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Didactical Investigations for Professional Development
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (SMED)
Stockholms universitet.
Göteborgs universitet.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The research presented in the paper is part of a large research project built on a comparative didactics approach (cf. Almqvist & Quennerstedt 2015; Ligozat et al 2015) with the overall ambition to search for and analyze different teaching traditions in order to optimize the possibility to find effective and fruitful teaching approaches. One of the aims in the project is to use and develop didactic knowledge and concepts in cooperation with teachers (cf. Sensevy et al 2013, Wickman 2015). In this paper we will present and discuss a way for researchers to participate in teachers’ development of teaching.

Teaching is a complex, transactional process affected by numerous contingencies both within and outside the classroom. Thus, it is necessarily underdetermined by any theories about teaching and learning. Just like medicine or engineering, didactic knowledge therefore needs to be developed in interaction between more general, ”theoretical” models of teaching, and the actual practices which these theories are intended to support (Wickman, 2015). This realization is consistent with current views of teacher professional development as needing to involve teachers in collaborative and inquiry-based projects grounded in problems identified by the teachers themselves (McNicholl, 2013; Sensevy et al 2013; van Driel, Meirink, van Veen, & Zwart, 2012).

The idea of didactic modelling or inquiry goes beyond these notions by emphasizing not only teacher learning and the development of local practice but also the successive modification and refinement of the theories themselves (Lijnse & Klaassen, 2004; Wickman, 2012). From that point of view, researchers in didactics and practicing teachers are seen as different but equally crucial actors in the joint construction and successive development of disciplinary knowledge about teaching.

Neither teacher professional learning nor didactic research primarily proceeds by substituting old ideas with new ones. Instead knowledge, personal as well as institutional, is transformed bit-by-bit through noticing of and reflection upon consequences for both practice and theory (Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002; Wickman, 2012). Through this kind of joint and reciprocal work, generating personal as well as institutionalized knowledge which is thoroughly and continuously mangled through actual practice (Pickering, 1995), teachers as a collective may develop a common basis for their choices of content and methods for teaching (Wickman, 2015).

However, the ambition to find ways for researchers too contribute to educational development is not new. A research field with long experience of and knowledge about development work where researchers and teachers collaborate is the action research field. Action research is a broad field both in a geographical as well as theoretical sense (Somekh & Zeichner, 2009), including different purposes, conditions, philosophical starting-points and forms for inquiry. Nevertheless, there are also characterizing features in all variations of action research. According to Reason and Bradbury (2001), action research always has an emergent developmental form; it deals with practical issues, supports human development, is founded on knowledge-in-action and aims at participation and democracy (p. 2). The role of teachers in educational research has been an essential topic for decades especially in critical theoretical approaches such as Participatory Action Research (PAR).

