“Intermediate Theory” Building: Integrating Multiple Teacher and Researcher Perspectives Through In-Depth Video Analysis of Pedagogic Strategies


by Sara Hennessy & Rosemary Deaney - 2009

Background/Context: This work draws on a “participatory” approach to research collaboration that respects the teacher’s “voice” in building on and extending the interactive “colearning” agreements between researchers and practitioners that work toward improving practice. Both parties in these agreements act as agents of (reflexive) inquiry, actively participating in rigorous and systematic joint analysis and contributing interpretative insights.

Focus of Study: This article describes and reflects on a collaborative approach to the analysis of digital video recordings of classroom activity. Our primary focus was assisting teachers to make explicit the pedagogical rationale underlying their practice. A key aim was to draw on sociocultural perspectives to develop a shared, grounded account of the processes through which teachers strategically mediate subject learning, in the context of using projection technology. The process of collaboration itself is our focus here.

Participants: Four UK teachers, one in each of four secondary subject areas (English, mathematics, science and history), and their students aged 12–15, took part in the research. The teachers were all experienced, reflective practitioners. The research collaboration also involved a colleague of each teacher, two researchers (the authors), and academic subject specialist colleagues.

Research Design: A case study design was used to collect qualitative observational data.

Data Collection and Analysis: Teachers were observed over six lessons each and interviewed four times. They also collaborated with us in critical scrutiny and discussion of lesson videos during a series of four recorded meetings, making underlying rationale explicit and identifying emerging themes. Student perspectives were sought through two focus group interviews in each case. Copies of student work and all lesson materials and outlines were collected, screen displays were captured, and each teacher kept a diary (unstructured) recording his or her planning, decision making, and/or postlesson reflections. Interview transcripts, individual commentary, meeting notes, and diaries were thematically analyzed using HyperResearch software.

Findings: The dialogic process culminated in development of “intermediate theory” bridging between teachers’ perspectives on supporting learning in specific settings, and key constructs from sociocultural theory. Hence, a priori theories were elaborated, integrated, and reframed using a common language.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The findings are being exploited through coconstruction and dissemination of a set of interactive CD-ROMs. These characterize the key themes and strategies emerging within and across cases, with illustrative video sequences for each case in turn hyperlinked to professional development activities and relevant aspects of the narrative accounts.



The purpose of this study was to understand, question, and disseminate practice, with researchers and teachers acting as “co-inquirers” and co-constructing multimedia outcomes. This was addressed through collaborative theory building. The approach taken here was a significant departure from much conventional action research that is carried out by practitioners, and from the traditional “data-gathering” and “knowledge-delivery” approach that characterizes most academic research. Triggs and John (2004) noted that educational research often reflects asymmetrical power relations whereby academics use practitioners as the objects of research. A contrasting approach respects the teacher’s “voice” in building on and extending the interactive “colearning” agreements between researchers and practitioners that work toward improving practice (Edwards & Jones, 2003; Wagner, 1997). Both parties in these agreements act as agents of (reflexive) inquiry, actively participating in rigorous and systematic joint analysis and contributing interpretative insights. Likewise, “coteaching” and its underpinning “cogenerative dialogue” aim to collectively generate a discourse for explaining classroom events and designing changes (Tobin & Roth, 2007). This is effected through sharing responsibility for extending explicit and implicit learning opportunities for students and coteachers; the work draws on and adapts cultural-historical activity theory, for example, in describing how external and systemic constraints and contradictions can be articulated and overcome.


