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Didactical Dilemmas in a Research and School Development Project

Conference contribution
Authors Jonas Almqvist
Lisbeth Gyllander Torkildsen
Karim Hamza
Anette Olin
Published in ECER-conference in Hamburg, 2019
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Language en
Keywords Didactical dilemmas, dialogue, teacher-researcher collaboration, school development
Subject categories Didactics


In this paper, we will present a study of development dialogues between researchers and practitioners in a Swedish upper secondary school. In working with this project we have used and further developed an approach, inspired by the work of Kathleen Armour (Armour, 2014; Casey et al., 2016), that we have named Dialogue for Didactic Development (Almqvist et al., 2016; Almqvist et al., 2017; Olin et al., 2017; Olin et al. 2018). This is a method which was enacted and developed in a book project (Almqvist et al., 207) and which is now used in a large school development project in a Swedish municipality. The aim of the presentation is to describe and discuss didactical knowledge produced by researchers and practitioners together. The idea of didactic inquiry emphasizes both researchers and teachers as crucial actors in development of disciplinary knowledge about teaching (Carlgren, 2012; Ingerman & Wickman, 2015; Ko, 2018; Wickman, 2015). In our study, we highlight the notion that researchers’ and practitioners’ mutual knowledge production may have consequences for both practices. To be able do this, we turn to previous didactical research built on pragmatism, namely, the cooperative engineering and the didactic modeling approaches (cf. Hamza et al., 2018; Joffredo-Le Brun et al., 2018; Sensevy et al., 2013; Wickman et al, 2018). In our work, we have combined this line of didactical research with theories, methodologies and results from the field of action research (Almqvist et al., 2016; Almqvist et al., 2017; Olin et al., 2017; Olin et al. 2018). Action research contributes to this in many ways, but especially in its interest in changes of practices and what is at stake for the participants in collaborative work (cf. Edwards-Groves et al., 2016). The combination of these approaches makes it possible to study teachers’ and school leaders’ practice. In this work, the dialogue between participants (both practitioners and researchers) is central, both as a base for development and as a unit of analysis. Meetings between practitioners and researchers are being arranged and developed in the project. One ambition is to create knowledge in the intersection between the two fields of action research and didactics, two fields that are both interested in the development of the teacher profession and school development. If and how the collaboration between researchers and teachers may occur is, in this perspective, not an uncontested area of knowledge, and depends on underlying views of theory and practice as well as how professional learning may be framed (Carlgren, 2012; Hamza et al, 2018). Thus, one crucial question in development work is how the relation between the participating actors in a practice is constituted. Hence, the basic idea of ​​the project is to use research and practice in reflection on and development of concrete didactic dilemmas. In our previous studies in the project, we have concentrated on the two forms of recognition identified by Ricœur, namely recognition of oneself and the notion of mutual recognition between participants (Almqvist et al., 2016; Olin et al., 2017; Olin et al. 2018). In this paper we focus on the third form of recognition, namely recognition of something. We understand this as the didactical dilemmas recognized by the practitioners in the project. Method The empirical material analyzed in this study is produced in a research and development project in Landskrona, a municipality in the southern part of Swedish. The project centers on school development on the basis of teaching challenges. In the very center of the work are didactical dilemmas identified and described by practitioners. These dilemmas are written as cases by the practitioners, describing the problem that they have identified, together with a description of how the dilemma is handled by them in practice. Three experts (researchers and teachers) from different fields contribute with comments on the case from their different perspectives. The comment is based on the case and has to be of a reasoning nature. It can, for example, be about (1) Strengthening: The arguments and points presented by the case author are highlighted, confirmed and discussed. (2) Supplementing: The comment points to things that may be missing in the description of the case and complements additional aspects of how the dilemma has been dealt with in other contexts. (3) Problematizing: The starting points on which the case is based are challenged and nuanced. In this way, the commentary is about changing focus and suggesting alternative ways of understanding the current dilemma. A collaborating author (researcher) pulls together and summarizes the case and the different comments, and finally, the practitioner