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used In the seminal book Becoming critical (Carr & Kemmis, 1986) the aim was to clarify that teachers have to be a part of the research together with researchers if there is going to be more than purely theoretical knowledge about educational change, and if actual change is to be effected. From a Swedish perspective working in action research partnerships between teachers and researchers, school and university, has been emphasized and developed since policies for education in the 1990s opened up for this kind of collaborations as a strategy of developing schools on the basis of research (Salo, Furu & Rönnerman, 2008, p.16). Being interested in how research and practice development may occur through productive relationships between researchers and teachers means that not only knowledge itself needs to be explored, but also dimensions like dialogue and recognition (Groves, Olin, & Karlberg-Granlund, forthcoming). In action research, there is a quest towards sound communication in community with other individuals as a foundation for professional growth and development in practices, which can contribute to knowledge formation. In transformative partnerships reciprocal relationships between research and practice based on ongoing negotiation and renegotiation of substantive claims and judgments by all involved in the research, rests on the possibility of recognition of the other within intersubjective spaces that openly nurtures an individual’s sense of being a valuable contributor in the professional learning projects. The methodology developed and discussed in the paper is a way for researchers and teachers to produce knowledge about teaching in common writing about educational cases. The case, which is written by an educational researcher (the lead author) together with an active teacher will (1) describe some kind of didactic dilemma or problem that the teacher has identified and (2) a description of how the dilemma is handled in the teacher's practice. In a second step of the analyses, a couple of researchers from different fields write comments on the case from their different perspectives. In the third step, the lead author and the teacher pull together, summarize and discuss the case and the different comments. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings In the paper we describe and discuss three cases of teaching written by teachers and researchers together. The results show how questions identified by active teachers can be developed by using results from didactical research, but also how didactical knowledge and concepts may be developed when applied in the cases. Preliminary themes handled in the cases are (a) different ways of teaching the same educational content, (b) student’s participation in the classroom discussion and (c) application of scientific knowledge in everyday situations. During the writing process we also analyze if and how the writers’ ways of thinking about the specific cases develops. Consequently, we produce and present two different kinds of knowledge in the paper. Firstly, the results show how the teaching practices was developed in the joint work of teacher and researcher, and secondly how didactical knowledge and concepts can be applied, and perhaps developed, in the writing process. We will also discuss the cases in relation to professional development – specifically the development of teaching in terms of educational content, teaching and learning – and how the relation between researcher and teacher in cooperation depends on their recognition of each other’s perspectives and knowledge.


Almqvist, J. & Quennerstedt, M. (2015). Is there (any)body in science education? Interchange, 46(4), 439-453.

Carr, W., & Kemmis, S. (1986). Becoming Critical: Education, Knowledge and Action Research. London: Falmer Press.

Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 947-967.

Groves, C.E., Olin, A., & Karlberg-Granlund, G. (forthcoming). Partnership and Recognition in Action Research: understanding the practices and practice architectures for participation and change. Educational Action Research.

Ligozat, F., Amade-Escot, C. & Östman, L. (2015). Beyond subject specific approaches of teaching and learning: Comparative didactics? Interchange, 46(4), 313-321.

Lijnse, P., & Klaassen, K. (2004). Didactical Structures as an Outcome of Research on Teaching-Learning Sequences? Special Issue. International Journal of Science Education, 26, 537-554.

McNicholl, J. (2013). Relational agency and teacher development: a CHAT analysis of a collaborative professional inquiry project with biology teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 36, 218-232.

Pickering, A. (1995). The mangle of practice: Time, agency, and science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (2001). Introduction: Inquiry and Participation in Search of a World Worthy of Human Aspiration. I P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Red.), Handbook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice (s 1-14). London: SAGE.

Salo, P., Furu, E.M., & Rönnerman, K. (2008). Educational policies and reforms. In K. Rönnerman, E. Moksnes Furu, & P. Salo (Red.). Nurturing Praxis. Action Research in Partnerships Between School and University in a Nordic Light (s 11-20). (Pedagogy, Education and Praxis, 3). Rotterdam/Taipei: Sense.

Sensevy, G., Forest, D., Quilio, S. & Morales, G. (2013). Cooperative engineering as a specific design-based research. ZDM, The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 45(7), 1031-1043

Somekh, B. & Zeichner, K. (2009). Action research for educational reform: remodeling action research theories and practices in local contexts. Educational Action Research, 17(1), 5–21.

van Driel, J. H., Meirink, J. A., van Veen, K., & Zwart, R. C. (2012). Current trends and missing links in studies on teacher professional development in science education: a review of design features and quality of research. Studies in Science Education, 48, 129-160.

Wickman, P.-O. (2015). Teaching learning progressions: An international perspective. In N. G. Lederman & S. K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Science Education (2nd ed., pp. 145-163). New York: Routledge.

Wickman, P.-O. (2012). How can conceptual schemes change teaching? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 129-136.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
teaching, professional development, recognition
National Category
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-302042OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-302042DiVA: diva2:956080
ECER 2016
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2016-08-29 Created: 2016-08-29 Last updated: 2016-08-29

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