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Teacher writing on the black board.

Teachers’ lesson planning affects pupils’ learning


The planning of lessons by teachers may be of great importance to pupils’ learning. In a doctoral thesis at the University of Gothenburg, different planned lessons for the mathematical term, differentiation, have been tested to see which is the most beneficial for the pupils’ learning.

Ulf Ryberg
Ulf Ryberg.

Ulf Ryberg’s thesis is based on a learning study. It is a research approach that can also work as skills development for teachers. In brief, it involves forming a team at a school that jointly reads up on current research, and tests and assesses various types of lesson setup. The focus of the discussions is the content of the lesson, what is being taught, and not the methods used by the teacher, such as individual work or projects.

"The teachers’ different ways of handling the content lead to different forms of learning among the pupils. It may sound self-evident. But in many cases, the teacher does not know precisely what the pupils learn during a class. It is only possible to see this when you analyse it in detail", says Ulf Ryberg.

Experimental study of teaching differentiation

Over the past few years, Ulf Ryberg has combined research and his work as an upper-secondary school teacher in mathematics. The doctoral thesis is based on a learning study that he conducted together with his colleagues. The goal was for the pupils to learn the mathematical term, differentiation, in the graphic representation.

The types of lesson setup that were developed within the team’s learning study were subsequently tested in an experimental study where pupils from four upper-secondary school classes were randomly divided into two groups, which were taught by a different teacher to their usual one. In the first group, the representation of the term, differentiation, was varied by comparing graphs with formulas and examples from everyday life. In the second, there were no formulas and no examples from everyday life. Instead, the teaching involved a greater variation of graphs.

Concordant results

The results from the two studies were concordant. Contrary to the prevailing belief, it turned out that it is not always a good thing to use several parallel representations in teaching. Instead, for this particular content, it was better to use a greater variation of graphs.

"In order to develop pupils’ understanding of a concept, the teacher does not necessarily need to make comparisons between different representations. Sometimes it may be beneficial to create variation within the same representation", says Ulf Ryberg.

Ulf Ryberg argues that the research shows the importance of planning and evaluation.

"The results of the studies indicate the need for teachers to base their planning on the specific content of the lesson and on what you want the pupils to learn. This, in combination with the pupils’ previous knowledge, should govern the type of content variation that is most beneficial for the pupils’ learning", says Ulf Ryberg.

Title: Att urskilja grafiska aspekter av derivata – hur elevernas möjligheter påverkas av innehållets behandling i undervisningen.

For more details:

Ulf Ryberg, phone +46 70–928 57 37, email