Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Kimberly Harris

Committee Member 1

Devon Jensen

Committee Member 2

Lina Bell Soares


Recent demands for more standards-based teaching are an obstacle for encouraging differentiated instruction. This is especially true for teachers and principals who recognize student differences and want to address these differences appropriately. Therefore it is important for principals to understand instructional practices that will affect student achievement. It is important for all stakeholders to have data on principals’ perceptions of differentiated instruction and its impact on student achievement.

The purpose of this study was to examine the principals’ perceptions of differentiated instruction in Georgia elementary schools. A phenomenological research approach was designed for this purpose. The researcher reflected upon the existing literature and her professional experience to create a semi-structured interview protocol for the interactions with the participants. This protocol helped ensure the consistency of all interviews while simultaneously allowing the researcher to utilize field notes to probe for further explanations and clarifications from the participants. Data were verbatim transcribed and analyzed.

The results of this study indicated that differentiated instruction was perceived positively by the participants, citing specific improvements in the students with regard to engagement, motivation, independence, and academic achievement, particularly in the subject areas of math and reading, where concerted efforts are made to differentiate instruction. It is concluded that differentiation would be a valuable tool, especially with increasing diversity within the classroom, where students come from a variety of backgrounds, life experiences, interests, and learning styles. Differentiated instruction can also help teachers meet the learners at their current learning status and offer challenging, appropriate options for them in order to achieve academic success.