that provides clear models of differentiated instruction in action. National Education Association member, Judy Hart articulates, “It’s not a lack of desire on the part of teachers. Differentiation is a wonderful concept if you supply staff development. But to leave teachers high and dry – they’re dying out there with so many things on their plate.” For this reason, in order for differentiation to occur effectively, administrators must provide support by providing enough training in utilizing differentiation methods.
In addition, one of the biggest problems surrounding differentiated instruction stems from teacher preservice programs. Research suggests that teacher education programs too often fall short of preparing preservice teachers for the inevitability of academically diverse classrooms (Tomlinson, Callahan, Tomchin, Eiss, Imbeau, & Landrum, 1997). For example, in the study cited, preservice teachers rarely experienced differentiated instruction in their teacher preparation programs. For the most part, they had only one course about exceptional children and they were almost never encouraged to actively differentiate instruction by education professors, university supervisors, or master teachers.
Once in their classrooms, the push for new teachers to teach to the middle is intense because of the complexity of teaching. Preservice teachers often have few instructional strategies with which they feel comfortable. Therefore, they do not have a great deal of options for dealing with students’ diverse needs. Even Tomlinson agrees, “Young teachers are developing the gross motor skills of teaching. Differentiation is a fine motor skill. In truth, differentiation probably calls for an expert teacher.”
Despite compelling new educational knowledge, classrooms have changed little over the past one hundred years. The autonomy and solitude of teaching commonly creates a culture resistant to change. In education, the idea “one-size-fits-all” is widespread. In Carol Tieso’s study on differentiated instruction, the author discovers, “When allowed a choice, teachers will generally choose workshops that provide brief, hands-on activities they can use in their classrooms on Monday, instead of the sometimes painful specter of initiating long-term, systemic change in their standard operating procedures.” The worst offenders are often the veteran teachers who are