“It is uncommon to find a school in which teachers report that the principal does not—for better or worse—make a substantial difference in school effectiveness,” write the researchers. In this study on school leadership, the researchers focused on the principal’s level of instructional support and teachers’ reports of how much differentiated instruction took place in the school.
A total of 616 teachers in 77 elementary public schools in the state of Michigan participated in the survey. Without mentioning differentiated instruction, the survey asked teachers to indicate the extent to which teachers in their schools a) offer a wide range of assignments designed to address students’ needs and skills, b) recognize all students’ individual progress and c) provide varied activities that students can choose among.
To gauge the levels of principals’ instructional support, teachers were also asked to rate the extent to which a) their principal helps them with their instructional practices, b) they feel comfortable discussing instructional issues with their principal and c) their principal empowers them to make decisions focused on teaching and learning.
“Specifically, a one standard deviation increase in teachers’ reports of principal support resulted in a statistically significant .11 standard deviation increase in teachers’ assessment of the degree to which instruction was differentiated in their schools,” the researchers write.
Educators who have implemented differentiated instruction in their schools suggest that a long-range implementation plan, with time for sustained collaboration and evaluation, is necessary to encourage teachers as they differentiate instruction in their classrooms, according to the study. Previous research has found that teachers don’t differentiate instruction because they lack time, professional development resources and administrative support for doing so. Teachers also may be disinclined to differentiate instruction because of unawareness of students’ needs and a tendency to shift responsibility to “specialists”, the study adds.
“A Multilevel Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Teachers’ Perceptions of Principals’ Instructional Support and Group Norms for Instruction in Elementary Schools,” by Yvonne Goddard et al., The Elementary School Journal, Volume 11, Number 2, 2010, pps. 336-357.