Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Richard Shrubb


Differentiated instruction is defined as providing all students access to the same set of curricula while at the same time providing tasks and instruction tailored to a student’s specific learning style. This expectation has led researchers to study and understand differentiated instruction for embedded applications across all classroom and district experiences, public perceptions, and effective implementation of future trends. However, there is a gap in literature addressed by this study relating to the leadership of differentiated instruction in school settings.

Data for this study were collected from school principals and classroom teachers using both virtual and face-to-face interviews, documented field observations, and a 24- question survey. The study was guided by the theoretical framework of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, specifically because Gardner’s theory served as a lens for the research questions. To garner a leadership perspective and establish the success of institutional change, the study used Armenakis’ Organizational Change Theory. Evidence from interviews as data were triangulated and analyzed by graphing common themes that emerged as data points.

Differentiated instruction is a valuable and helpful technique in achieving districtwide educational goals by considering diverse academic knowledge and backgrounds. It was also stated that through the leadership implementation of differentiated instruction in schools, students become the center of learning leading to the achievement of district goals. Finally, student engagement and overall academic performance throughout the district increase when school systems implement differentiated instruction that focuses on three things for students and classroom success: actual readiness levels, popular interests, and individual learning preferences.

Adhering to the mantra that to grow teachers means to grow students, this research project focused on the leadership of differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is an essential yet complex teaching skill that most instructional leaders have not mastered and often feel unprepared to implement. The study produced findings that principals and teachers seem to have a rudimentary understanding of differentiated instruction, but lack depth in their knowledge of differentiation or specifically how to overcome barriers to successfully leading it.

Another finding was that school administrators indicated that one of their most significant challenges with implementing differentiated instruction on their campus is a lack of knowledge by their teachers. Two themes emerged from the interviews with participants that answered these research questions: teachers need support and training, and teachers need time and support to plan for diverse learners and implementation.