Learning Study' as a model of collaborative practice in initial teacher education

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Ume University Library]On: 24 November 2014, At: 22:59Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Education for Teaching:International research and pedagogyPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjet20

    Learning Study as a model ofcollaborative practice in initial teachereducationPeter Davies a & Richard Dunnill aa IEPR , Staffordshire University , StokeonTrent, UKPublished online: 18 Feb 2008.

    To cite this article: Peter Davies & Richard Dunnill (2008) Learning Study as a model ofcollaborative practice in initial teacher education, Journal of Education for Teaching: Internationalresearch and pedagogy, 34:1, 3-16

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607470701773408

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  • Learning Study as a model of collaborative practice in initial teachereducation

    Peter Davies* and Richard Dunnill

    IEPR, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

    Learning Study provides a distinctive model for collaborative practice in teacherdevelopment. It combines the intensive planteachreview model developed bythe Japanese Lesson Study model with a focus on the outcomes of learning usingvariation theory. We present an argument for expecting this approach to helptrainees in initial teacher education to progress to more sophisticated conceptionsof teaching. We also present findings from the implementation of Learning Studyin the initial teacher education programme at one UK university over a period oftwo years. We conclude that it is practicable and beneficial to use Learning Studyin this context and that the representational device of a Learning OutcomeCircle helps trainees to understand the implications of variation theory andopens up their vision of teaching.

    Introduction

    The development of trainees in initial teacher education has been characterised

    (Wood 2000) in terms of shifting from more simple to more complex conceptions of

    teaching. However, like most kinds of substantial conceptual change, this shift is

    troublesome to accomplish (Kagan 1992; Valli 1992). This paper examines whether

    the practice of Learning Study (Pang and Marton 2003, 2005) offers a valuable

    response to this problem. Learning Study combines a model of collaborative plan

    teachreview teacher development with a focus on the structure of learning

    outcomes. Following the Japanese model of lesson study, teachers work intensively

    together in lesson preparation, teaching and reflection. In Learning Study, lesson

    preparation is preceded by an attempt to identify variation in ways of understanding

    a phenomenon that is the focus of the lesson. This phenomenographic activity

    frames the learning objectives for the lesson and also features prominently in

    teachers review of the lesson. As such, it might be interpreted as a particular

    approach to creating high goal clarity (Seidel, Rimmele and Prenzel 2005) for

    teachers and students.

    In the first section we explain the nature of Learning Study and offer an

    argument for expecting this practice to be helpful in the context of initial teacher

    education. We then describe how Learning Study was incorporated in a

    postgraduate initial teacher development programme in one university. This

    second section also describes how data were gathered during two years of

    implementation of Learning Study. In section three we present some findings

    drawing upon interview data and field notes. Our final section offers some

    conclusions.

    *Corresponding author. Email: p.i.davies@staffs.ac.uk

    Journal of Education for Teaching

    Vol. 34, No. 1, February 2008, 316

    ISSN 0260-7476 print/ISSN 1360-0540 online

    # 2008 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/02607470701773408

    http://www.informaworld.com

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  • What is Learning Study?

    The application of Learning Study we describe incorporated three elements:

    collaboration between trainees that focused on planning, teaching and reviewing a

    small number of lessons; focusing the planning and reviewing of lessons on learning

    outcomes described in terms of variation theory; and using the collaborative review

    process to help trainees to progress towards a more complex understanding of

    learning and teaching. It is the combination of these three features that makes the

    approach distinctive.

    Collaboration focused on planning, teaching and reviewing lessons

    The value of lesson-focused collaboration for professional development of teachers

    has been widely advocated.

    Collaboration a process considered central to successful professional developmentprograms ensures that what is discovered will be communicable because it isdiscovered in the context of group discussion. Collaboration, then, becomes essential forthe development of professional knowledge, not because collaborations provideteachers with social support groups but because collaborations force their participantsto make their knowledge public and understood by colleagues. (Hiebert, Gallimore andStigler 2002, 7)

    When this approach to teachers professional development has been adopted, the

    outcomes for students attainment have tended to be positive (Little 2002; Borko2004). Sim (2006) reports on nine years of implementing a collaborative practice

    model within initial teacher education. She reports that the model has been

    successful to a point although limited progress has been made in building trainees

    critical analysis and the extent to which they value the relationship between theory

    and classroom practice. The development of these capabilities is central to lesson

    study.

    The Japanese model of lesson study provides a carefully structured articulation

    of collaborative professional development, which has recently gained some strong

    adherents in the United States (for example, Hiebert, Gallimore and Stigler 2002;

    Fernandez, Cannon and Chokshi 2003).

