Teacher learning during design of curriculum material and learning activities

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ORD2013-Symposium ‘De leerkracht aan zet’.

Teacher learning during design of curriculum material and learning activities

Ferry Boschman1

Department of Educational Science, Faculty of Behavioral Sciences,

University of Twente, Postbus 217,7500AE

Enschede, The Netherlands.

Susan McKenney

Center for Learning Sciences & Technologies (CELSTEC), Open University of the Netherlands &

Department of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Behavioral Sciences,

University of Twente, Postbus 217,7500AE

Enschede, The Netherlands.


Joke Voogt

Department of Department of Educational Science, Faculty of Behavioral


University of Twente, Postbus 217,7500AE

Enschede, The Netherlands.


This study focuses on the explicated reasoning in teacher teams that occurs during the design of learning material. Design problems are very complex and require extensive reflective practice from the person solving these problems. Reflection on action leads to better understanding of problem, and solution . Teachers collaboration, in for instance design teams is seen as a powerful way reaching sustainable innovation and teacher learning . By means of conversation, teachers address problems from classroom practice, possibly restructuring teachers beliefs and knowledge .

One way to understand this process is by looking at the problem space that teachers create in design conversations. A problem space is a mental representation of the problem .During conversations, such a mental representation is shared; teachers discuss what the problem is, what viewpoints should be taken, parts of the problem, solutions etc. Through a process of reflection on action, this problem space matures and teachers’ understanding of the problem might also mature.

A limited number of studies have investigated teacher design conversations, yet more and more, teachers are organized in teams to address design problems. Some studies have foregrounded the reasoning that occurs when teachers solve problems from classroom practice through conversation with each other as an opportunity to use and share their knowledge and beliefs. . Such conversations furthermore have the potential of positively influencing classroom practice and student learning . Studies on design conversations of teachers are however still scarce and there is little understanding of what teachers actually talk about when engaging in design conversations. What kind of problems do they address? What kind of reasoning and reflective process, if any at all, is there to be seen?

With the ultimate aim of portraying teachers explicated reasoning in conversations when solving design problems, this study explores such conversations as they occur during the design of learning material. This study conjoins insights from design conversations and group learning.

Theoretical framework

Conversations in curriculum design, influence from multiple sources.

In design conversations, decision making is influenced by three sets of factors (Boschman, McKenney & Voogt, under review). First there are teachers practical concerns such as how to organize a learning activity, how many children are seated together, where to place the material in the classroom or how many time is allotted. Second, while teachers enjoy a large deal of freedom, there are external priorities that have to be met. For instance school-boards or government are rather far from actual classroom practice, whereas the schools’ principal or other colleagues influence is more direct. Finally, teachers' own existing orientations such as beliefs, opinions, (practical) knowledge, habits also influence their decision making in curriculum design.

A previous study on curriculum design conversations has scratched the surface on what influences design conversations (Boschman, Mckenney and Voogt, under review). This study found that thinking about what will happen in practice in terms of how will students react, what kind of behavior will they perform and how is learning material organized remains the focus of design conversations. However, this study only focused on one occasion in which a team met and held such conversations and also, the task for teachers was to design a prototype learning environment.

The possibility of teachers to explicate their reasoning however has not been fully investigated, and as such is the premise of this study. Questions still remain regarding whether thinking in terms of practical concerns remains over time or shifts as understanding of the design problem might also mature. To actually see learning occurring is difficult, yet insights on group learning have highlighted several features of conversations of groups that share, explicate and integrate new knowledge and understanding.

Depth of inquiry (Henry, 2013; Marzano and Kendall, 2007)

There is little consensus about what group learning actually constitutes, yet reflection and sharing knowledge seem process that positively influence learning of individuals in groups as well as the group as a whole . Such processes are also instrumental for teacher collaborative learning .These processes are found in collaborative curriculum design. A problem space explicated in design conversations that occurs out of several iterations of action and reflection, and in which higher order thinking skills are used, should have more learning potential than when teachers make unquestioned and non-critical responses to each other.

To analyze the learning potential of teachers’ conversations, in other words to determine whether or not in such conversations, higher order thinking skills are used to reason about the problem space we adapt Henry’s recently developed a framework based on the new taxonomy of learning objectives . Henry made slight reformulations and revisions of Marzano and Kendall’s taxonomy to fit to the context of her study, teacher data teams. In this study, a further variation of this framework is used to investigate the depth of inquiry of teachers design conversations and thus design reasoning (see table 1).

