrooms, but does not support research on what impacts student achievement. Online teachers also cited when they differentiate, they adjust content, product, and process (63% coverage). Finally, noticeably absent from the data were references to using assessments in the classroom to inform differentiation. Future research should consider how online teachers differentiate in their learning environments and how they make day-to-day decisions as they adjust instruction to meet the needs of their learners.
Beasley, J.G. & Beck, D.E. (2017). Defining Differentiation in Cyber Schools: What Online Teachers Say. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 61(6), 550-559.