Differentiation 'It's an Impossible Task!': An Investigation into the Beliefs and Attitudes of Preservice Primary Teachers Towards Differentiation

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


This study investigates the beliefs and attitudes of preservice primary teachers towards differentiation, reported as the biggest challenge faced by Newly Qualified Teachers.

Drawing from an educational background preservice teachers, soon to be Newly Qualified Teachers, from one of the biggest providers of Initial Teacher Education in Scotland were interviewed to explore their beliefs and attitudes towards differentiation.

As this research project sought to better understand beliefs and attitudes, an interpretivism paradigm was utilised. Grounded theory analysis was implemented to allow theory to emerge from preservice primary teachers through the method of semi-structured mini-focus group interviews.

The main findings showed that even though preservice primary teachers do believe that differentiation, when used critically and carefully, can progress learning for all, very strong negative attitudes towards differentiation were present. Pressures and demands made of differentiation to meet the needs of all children to provide equality, equity, and excellence in learning along with a lack of many required sources to differentiate effectively make differentiation feel stressful.

Preservice primary teachers believe that they receive many conflicting messages regarding praxis or differentiation. Through looking at these more closely it emerged that the conflict appeared to be between differentiation to organise and manage different learners and more inclusive praxis to progress the learning for all; differentiated teacher-oriented teaching against more inclusive child-oriented learning. Due to a range of conflicting messages as well as a lack of experience and resources, preservice teachers demonstrate a negative attitude that differentiation is very stressful.

Recommendations made are to have a positive and realistic attitude towards differentiation. In order to do so, preservice teachers must continue to be educated to be reflective and critical practitioners. The theme of inclusive differentiation could be intertwined across curricular teaching more within ITE programmes. Local Authorities in Scotland should offer further Career-Long Professional Learning to NQTs. These should support preservice teachers to make informed decisions regarding differentiation, to feel more secure with their decision making and to hopefully alleviate some of the stress that they align with differentiation expectations to overall empower NQTs to be effective inclusive practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
  • Adams, Paul, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2019
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2019


  • primary teachers
  • attitudes
  • differentiation
  • newly qualified teachers


Dive into the research topics of 'Differentiation 'It's an Impossible Task!': An Investigation into the Beliefs and Attitudes of Preservice Primary Teachers Towards Differentiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this