Table 1 Depth of inquiry in design reasoning.

Depth of inquiry and mental processes

Design reasoning in teams (building problem space and understanding of the design problem)

Knowledge utilization

Decision making
Problem solving

Teachers use the problem space to make decisions.
Teachers take action based on the problem space.
Teachers test a hypothesis using the problem space.
Teachers use the problem space to conduct investigations .




Analyzing errors


Teachers identify important similarities and differences between components in the problem space.
Teachers identify superordinate and subordinate categories related to the components in the problem space.
Teachers identify errors in the problem space.
Teachers construct new generalizations or principles based on the problem space.
Teachers identify specific applications or logical consequences based on the problem space.




Teachers identify the basic structure of knowledge and the critical as opposed to the noncritical characteristics.
Teachers construct an accurate symbolic representation of the problem space, differentiating critical and noncritical components


Recognizing, recalling and exucuting

Teachers recognize, produce or execute features of the problem space, but do not necessarily understand the structure of the knowledge or differentiate critical from noncritical components.

Focus of study, research question

The context of the study is the design of PictoPal, a technology rich learning environment for early literacy. The learning material is designed by teachers and is comprised of on- and off computer activities. Design of PictoPal takes place through multiple workshops in which teachers collaboratively design on-computer activities through which meaningful texts are created and off-computer classroom activities through which the texts are used for (semi-)authentic purposes (e.g. Grocery lists are used to "shop" in the store corner of the classroom). The aim is to explore the potential of design conversations as a context for teacher learning. The following research questions were formulated:

RQ1: How might design conversations in PictoPal design teams be described?

RQ2: Which patterns, if any, in the design conversations emerge?

RQ3: How, if at all, do differences between conversations occur over time?


One team of kindergarten teachers who were interested in learning and designing PictoPal voluntarily participated in this study. The design of PictoPal comprised of three workshops: the first one was aimed at creating a prototype of the on-computer activity, the other two workshops were aimed at designing a lesson series of 8 PictoPal lessons, on-computer and off-computer activity. The three workshops were hosted by the researcher, who scaffolded the conversations, providing them with information on PictoPal (video and exemplary material) and with just in time support when teachers addressed specific issues.

The three workshops were videotaped after which a transcript was made of the design conversations. The analysis of design conversation discourse focuses on episodes, larger units of discourse that focus on one topic or are similar in nature. First, these units were marked in the text, then the episodes were read and coded on two dimensions: influence on curriculum design reasoning and depth of inquiry in design reasoning (see table 2). The code that was used the most in this episode then was considered also the episode code, in a later phase, the pattern that emerges in single utterances will be further investigated, yet in this paper we focus on episode-level coding.

Table 2. Coding scheme used to code episodes with exemplary quotes from the discourse.

Coding scheme

Test Understanding

(Knowledge utilization)

Decision making, problem solving, experimenting, investigating.

Ik stel me voor dan heb je verschillende boeken en dan ga je samen met de kinderen bekijken van hoe ziet dat er nou uit.”

“…je kunt het niveau aan de kinderen aanpassen hè, door de kinderen die dat kunnen ook het woordje erbij te laten schrijven.”

Build Understanding


Matching, classifying, analyzing errors, generalizing, specifying

“… we kunnen toch iets van bos maken?

Maar je moet het heel concreet hebben van, ‘ik koop kastanjes’ of ik koop ‘eikels’.

Dan moet je toch die winkel…”

Onze kinderen schrijven sowieso al veel dus… ze beginnen niet bij nul.”

Ik denk dat als je ‘ik koop’ erbij doet dat je dan thuis meer discussie erbij krijgt…”

Maar ik denk ook juist doordat we zo’n boek met elkaar maken, dat kinderen heel enthousiast worden.”

Jose Schrave (taalexpert) die heeft het er ook over, laat ze maar typen en krabbelen, kijk wat ik al geschreven heb en dan wek je hun interesse.”

Maar dat schrijven hè… we hebben jarenlang kleine letters en daar zijn ze ook weer van terug gekomen.”