Our approach to theorizing was developed partly as a consequence of previous experiences of working with 15 teacher-researchers pilot testing new pedagogical approaches to using technology in a range of subject areas over the course of a year during the Technology-Integrated Pedagogic Strategies (TIPS) project. Teachers were encouraged to make explicit their practical theories concerning how a technology was seen as supporting learning and guiding the development of a pedagogical strategy incorporating its classroom use, and to operationalize and evaluate these in practice (Deaney, Ruthven, & Hennessy, 2006). The study showed that teachers’ initial ideas were often modified when operating within the constraints of the setting. For example, their intentions to harness the perceived potential of technology served as a basis for speculative practical theories that they formed concerning its idealized use. Translation into practice, though, was tempered by teachers’ beliefs both about how students learn and about “what works” (pedagogically and technically) in the setting—that is, craft knowledge. Premises about “what works” were shaped, among other things, by the perceived constraints and affordances of the setting, resources at hand, and trial and adaptation of practice. Developing practical theory could thus be viewed as a complex and evolving process of reciprocal interaction with the setting and with associated craft knowledge.


In this earlier study, two lesson observations and postlesson interviews were carried out during each TIPS project; these discussions assisted teacher-researchers to articulate some of the thinking behind their developing practice. However, the teachers found it difficult to move beyond a general and superficial account of practical theory both initially and in their written reports, despite the support and models provided. Hence, our (researchers’) analyses of classroom action in relation to practical theory remained interpretative. We recognized the need to structure and promote “quality conversations” focused on the specifics of teaching and to set up contexts in which “rigorous and critical debate can happen” (Wallace, 2003, pp.11–12). This aim guided our subsequent design of the Teacher Mediation of Subject Learning With Technology: A Multimedia Approach (T-MEDIA) research project1 and the in-depth examination of digital video data in particular.


FOCUS


The present article describes and critiques the methodology developed during T-MEDIA. Our research focused on analyzing and documenting successful pedagogic strategies for exploiting use of digital technology resources: data projectors and interactive whiteboards (IWBs)2 in particular. Although these tools are increasingly prevalent in UK classrooms and some other countries, the underlying pedagogy is comparatively underdeveloped. Our primary focus was assisting teachers to make explicit the rationale behind their actions and thereby illuminate what they construed as effective practice. The research also sought to identify relevant contextual factors and the contribution of other resources and activities, and to produce stimuli for adapting practices to new settings. Thus, we did not set out to identify models of “best practice” for replication per se but rather to generate an accessible theoretical framework that might, in turn, provide teachers with a lens for reflective thinking about their strategic use of such technology.


Note that use of the technology provided the context for our research collaboration and is alluded to throughout as such, but it is the process of collaboration itself rather than any substantive findings that is our focus in this article. Selected case examples are thus in no way intended as a typology of emerging strategies for mediating technology use (much more detail about these appears in the multimedia outcomes aimed primarily at practitioners and teacher educators, in which the strategies assume much greater significance and are put forward for viewer evaluation). However, the examples helpfully serve to exemplify the theory-building process, which in fact could equally have taken place in a nontechnology context, with teachers of other subjects, and so on.


METHOD


PARTICIPANTS AND ROLES


Four UK teachers, one in each of four secondary subject areas (English, mathematics, science and history), took part in the research. The teachers were all experienced, reflective practitioners who had previously been involved in our research.3 Past interviews had yielded evidence of well-articulated pedagogy for “integral use” of technology (Dawes, 2001) and of expenditure of time and energy in developing new approaches to promote active learning and sustaining them over time. Thus, the teachers had developed the confidence and technical and pedagogical skills for using technology systematically, appropriately, and effectively in their everyday practice. One teacher (mathematics) used a data projector, whereas the other 3 had permanent access to an interactive whiteboard in their classrooms. Moreover, the teachers were willing to take what Stenhouse (1975) called a “research stance”: namely, “a disposition to examine one’s own practice critically and systematically” (p. 156).


Each teacher worked with a colleague he or she had selected from his or her subject department—a like-minded teacher who was both interested in the research and an enthusiastic user of technology in his or her own classroom. The colleagues were not filmed but took part in the planning process to some extent and then played a full role in the analysis process. Thus, all 8 teachers acted as classroom educators, subject specialists, and teacher-researchers in this study. The four main teachers’ classes of students (aged 12–15) were participants as well, being filmed and interviewed about their learning experiences. The classes were designated heterogeneous (“mixed ability”) or homogenous (low to middle attaining) groupings within each subject.