discusses and reflects on the comments. We see the last section of each dialogue as very central. This is where the practitioner’s voice and agency become most evident in the dialogue. The empirical material consists of eleven didactical development dialogues organized in eleven chapters in a forthcoming anthology. For the study presented in this paper, we have made a qualitative analysis of the chapters, focusing on the practitioners’ dilemmas. More specifically, we have concentrated on the last section of the case descriptions, analyzing the knowledge that is expressed in practitioners’ reflections about their own development based on their case description and the three comments they have received. Expected Outcomes In the analysis of the dialogues, we have found three categories of dilemmas, with sub-categories. These correspond very well with the three different kinds of relations expressed in the didactical triangle, namely teacher-student, teacher-content and student-content. Our findings about practitioners’ identification and handling of didactic dilemmas are the following. First, the teachers handle dilemmas related to the relation between teacher and student. This concern issues such as individualization while working with large heterogenic student groups, teaching students to become independent, teachers’ and students’ respective responsibilities in the classroom, and how to act in and change the school system in order to enhance the prerequisites for teaching. Secondly, the teachers handle dilemmas related to the relationship between teacher and educational content. They select, opt out and organize educational content and teaching method, teach study technique and hand out homework. Thirdly, teachers handle dilemmas related to the relationship between student and educational content, which means that they handle dilemmas concerning for example students’ difficulties to understand a task or a content of some kind and students’ different prerequisites for learning. The study indicates that the researchers and practitioners who are participating in the development dialogues mutually contribute to the construction of knowledge. The dilemmas that the teachers identify are in a way very general, but they are also specific and situational in the sense that they concern the teachers’ work in specific classrooms. In development dialogues, teachers and researcher contribute with new ways of understanding and dealing with didactical dilemmas. This becomes very obvious when reading and analyzing the concluding remarks made by the practitioners. References Almqvist, J., Hamza, K., Olin, A. (2016). Didactical investigations for professional development. Paper presented at ECER in Dublin, August 22-26 Almqvist, J; Hamza, K. & Olin, A. (Eds.)(2017). Undersöka och utveckla undervisning [Investigating and Developing Teaching]. Lund: Studentlittteratur. Armour, K.(Ed.)(2014). Pedagogical cases in physical education and youth sport. Oxon: Routledge. Casey, A.; Goodyear, V. & Armour, K. (Eds.)(2016). Digital technologies and learning in physical education. Pedagogical cases. Oxon: Routledge. Carlgren, I. (2012). The learning study as an approach for “clinical” subject matter didactic research. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 1(2), 126-139. Edwards-Groves, C.; Olin, A & Karlberg-Granlund, G. (2016). Partnership and recognition in action research: understanding the practices and practice architectures for participation and change. Educational Action Research, 24(3), 321-333. Hamza, K., Palm, O., Palmqvist, J., Piqueras, J., & Wickman, P.-O. (2018). Hybridization of practices in teacher-researcher collaboration. European Educational Research Journal, 17(1), 170-186 Ingerman, A., & Wickman, P.-O. (2015). Towards a teachers' professional discipline: Shared Responsibility for didactic models in research and practice. In P. Burnard, B.-M. Apelgren & N. Cabaroglu (Eds.), Transformative teacher research (pp. 167-179). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Joffredo-Le Brun, S.; Morellato, M.; Sensevy, G. & Quilio, S. (2018). Cooperative engineering as a joint action. European Educational Research Journal, 17(1), 187-208. Ko, P.Y. (2018): Beyond labels: what are the salient features of lesson study and learning study?, Educational Action Research. Published online 11 October 2018. Olin, A., Almqvist, J & Hamza, K. (2017). Didactics, dialogue and development. Paper presented at the ECER conference, August 22-25, 2017. Olin, A., Lenzen, B & Sensevy, G (2018). Professional development and recognition. Paper presented in the double symposium Comparative Didactic Analyses of Science Education and Physical Education and Health in Sweden, Switzerland and France, at ECER in Bolzano. Sensevy G, Forest D, Quilio S, et al. (2013) Cooperative engineering as a specific design-based research. ZDM – The International Journal on Mathematics Education 45(7): 1031–1043. 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., Hamza, K., & Lundegård, I. (2018). Didaktik och didaktiska modeller för undervisning i naturvetenskapliga ämnen. NorDiNa, 14(3), 239-249.

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