Share experience


Integrating, symbolizing

“…en waar hebben we die printer? Aangesloten op die grote? Dan moeten we daar dus heen? Nou dat vind ik helemaal niks!”

En het was net alsof hij aan het voorlezen was, en vertelde zomaar… Volgende dag maakte hij een tekening en zei: juf zullen we weer een verhaaltje maken.

Ja, leuk hè?

En dan denk ik yes, daar heb ik…”

React (Retrieval)

Recognizing, recalling, executing.

Ik denk dat je heel druk bezig bent met dat sprookje in de week…

..en dan met diverse boekjes natuurlijk… want zo’n gelaarsde kat heeft veel...


Varianten, dus dat is op zich wel leuk…”

Practical concerns

Time, organization, where are children seated, technolgy

Existing orientations

TPACK, how to design, attitudes etc.

External priorities

Piorities of stakeholders other than teachers themselves on what should be included in.


Three figures represent the design considerations and depth in inquiry in the three workshop conversations. In the figures, blue circles represent higher level cognitive skills (Knowledge utilization and analysis), while the red circles represent sharing and reacting. Green squares pertain to the support that was provided by the researcher present.

Figure 1 Workshop 1, 2 and 3 coded on episode level on depth of inquiry and curriculum design reasoning.

RQ1: How might design conversations in PictoPal design teams be described?

As shown in the figures 18 episodes were coded as ‘knowledge utilization’, of these 16 were also coded as practical concerns. 12 out of 14 episodes coded as ‘analyze’ were also coded as ‘existing orientations’. One episode was coded as external priority (knowledge utilization). A total of 45 episodes were coded, 27 were coded as practical concerns; 17 as existing orientations.

RQ2: Which patterns, if any, in the design conversations emerge?

Reflective practice occurs as a pattern: testing understanding (planning) -> reacting (brainstorming) -> analyzing (analyzing errors and specifying) -> testing understanding (planning).

Reacting (brainstorming) is used to further make planned actions more concrete in terms of how to structure and organize the activity.

This can be illustrated by the following excerpt of workshop 1 which is the start of the first episode. Central was the design of a prototype on-computer activity, teachers expressed the need before the start of the workshop that in order to get themselves familiarized with PictoPal they needed this experience. The prototype then was to be tested in their classroom with only a few children. The transcript picks up right after the researcher present (denoted as F. in the transcript) explained the goal of this workshop.

H: Ik zat aan een boodschappenlijst te denken.

E: Prijslijst?

H: Heel simpel dus nu iets bedenken waar die kinderen hun eigen lijstje mee kunnen maken en die ze dan mee kunnen. Ik dacht als je een boodschappenlijstje gaat maken dan eh... 'ik koop' ik weet niet of die pictogrammen erin zitten? Ik koop een kastanje, of ik koop een trui, afhankelijk van wat je in je winkeltje hebt, en dat ze dat van tevoren maken. En dat je dat dan een lijstje wordt. En dat je dan pictogrammen of foto's hebt van de artikelen uit je winkel.


Practical concerns

G: Maar hebben jullie een winkel nu? P en H: Ja, gaan we maken nu. H: maar dan heb je... de één mag dan winkelbediende zijn, en de taak van de andere die mag dan iets kopen. Dan is dat toch leuk dat ze eerst dat lijstje maken dan... is het onderdeel van hun werkje. En dan gaan ze daar met een mandje of een tas naar de winkel en dan gaan ze dat halen. Wat zij willen.


Practical concerns

J: en waar hebben wij die printer?

A: staat ie aangesloten op de grote?

F: Ja.

p: Moeten we daar dus heen... nou dat vind ik dus niks hè.

H: Je zou misschien een printer bij ons in de buurt kunnen zetten hè? Bij ons in het lokaal?

F: Ja, dat kan... moet ik even, dan neem ik hem mee en dan installeer ik hem dan kan een printer in één van jullie lokalen komen.

H: Ja, weet je het is nu best wel ver weg voor kleuters om alleen heen (Rest knikt instemmend)


Practical concerns

H: Maar wij moeten nu dus heel simpel pictogrammetjes bedenken of woordjes. Die we willen gebruiken voor ons boodschappenlijstje dan?

