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D. Filippatou, E. Vassilaki, S. Kaldi

University of Thessaly (GREECE)
During the last decades there is a radical change in classroom population due to the increasing racial, cultural and academic diversity within one classroom. Differentiated instruction (DI) is supposed to be an adequate solution to anticipate the differences among learners.
In order to better equip prospective teachers to meet their learners’ diverse needs, teacher education university-based programmes internationally and in Greece added more courses about multicultural education, diverse learning needs and differentiated instruction. However, the literature illustrates that prospective teachers are often inadequately equipped to handle such learner variance (Casey & Gable, 2011; Schlechty, 2009; Tomlinson, Brighton, Hertberg, Callahan, Moon, Brimijoin, Conover, & Reynolds, 2003).On the other hand, classroom practice obtained through school practicum has been considered as the most critical component of any teacher preparation programme since it gives the opportunity to student teachers to experience innovative teaching strategies and curricula in school setting (Bates, Ramirez & Dritis, 2009; Joseph & John, 2014; Parkinson, 2008).

The aim of the present study is to present and critically discuss a preparation course on DI undertaken by 4rth year undergraduate student teachers during the last component of their school practicum in the eighth semester.

The main phases of the preparation course on DI included:
(a) Pre-assessment of pupils’ educational needs
(b) Design of a literacy lesson plan based on the principles of DI
(c) Implementation of the DI literacy lesson
(d) Classroom observations during DI implementation
(e) Feedback on DI implementation.

The course was developed throughout four academic years based on the feedback provided by student teachers through thorough group discussions undertaken after the DI implementation.

Group discussions were carried out by specialized teaching staff and university-based mentors in 17 groups of 8-10 student teachers. They were engaged in reflection on their differentiated teaching experience and focused on issues regarding challenges during the implementation, positive experiences and proposals for improvement of teaching. Depending on the feedback given, the programme was revised and suitably amended in each phase. The programme phases are discussed in depth, and form a basis for further research and suggestions for practice in teacher education.