10 SES 11 A, Differentiation, Performativity, and Gender Equality in Teacher Education
Differentiation has been defined as a pedagogical approach with which teachers proactively modify curricula, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products to address the diverse needs of learners and/or small groups of learners to maximize their learning opportunities in a classroom (Koutselini, 2008; Tomlinson, 1999). In addition, differentiation is actually a realistic response to the call for enhancing quality of teaching for all learners, and thus is considered an effective epistemological approach based on a constructive framework creating a teaching-learning paradigm (Koutselini, 2008), which seeks to respond to the contemporary European and international educational aims. Still, differentiation is an approach not theoretically and practically accessible to all in-service teachers, let alone student teachers (Holloway, 2000), who may seldom, if ever, experience differentiated instruction during their teacher-preparation programmes (Tomlinson, 1999). Thus, differentiated teaching and learning remains one of the biggest challenges (Konstantinou-Katzi et al., 2013) for both student teachers and in-service teachers (primary and secondary school teachers) to understand and apply in order to respond to the diverse learners in most classrooms. But, regardless of how challenging differentiation could be, teacher-education and teacher-training programmes should prepare teachers and equip them with both the practical (i.e. methods) and propositional knowledge (i.e. theory) (Thiessen, 2000) concerning differentiation. After all, the activity (or practice) of teaching comes prior to the actual role of the teacher (Macmillan, 1987), who should keep pursuing professional development.
This paper provides data-based accounts on secondary school teachers’ understanding of differentiation as has originated from their own experience, that is their own planning (lesson plans), enacting (school experience programme) and reflecting (written individual reflection) (e.g. Koutselini, 2010; Koutselini & Patsalidou, 2013) during the course “Theory and praxis of effective teaching” of the pre-service pedagogical training. Pre-service pedagogical training lasts one year and it is compulsory for all teachers who are appointed in the secondary education schools of Cyprus. Taking into account the fact that differentiation is not reactive, that is, it does not involve planning a lesson for everyone and trying to adjust it on the spot when it is not working, but rather proactive, in other words planning a lesson plan involves addressing learner variance and differences from the outset (Koutselini, 2008; Tobin & McInnes, 2008; Tomlinson et al., 2003), this paper examines both teachers’ planning (lesson plans) and enacting (active teaching) with regard to certain differentiation principles. In addition, it presents their reflections, since reflection has long been used in teacher-education and teacher-training programmes in various ways (i.e. reflective diaries, essays), thus encouraging student teachers to analyze their own teaching practice so as to consider its effectiveness (Adler, 1991). So, a plan-teach-reflect process was used during the course. Methodological and pedagogical issues arising from secondary school teachers’ conceptions and/or misconceptions are discussed in light of the divide between theory and practice (Koutselini & Persianis, 2000), something that the fields of curriculum studies and teacher education have long challenged, and the reflective paradigm of student teachers’ development.
Based on this conceptual framework, the aim of the paper is two-fold: firstly, to examine whether and how secondary school teachers understand differentiation through their planning (lesson plans), enacting (active teaching) and reflections on their own teaching during their school experience programme, and, secondly, to point out conceptions, processes, and misconceptions that prevent effective application of differentiated teaching and learning. Specifically, the paper answers the following questions:
(a) Is there any gap between lesson plans and active teaching of secondary education school teachers, and, if any, in what dimensions?
(b) Do their reflections on their teaching reveal any misconceptions or other limitations that restrict effective implementation of differentiated teaching and learning?
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