F: Je kunt woorden bedenken, en hoe de woorden moeten staan en uiteindelijk de pictogrammen die zal ik er in zetten in overleg met jullie natuurlijk. Zijn heel veel verschillende manieren om dat te doen.

G: Maar misschien begin je dan eerst met zoals het daar begon, met ik ga naar de winkel.

H: Of ik ga naar de winkel en koop.


Practical concerns

J: Boodschappenlijstje hoeft niet eens hè. Als je het echt wilt laten lijken doe je niet. Ik zou nog simpeler beginnen, ik ga niet...

A: Ja, maar ik zou (rumoer).

J: Als ik een boodschappenlijstje heb dan schrijf ik hem niet op mijn naam, dus ik zou het heel simpel eerst houden. Gewoon boodschappenlijstje maken, kun je ook veel kinderen... Toch?

H: maar ik vind het wel leuk om 'ik koop' (naar G ) erbij te laten, dan hebben ze dat woordje ik al, wat je dan ook er bij leert. Of is dat?

G: Ja, dat is al een stukje verder in de geletterdheid... dat je later...P: Ja

H: dat je dan zinnetjes maakt... maar ja dat was ook het doel hè? Een....

J: opbouw... losse woordjes.

F: Het doel is, kinderen zien waarvoor onze geschreven taal. Dat is eigenlijk de enige restrictie. (rest knikt ja). G: Dan kan het ook met losse woorden. En dat er dan een volgend ontwerpmoment een zin bij gaan want anders.,

J: Want anders is dat het doel toch? Waarom maken we boodschappenlijstjes... Dus ik zou het simpel.

H: Ik denk dat als je 'ik koop' erbij doet dat je dan thuis meer de discussie erbij krijgt dat je "Hé ik koop, hebben jullie dat ook gedaan?" Dat een kind dan eh (zoekt bevestiging... krijgt dit niet). Dat staat dan denk ik los van éh... Dat je ook een handeling ziet, die een kind heeft gedaan, in plaats van alleen de... Ik weet niet of dat... (Rest aarzelt).

F: je kan er ook voor kiezen om een aantal te maken hè. We hebben nu een lijstje, maar je kan ook een kort briefje, kan je dus maken, stel dat we drie of vier van die verschillende producten hebben.. Dan zou je ook kunnen kiezen, begin je hiermee en dan... experimenteren. Of even een kort verhaaltje of eh. Kijk dat is aan julie hè.

J: kort verhaaltje om te vertellen, dat vind ik leuk.

G: Je kan ook een kort briefje, dat mama een briefje maakt en dan waarin het kind boodschappen gaat doen en dan heb je die briefvorm. Moeder schrijft een briefje "hetty wil je een boodschap voor mij doen (rest knikt instemmend). "Ik ga appelmoes koken ik heb appels en suiker nodig."

J: Ja, dat is een verhaaltje. Dat is een verhaaltje en dan rolt er wel uit dat die appels en die suiker staan er op en dan kun je daar weer mee naar de winkel gaan. zou ook een volgend moment kunnen zijn. Dan heb je meer ook dat briefje erin.

F: Je zou dus zelfs inderdaad zo'n opbouw kunnen kijken dat dat we eerst eens beginnen dat we.. kan heel makkelijk ingezet worden. Dat is prima.


Existing orientations

H: maar je moet even kijken... van wat komt er in die winkel want dat hoeft niet in elke klas hetzelfde te zijn.... P: ja maar dan wordt het wel heel ingewikkeld.

B: Hadden we het niet over kledingwinkel gehad? P: gewoon alles... ik ga niet alleen schoenen doen of kleding. Ik doe alles.


Practical concerns

This excerpt (lasting 5 minutes) shows that important decisions are made at the start of the workshop. In this excerpt, the teachers starts by providing a rather ‘rough’ version of the on-computer learning activity, which is then further filled in by the other teachers. Througout the rest of the conversation, teachers stick to the original plan.

When one of the teachers expresses her concerns about the printers, other teachers respond by reacting immediately to her plea, thus eliminating the problem, not by elaborate analysis, but by mere pragmatic reaction (“Maybe you could install a printer close to our classroom?”). Furthermore, they problem is rather obvious and salient and also does not allow such elaborate reasoning.

