Impacts of Technology-Based, Differentiated Instruction on Special Needs Students in the Context of an Activity-Based Middle School Science Instructional Unit
The purpose of this study was to explore technology as a tool for increasing student achievement within the middle school science classroom and specifically to support the learning of special needs students.Utilizing field-test curriculum from the Lawrence Hall of Science's Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) Space Science Curriculum Sequence, software modules were designed to mediate instruction in specific problem areas which special needs students, especially those with learning disabilities, face in learning science.Participants in this research were middle school students who were classified as receiving special education services, but were enrolled in regular education science classes. Students in the control classrooms participated in an activity-oriented field-test curriculum which was common to all students within a particular class. Students in the modified treatment group received modified instructional activities which were mediated by a computer and utilized best practices.Regular education students using unmodified curriculum showed an 8% average gain from pre- to post-test whereas special education students showed a 7% decrease. On the other hand, regular education students using the modified curriculum averaged a 9% gain in their pre- post-test scores whereas special education students averaged a 7% gain.Gains in students' pretest to posttest scores were notably higher for the special education students who used computer-mediated instructional approaches designed utilizing best practices. In addition, the proportion of special needs students who provided more scientifically accurate and extended responses was much greater among those who used the modified materials. Most importantly, special needs students in this study who used the modified materials demonstrated more conceptual growth than did the special education students in using the unmodified materials. The major finding of this work is that most special education students demonstrated substantial gains in learning the content using the modified curriculum. Moreover, students using modified curriculum not only increased in the frequency of their responses, but also increased in the quality of their responses to a particular prompt. In addition, responses from special education students in the modified curriculum group were consistently within the range of responses found among the general education population, who also increased.
Olsen, J. (2007). Impacts of Technology-Based, Differentiated Instruction on Special Needs Students in the Context of an Activity-Based Middle School Science Instructional Unit. PhD. Dissertation. The University of Arizona, AZ, USA
Type of Publication
Olsen, Julia K.
The University of Arizona
Department of Teaching and Teacher Education
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America