Differentiated Instruction in the Mainstream English Language Classroom in the UAE Public Secondary Schools: Exploring Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The purpose of this study was to explore English language teachers’ beliefs about differentiated instruction in the secondary EFL mainstream classroom. The study examined the preconceived misconceptions they held about student diversity and the barriers and enablers they encountered in implementing differentiation. The study was largely based on the assumption that the knowledge and beliefs teachers hold about instructional practices impact the pedagogies they follow with students of different levels of readiness, interests and learning profiles. Differentiated instruction is grounded in the work of Vygotsky’s (1962) sociocultural theory, Tomlinson’s (1999) theory of differentiated instruction, Gardner’s multiple intelligences and the learning styles, and the study is guided by this theoretical framework. The study was conducted at public secondary schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using a triangulation mixed methods design. The quantitative part included a questionnaire administered to (n=196) English language teachers from the ten education zones in the UAE. Six qualitative semi-structured interviews and six classroom observations were conducted to profoundly explore in-service teachers’ beliefs and implementation of differentiated instruction. Descriptive and inferential analyses were performed using SPSS. Qualitative data obtained from interviews were coded and thematized as a means of searching for related themes. The findings from the study showed that while most teachers believe that students learn differently and their diverse needs must be addressed accordingly, many of them had possessed limited knowledge and several misconceptions about differentiated instruction and its implementation in the language classroom. Results also indicated that teachers considered formative assessment, using technology, and graphic organizers as major enablers of differentiation. Conversely, time constraints, inadequate flexibility in curriculum, and insufficient training in differentiation were identified as major obstacles to addressing student diversity.
Mainstreaming in education., English language -- Study and teaching (Secondary)., United Arab Emirates (UAE)