The Application of Differentiated Instruction in Postsecondary Environments: Benefits, Challenges, and Future Directions

Tanya Santangelo
Rowan University

Carol Tomlinson
University of Virginia

The population of students pursuing higher education is increasingly diverse. Research suggests, however, postsecondary instructional beliefs and practices have not evolved in ways that effectively respond to diverse students’ unique needs. This scholarly self-study examined the nature and impact of using differentiated instruction in an introductory-level graduate course comprised of students who varied significantly in terms of their levels of readiness, their interests, and their learning profiles. The findings suggest differentiation had a positive and meaningful impact on student learning. Students’ class performance and their reflections on the experience indicated that students were appropriately challenged and were able to find meaning and relevance in the course content and activities. Themes emerging from this study highlight the necessity for pedagogy that reflects college students’ (a) diverse ways of learning, (b) diverse interests, experiences, and goals, and (c) diverse personal circumstances. Insights gleaned from this investigation are offered and recommendations for future research are provided.

Copyright © 2018, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education