The three schools to which the teachers and students belonged encompassed a range of typical settings and social backgrounds. All were within a 25-mile radius of Cambridge (in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom) and had some nationally recognized form of specialist subject status.4 Two of the three schools involved were members of our local schools-university research partnership whose established tradition of academics supporting teacher research over the past decade is detailed by McLaughlin, Black-Hawkins, Brindley, McIntyre, and Taber (2006).


Other participants in the research collaboration included the two researchers (authors of this article) who initially conceived the focus, design, and methodology of the project when securing its funding. The subsequent process of collaborative decision making—involving the researchers and 2 teachers in each case—began with lesson planning (negotiating only aspects such as selection of student group, topic, technology). It continued throughout the stages of data collection, thematic analysis and validation, and development of multimedia outcomes. We anticipate that it will culminate in joint reports and conference presentations. Thus, the 8 teachers made a significant and sustained commitment to act as our co-investigators in this “participatory” research (Elden, 1981) over its 30-month timespan.


We also involved a volunteer academic subject specialist in each case (2 each in history and mathematics) with extensive teacher education experience, mainly from our university faculty (except one who was based in another institution). Their role was primarily to view and comment on the observational data from a subject perspective and in light of wider practice with which they were familiar. The details of each of these participant roles in the collaborative analysis and development work are elaborated next.


DATA COLLECTION


The investigation took an in-depth case study approach; we observed and video-recorded each class over six lessons, plus one pilot/acclimatization session.5 A total of four (semistructured) teacher interviews (three postlesson, one follow-up) were carried out using printed prompt cards, and audio-recorded and transcribed. Student perceptions were solicited using focus group interviews; two students were trained to interview mixed-sex groups of six of their classmates after lessons (during and at the end of the sequence) in each study, again using prompt cards. Copies of student work and all lesson materials and outlines were collected, screen displays were captured, digital photographs were taken, and each teacher also kept an (unstructured) diary recording his or her planning and decision-making processes and, in most cases, postlesson reflections. The two researchers each took responsibility for two case studies, conducting all the observations, interviews, and meetings, and preparing the data.


The specific practices we investigated included interactive use of a whiteboard in science for learning about the photosynthesis process in Year 10 (ages 14 and 15); constructing collective interpretations of poetry with an “antisocial” theme in English in Year 10; use of multiple technological resources in history to support analysis of evidence concerning the “golden age of Elizabeth I” in Year 8 (ages 12 and 13); and using dynamic graphing software to teach the concepts of intercept and gradient in linear functions in Year 8.


COLLABORATIVE VIDEO REVIEW AND CD-ROM PRODUCTION PROCESS


To achieve joint, negotiated understanding of the classroom activity being reviewed, the whole team was actively involved in an iterative cycle of analysis through discussion that included scrutiny and categorization of strategies and interactions, extracting and cross-checking analytic categories, posing conjectures and testing interpretations across episodes, theory building, identifying and formatting exemplars for dissemination, and generating tools for reflection for others within the subject area. This comprised a phased process of individual review and joint meetings after completion of the lesson series (see Table 1).


Table 1. Phases of Collaborative Data Analysis

PHASE

ACTIVITIES

OUTCOMES

1

Preparation of review materials, independent video review using timeline grids, selection and provisional categorization of “critical episodes”

Video summaries, analytic commentary, and questions re: pedagogic rationale, thematic codes

2

Collation of combined grids, systematic integration with other data, independent review

Instances of converging and diverging perspectives, points for discussion

3

Video review meetings, scrutiny of “critical episodes,” negotiation of emerging themes

Identification of main strategies and themes linked to theory and practice; concrete exemplars of these; revised coding scheme

4

Systematic computer coding of all qualitative data, further analytical review and follow-up teacher interview

Illustrated thematic “storyline” for each case, an overarching account

5

Final selection and trialing of lesson video clips and associated analytic commentary, identification of issues for viewer reflection

Five CD-ROMs illustrating themes and strategies emerging within and across cases, and offering tools for professional development



Phase 1


A time-coded descriptive summary of the videoed lesson activities and interactions (with significant utterances transcribed verbatim) was produced by the university research team and incorporated in a grid for each lesson, containing one column per team member (see Table 2). All members of the team used this, alongside the video, to familiarize themselves with the lessons, to reflect, and to comment independently. As in the study described by Armstrong and Curran (2006), providing unedited video footage on CDs6 allowed repeated playback in the viewer’s own time.  