When the problem is addressed, the teachers continue, until teacher J makes a statement about a proposal to include ‘I buy’, her argumentation that follows shows that here practical concerns (more children when working with a simple list) are confronted by the existing orientation of H, yet is voiced rather reluctant (… or is this something that’s further down an early literacy curriculum?) at which teacher G confirms. This is where the researcher present reformulated the goals of the program, which G make a response that favors the simple list. Yet H. is still not convinced and tries to make a plea for using ‘I buy’ to extend the conversation that might emerge from the grocery list: “If you add I buy, than it might garner more conversation at home…”.

A simple proposal made by the researcher (“You can also make more than one written product…”) then is met with enthusiasm. Teachers then agree, implicitly by not addressing the issue about I buy as something they are opposed to, to making a small letter that would accompany the grocery list. In the rest of the workshop, this idea is being designed in further detail, yet the agreement that was made in this first episode keeps unchanged.

At about three quarters of the workshop (, teacher H proposes to include numbers. The response that is made by the researcher is by showing what this would look like on screen and that this would require some deal of arranging buttons and extensive debating about the contents of the buttons. Other teachers come up with solutions, yet the ultimate solution is to abolish numbers and stick to single items that can be shopped for in the grocery store (G: “Then I think that for now we should concentrate on keeping it simple, just use one item in your store…”). Agreement is again implicit, a non-response indicates that other teachers agree and the design then continues.

Finally, near the end of the workshop, the lesson activities are more planned and reasoned on than brainstormed. This can be seen in the following excerpt in which a number of PictoPal aspects are discussed.

H: Maar ik denk inderdaad toch even klassikaal, eerst een keer vertellen van wat het eh... alle kinderen kunnen op de schermen kijken. Dat je klassikaal in de kring voordoet hoe het werkt. (A schrijft op). Ik denk dat kinderen het in no-time doorhebben.

A: Ja...

H: En het lijkt mij, zodra we dit hebben kun je er direct elke les mee aan de gang. Je hebt in no-time die spullen voor dat winkeltje bij elkaar en het kan ook zijn als iets er nog niet is in de winkel dan is het gewoon nog niet te koop. Dan kan je dat wel op je lijstje zetten, maar de winkel heeft dat niet.

G: Dat is een extra motivatie voor kinderen om dat te gaan maken dan. Of het mee te nemen.

H: Dus je kunt er gelijk mee aan de gang en het lijkt mij je krijgt een rolverdeling in het winkeltje. Sommige kinderen willen verkopen, andere willen ordenen in die winkel. Een derde en een vierde die willen misschien wel daadwerkelijk zo'n lijstje maken en kopen met een tasje en eh...

G: Nou het lijkt mij dat als ze dat dan gedaan hebben dan willen die anderen die aan het ordenen waren dan weer (maakt gebaar ter verduidelijking van het wisselen van de rol).

H: Dus ik denk dat je wel meerdere kinderen in een werkles aan het programma kunt laten zitten. Denk dat ze dat superleuk vinden.

G: Ja. A: Ja.

G: Dat in ieder geval die vier kinderen die in die spelhoek zitten die komen gewoon aan bod met die.


Practical concerns

What is shown in this excerpt is that the initial idea now has gained its’ ultimate shape and teacher H reasons about what exactly will happen in classroom and how to respond to it. Teacher G then mentions that the decision that when an item is not available in the shop, children will make this themselves: “That is extra motivation for children to make this, or bring it from their home.” It also shows that these plans are very general in terms of what teachers will have to do in terms of practical concerns.

Workshops 2 and 3 focus on teachers making the final lesson series of 8 lessons. At the start of the workshop they agree that the central theme will be fairytales and that they want to allow children to write their own versions of a fairytale that is being told in their classroom. As can be seen in the figure, the workshop starts again by planning and analyzing on practical concerns. Throughout the workshop this pattern is maintained, first there is planning, specifying general guidelines to the learning activity, which are then met with one teacher critiquing a proposal or identifying unsatisfactory situations that would arise in practice. For instance one teacher mentions the problem that would occur when only two children are allowed to work on a specific part of the fairytale. She mentions that this could stifle childrens’ creativity (“you know a child just wants to tell a story, he wants to make his own…”).

RQ3: How, if at all, do differences between conversations occur over time?