    Small groups of teachers meet regularly, once a week for several hours, tocollaboratively plan, implement, evaluate and revise lessons They begin the processof improving the targeted lessons by setting clear learning goals and then reading aboutwhat other teachers have done, what ideas are recommended by researchers andreformers, and what has been reported on students learning of this topic. (Hiebert,Gallimore and Stigler 2002, 9)

    There are several important features of this style of collaboration. First, a group of

    teachers spends many hours planning and reviewing a single lesson. The activity is

    intensive. Second, the intention of this activity is to help teachers to revise their

    professional knowledge, their theories of learning and teaching, in the light of their

    experience of practice. Third, in order to achieve this, the teachers give great

    attention to evidence from the classroom. For example, a report of a lesson study

    collaboration between US and Japanese teachers:

    observed the Japanese teachers continually encouraging the American teachers to seethemselves as researchers conducting an empirical examination, organized aroundasking questions about practice and designing classroom experiments to explore thesequestions. (Fernandez, Cannon and Chokshi 2003, 173)

    4 P. Davies and R. Dunnill

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  • Lewis, Parry and Murata (2006) acknowledge two main weaknesses in the case for

    Lesson Study: a relatively small body of research describing how the process

    operates in western settings, and an insufficient body of evidence that might be used

    to explicate the mechanism(s) by which Lesson Study achieves the effects reported

    by participants. In short, there is a paucity of substantiated theory. In their defence

    of Lesson Study, Lewis, Parry and Murata argue that the conclusions drawn by a

    group of Lesson Study teachers should be regarded as local theory: what works

    for them with these students. For Pang and Marton (2003, 2005) this warrant is

    insufficient. They criticise Lesson Study for its lack of attention to a theory of

    learning. In particular, they eschew the absence of a theory that accounts for

    variation in the conceptions of different students before and after an episode of

    learning.

    Focusing on learning through learning outcomes

    Lessons that are directed by intended learning outcomes are more likely to raise

    student attainment (Seidel, Rimmele and Prenzel 2005), especially when these

    intentions are understood and internalised by learners (Bereiter and Scardamalia

    1989; Black and Wiliam 1998). It follows that initial teacher education programmes

    can promote trainees development by helping them to focus on students learning

    outcomes. However, each theory of learning generates a different way of defining

    learning outcomes, and this carries implications for the type of support that is

    appropriate to provide. For example, Stones (1992) suggests a 12-step heuristic for

    teaching concepts, while Kinchin and Alias (2005) describe a strategy based on

    concept mapping. These two examples provide useful reference points through which

    to highlight the salient features of Learning Study.

    Each of these approaches to lesson planning emphasises the importance of

    recognizing the gap between students initial ideas and the ideas that the teacher

    hopes they will develop during the lesson. However, while Stones (1992) refers to

    students understanding of concepts, Learning Study using the language of

    phenomenography refers to students conceptions of phenomena. This distinction

    is significant in two ways.

    First, the language of understanding a concept provides the teacher with two

    categories with which to label students thinking: understanding and not under-

    standing. Phenomenography offers a different language: there are different possible

    conceptions of any particular phenomenon. In the language of understanding a

    concept we might speak of a student understanding the concept of price that

    previously they had not understood. In the language of phenomenography we might

    speak of a student replacing a more simple conception of price with a more complex

    conception of price. Second, different conceptions of a phenomenon such as price

    are, according to phenomenography, reflections of different ways in which the

    phenomenon is experienced. That is, complexity of conception does not vary across

    phenomena in a uniform way as suggested by Piagetian and neo-Piagetian (for

    example, Biggs and Collis 1991) theories of learning. Therefore, from a

    phenomenographic perspective, variation in conceptions should be identified

    through detailed analysis of data gathered through phenomenographic interviews.

    In these interviews, students are asked to explain a phenomenon that is rooted in

    their experience. The interviewer must be careful to avoid prompting lines of

    Journal of Education for Teaching 5

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  • explanation, but must also be persistent in encouraging the student to expose the full

    depth of their thinking. Extensive qualitative analysis is then used to identify

    qualitatively distinct ways of experiencing a phenomenon that can be detected in the

    range of interview data that have been gathered. The demands of this research tool

    limit its practicability as a routine part of teachers practice. We return to this point

    in our discussion of data collected in this study.

    We now pursue the significance of these distinctions through a specific example

    taken from Kinchin and Alias (2005) and reproduced in Figure 1.

    Figure 1 presents a concept map in which the subsidiary features (cement,

    water, etc.) are connected to the concept concrete. If students are asked to draw

    concept maps of concrete, variations in their thinking will be suggested by the links

    they include and the ways in which they categorise these links. In the terminology

    used by Stones (1992) we might identify which of the features included in Figure 1

    are criterial attributes; that is, essential to the proper concept of concrete.

    However, Kinchin and Alias (2005) are less interested in acquisition of a proper

    concept of concrete. For them, concept mapping is a way of expressing and

    developing ever more complex, and thereby useful, ways of understanding of

    concrete. As more links and categories are added, concrete becomes more

    interconnected within an individuals understanding.

    The conception of understanding that underpins Learning Study has some

    characteristics of each of these approaches. But it combines these characteristics in a

    way that gives rise to a distinctive prescription for teaching. We refer to the

    Learning Outcome Circle diagram in Figure 2 to illustrate these points. First, as

    with Stones, it is accepted that a conception highlights certain criterial attributes of

    a phenomenon. For example, one conception of concrete might be that it combines

    the features water, cement and aggregate as shown by the continuous bold edges of

    three boxes in Figure 2. However, this conception of concrete would not allow for

    any appreciation of variation within the characteristics of concrete. Another

    conception of concrete might posit a relationship between the strength of concrete

    Figure 1. A net-type concept map for a topic on concrete. Note: Reproduced from Kinchin

    and Alias (2005, 580, Figure 5).

    6 P. Davies and R. Dunnill

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  • and the relative proportion...