Table 2. Excerpt from English Lesson 6 Combined Grid

Start

End

Video Summary

Teacher

Colleague

Researcher 1

Researcher 2

0:12:11

0:13.59

T projects a possible technique and a question (with examples from poems). T: Here are some suggestions to start you off. Pick up your pens and in your mind think, “I know who I’m writing from the point of view of. I’m not me anymore.” T continues making suggestions for the persona and reasoning behind their thoughts/actions. Maybe they are trying to prove something to the world . . . have been let down. . . Ss should think about where persona is and what has happened in his life. T talks through slide and examples to illustrate techniques.

T anticipates difficulty starting poem. Speaks in 1st person as if they are the persona— transferring thinking in this way to class. T prompting Ss to write specific type of poem. Very real examples given orally with support provided visually.

This slide provides further ideas and T constantly challenges Ss to think by giving examples for them to work with. This helps those who will be struggling without singling them out. All Ss seem engaged. T circulates constantly giving ideas and feedback.

Dialogic synthesis

T continues to structure activity for Ss, using (scaffolding) personalizing mechanisms (thinking themselves into role) and illustration to give them a handle on the writing task; also allows option of using own way of starting off (giving responsibility for exploration where they can take it: differentiation?)

Scaffolding continues. T guides Ss toward starting point.

T models two alternative approaches but leaves open for further ideas. Fading; handing over responsibility

Ss to focus only on launch at this stage. Having provided an earlier overview of the task, T structures / paces / activity sensitively so as to render it manageable



The teacher interview and diary excerpts below elaborate the teacher’s rationale.


Diary: It was important to establish a comfortable and relaxed environment for the writing process to begin so I didn’t want to “intrude” into the lesson too much but still wanted to scaffold the writing process for those students who would undoubtedly need help. The SmartFiles I produced contained sufficient structure for the majority of the class to start writing immediately—the examples of how the poems studied had begun, were presented visually and orally as I know that some students would pick up on what I was saying rather than looking at the board. The SmartFiles were not intrusive as they were always there in the background.

Interview: Really what I did was just look back at those three poems and picked out the ways that some of them started or the ways that they were developed, the types of mood . . . and the way that they’ve resolved their discussion of a topic. So . . . those slides were . . . prompting them: you know imagine you’re the speaker, you’re really irritated, what is it that’s irritated you? [. . .] I used it as a scaffold, as a structure for them so they could use as much or as little of it as they wanted to. . . . it was really just about giving them ideas. . . .we’ve done this already, remember? You commented upon the effects of the alliteration and the metaphors, now’s the time to have a go at just using them.



Impressions were recorded via written commentary and preliminary selection of critical episodes (see Powell, Francisco, & Maher, 2003, on “critical events”). A critical episode was defined as actions, teacher interventions, or student-initiated interactions that were key in using technology effectively and/or promoting learning of the topic. Analytic commentary described what key part the technology and the teacher played; the effectiveness of the supporting teaching approach or strategy in terms of student response, learning, or motivation; the level of student participation (cognitive or physical; e.g., expressing ideas, articulating and representing developing knowledge, receiving feedback); whether and how peer interactions appeared to be supporting learning; key contributory contextual and other factors that seemed to have a positive or negative impact on successful use of the technology; and how lesson activities or teaching and learning interactions related to prior or subsequent use of technology within the lesson series.7


The researchers and the teacher-colleague noted on the grid questions for further discussion with the teacher during the subsequent review meetings. Questions posed were carefully formulated to avoid bias or value judgment, stimulating rather than presenting insights (Lyle, 2003). For example, one question read, “Why did you give out paper copies of the diary text when it was also displayed on the IWB?” The questions were intended to clarify the teacher’s rationale for a particular action or interaction, the underlying curriculum objectives, or views about the unique contribution of the technology, or to elicit further contextual information. Likewise, the subject specialist(s) viewed the videos and made independent input at this stage on their own grid copies.