When comparing this reflective practice pattern, over time there is a shift in the dimension of design reasoning: from practical concerns through existing orientations to external priorities. Yet, reflection in the last workshop was not as extensive as in the first workshop.

Although a recurring pattern emerges (see findings RQ2) the reasoning gradually shifts, both within workshops, and even more so when comparing the first and third workshop. During this final workshop a new teacher makes her first appearance. This teacher has been on long-term leave and has just started working two days ago. The other teachers and the researcher try to bring her up to speed by sharing what they had already designed and how they prepared for this last workshop. As can be seen, after episode 2, the conversations move to explicating more existing orientations. This emerges because the new teacher P, expresses an infringement in how she feels the program is not appropriate for children with reading disabilities. In the figures it can be seen that up until the eigth episode, this issue is being debated, up until the point that this teacher feels that they have to expedite the finalization of the workshop.

This is done by the researcher who shows P the screen and allows her to react and discuss the content with the other teachers. When agreement is found, they start working out the details of the screen and during the end they reflect back by restating the purpose of the learning activity they designed.

The final episode furthermore marks a shift as this episode centers around building an understanding of an appropriate early literacy practice. As can be seen in the excerpt of the final episode of workshop three.

H: maar waar ligt die overstap, waar ligt die grens...

F: Weet ik niet.

H: Dat je het fonetisch nog accepteert of dat je van een kind eist... of dat je zegt ik ga jou schrift... nu verbeteren... want op zich dat ze het fonetisch schrijven is al zooo~ knap!

Y: Ja... dt is superknap en dan ga je... en daar zit ik ook mee... van waneer.... Want G, die is van gelijk goed moet het kunnen hè.

P: Niet in eerste instantie...

Y: Nee, niet als ze uischrijven bij een tekenening. Maar als ze wel een verhaaltje over de fiets vertellen...

"P: José Schrave... die heeft het er ook over, die... zo van laat ze maar typen en krabbelen... kijk wat ik al geschreven heb en dan heb je eh... hun... woord van daarnet... eh, wek je hun interesse. Op een gegeven moment gaan ze vanzelf wel de goeie letter schrijven.

F: En dat is dus van belang...

P: Nou dan heb je zo'n opbouw, en dan ben je goed bezig. Nou in groep 3 moet je het natuurlijk wel goed voor eh... typen.

Y: Maar dat zou ik ook wel eens willen weten van eh, wanneer nou... i kvind ook lekker spuien, doen wat ze lekker... vinden en vertellen en eh.. Anders sla je het de kop in hè?

H: Maar anders... als... zeg je van je hebt het niet goed geschreven he.. Nou zeg je dat nooit zo... maar dan zou je ze ook weer blokkeren in hun enthousiasme...

Y: Natuurlijk...

External priorities

Practical concerns

This small excerpt shows that initially the episode starts with a teacher expressing her existing orientation towards early literacy, yet what is now included in the conversation is the notion that one expert states that you should accept children writing words phonetically and not grammatically correct. Furthermore, teacher Y, repeats here statement that she thinks it is important for children to allow them freedom, that they can write all they want and that you should not stifle such creativity. In this excerpt it is shown that the developmentally appropriate practice thus is in agreement with what Y feels is important and gets restated once more.

Conclusion and discussion

The aim of this study was to portray teachers explicated reasoning in conversations when solving design problems and combined insights from what influences reasoning in design conversations (Boschman, McKenney and Voogt, under review) and depth of inquiry (Henry, 2013; Marzano and Kendall, 2006) in conversations of kindergarten teachers during the design of PictoPal. Regarding describing the design conversations.

Regarding the first research question (what do these conversations look like), reasoning is mainly undertaken from practical concerns when teachers plan and make decisions, when they talk about what the learning material and learning activities look like. When teachers elaborate the choices they make, they mainly do so by explicating reasoning from existing orientations on what children will do and what problems might emerge. Thinking about what occurs in practice, what learners ‘do’ and what problems emerge is also found to be influencing design reasoning in other studies . Furthermore, important decisions about the material are also made at the start of the design conversation, teachers tend to extend the original idea instead of restructuring to gain a better understanding of the problem space. This is also found in other studies decision making processes of teacher design teams .

