Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Teacher Education


Current mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act places students with mild to moderate learning disabilities in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent possible with general education students. At the secondary level, this mandate challenges both general education teachers and students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. The purpose of this study is to understand the needs of students with mild to moderate learning disabilities and their general education teachers in an effort to move toward academic engagement and achievement through differentiated instruction. This study took place in a small coastal California high school where teachers were surveyed about their knowledge, understanding, and implementation of differentiated instruction. A teacher’s focus group was also formed and met with the researcher in an effort to determine a better understanding of the principles and support needed for practicing differentiated instruction. Finally, high school students with mild to moderate learning disabilities were interviewed to determine the support they perceived as essential for achieving academic success in general education classrooms. The results showed that while many of the teachers knew the principles and components of differentiated instruction, many of the myths were also believed to be true. During the focus group many of the common barriers to inclusion were found to be present. A lack of time to plan for differentiated instruction proved to be the most frequently mentioned barrier. The most common need for students with mild to moderate learning disabilities was for general education teachers to be aware of the students’ different learning styles so their strengths could be utilized and appreciated. This was closely followed by the need for approachable teachers and friends to satisfy the feeling of community and belonging. Until schools begin to identify ways to truly include students with mild to moderate learning disabilities in general educat! ion clas srooms, the likelihood increases that genuine inclusion will not take place.


Thesis (M.A.) Teacher Education Department