In regard to exploring patterns in the conversation, there is a pattern found that resembles reflective practice in design reasoning: take actions first and then by reasoning about the action taken, take other actions and make decisions about PictoPal. This is what Hong and Choi (2011) refer to as the solution driven approach aimed to “achieve a satisfactory solution, not an optimized one.” (p. 693). This could indicate that teachers are a type of designers that are more pragmatic and proposing in nature, they resolve more to taking action and reflecting on action, then on extensive analysis of the problem space. Such ‘unstructured’ design reasoning has also been found in other studies (for instance Hoogveld, 2002). However this study found that when analyzing an action that was taken, teachers reason mostly out of their existing orientations. This could lead to the conclusion that teachers reasoning is more an act of ‘using’ knowledge to make decisions in and on the problem space, than it is one of reasoning about the important constituent parts of the problem space. This is probably due to the cognitive effort that it would require to solve such complex design problems and to the nature of the task. The task in itself, design of learning material in practice, requires a great deal of thinking about what occurs in practice.

Another pattern that occurs, or rather a pattern of non-occurrence, is the limited number of episodes coded as extern priorities. Since such priorities are rather abstract and generic in nature and teachers tend not to reason in such abstractions when designing learning material (cf. Handelzalts, 2009) this could also indicate that this is due to the nature of the design task. Since subject-matter knowledge on early literacy is situated in these external priorities, a lot of developmentally appropriate practices regarding how kindergartners should learn to read and write are often stated by experts and researchers on this topic, and often teachers are seen as not having such extensive early literacy knowledge , this should not come as a surprise. Furthermore this strengthens the conclusion of a previous study that first and foremost, practical concerns (and existing orientations explicated in order to reason on those practical concerns) influence design reasoning.

However, concluding that teachers do not have any knowledge at all about early literacy, and concluding that there is no influence from developmentally appropriate practices in early literacy seems to rash. The influence may not be the one that is explicated in design reasoning, but might still be there, yet implicit. Many kindergartens are influenced by what is known as developmental education (Ontwikkelingsgericht onderwijs)). One of the appropriate practices in this educational philosophy is that young children should be allowed to produce their own written stories. Furthermore this philosophy puts emphasis on childrens’ learning trough engagement in authentic play related activity in which a child discovers, executes and explores an activity that adults would also perform. Given the fact that the teachers in this team have worked extensively in a school in which these philosophies are engrained in classroom practice (witnessing for instance the schools teaching manifest stating explicitly that this is developmental education school), their experience and thus their existing orientations, is shaped within this philosophy. This might then be so engrained in teachers practical knowledge that such does not have to be debated on: both because teachers have already in another meeting discussed issues relating to this type of teaching and because teachers are just not used to explicate such practical knowledge in a situation that does not directly address the explication of practical knowledge. So it might be that teachers are influenced by external priorities but it is implicit in their conversations.

Finally, in regard to differences that occur across the three workshops, reflective practice becomes more parsimonious over time (number of reflective cycles of action and reflection decrease, at least on the episode level) and is influenced even more by reasoning from their existing orientations. This might indicate that while in the first workshop teachers understanding is mainly on practical concerns, gradually their understanding of the problem space evolves, towards their existing orientations. This is probably due to the fact that the problem space gets more concrete and teachers start to identify other constituent parts that need to be discussed. It is as if a design slowly comes ‘alive’ in the talk of teachers, as a picture of what the material looks like and how it will function in classroom.

Since the current paper should be considered a premature concept paper, there are several limitations that have to be mentioned. First, the analysis on the level of episodes only provides a general description of the reflective practice in design reasoning and depth of inquiry, a more fine grained analysis is needed on the level of single utterances to see whether or not a similar pattern of exists. This would then lead to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of teacher learning in collaborative curriculum design. Furthermore, as Little (2002) hints, to know whether or not learning actually has occurred, more data is needed. A following study could for instance also use interview data before or after the workshops as well as observations from practice to investigate teacher learning. The analysis in this paper however provides a first step in undertaking such a complex investigation.

Summarizing, the main conclusions that can be drawn from this study is that (1) the design conversations do seem to provide a promising context for teacher learning because they higher levels of inquiry (application and use) dominate the conversations; and (2) the kinds of considerations that dominate the conversations, in this small study, seem to shift over time.


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