Phase 2


In preparation for whole-team discussions, four individual review grids were collated and combined in a single document for each of the lessons. These were then integrated with relevant excerpts from the other observational data collected. Review of the combined grids, selected clips, and other data, and of the inherent degree of consensus took place independently by teacher, colleague, and researchers.


Phase 3


A series of four 3-hour meetings were held over about 2 months, in which perspectives were compared and integrated. The first three meetings treated individual lessons systematically in turn, whereas the final meeting identified themes prominent across the whole lesson module (emerging patterns, generalizations, comparisons). Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed so as to document the evolving shared interpretations. Lesson videos were available throughout for joint viewing on a laptop computer for reference to additional corroborative and contrasting examples. One subject specialist joined a review meeting (having observed in person one of the lessons discussed). Specialists’ written commentary was circulated beforehand. A key aim of these meetings was to identify “critical episodes” and to discuss what made them more or less significant (attending to commonalities and differences of choice or view between reviewers). Initial impressions were verified by subsequent scrutiny or abandoned through consensus in favor of alternative explanations.


After the team had commented on the first two lessons but before the first meeting, the researchers circulated a brief glossary summarizing and contrasting theories of learning, and elaborating some of the central constructs embodied in one framework: that of sociocultural theory. These related to teacher mediation and included terms not typically familiar to teachers because they derive from theoretical research, including scaffolding, fading, zone of proximal development, assistive questioning, affordances, and focusing. Sample definitions of two terms we used with teachers were:


Funnelling/authoritative interaction—interaction (students giving responses or making contributions) but teacher leading students toward target response or particular interpretation/understanding/solution, by controlling decision making (Bauersfeld, 1988), or guiding via question-and-answer (Mortimer & Scott, 2003).


Dialogic interaction—discussion-based discourse in which teacher recognizes and clarifies students’ existing understandings and builds on these to formulate joint understanding (Mortimer & Scott); intentional sharing/exploration of ideas, collaborative meaning making (students contributing ideas, teachers helping take ideas forward); may involve open-ended questioning, talking through answers, reflecting, interpreting, evaluating.


These theoretical concepts and ideas were additionally encapsulated within a set of preliminary deductive codes generated by the researchers during analysis of the preceding T-MEDIA case study and initially derived from our previous analysis of teacher mediation during the TIPS project (Hennessy, Deaney, & Ruthven, 2005). They were illustrated with examples of strategies from the teacher’s own (first two) lessons. Teachers found this helpful, because, as one described, “It’s very difficult to suddenly think of a word for a concept or an idea that you are putting into practice. The scaffolding was easy because we are used to that and we do that all time, but some of the other terms would have been quite difficult for us to think of.”


However, their own ideas resonated closely with some of the terms. For instance, another teacher described funnelling as “a fantastic word for a very complex, long-winded, rambling description of something that happened,” She explained,


the way we were describing things was in sort of teacher speak, and in ways that were familiar to us, and then [you two] were using academic research terms that were very, very similar . . . looking at the same thing from two different angles I found interesting. And it kind of gives what you do in the classroom a bit more status.


The tentative coding scheme was discussed and revised at the first meeting, then used as a foundation for collaborative construction and refinement of the analytic framework. It was continually refined as new, inductive codes were generated and integrated, the meanings of both kinds of codes were negotiated, and their degree of fit with the data was assessed. Thematic organization therefore involved a complex, recursive process of constant comparison (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Revision of the coding scheme took place at each meeting, with close reference to examples in the grids, until a final draft was agreed on. The categorization ultimately described processes of advance planning and classroom interaction that were linked with carefully specified conditions and consequences, as illustrated below.


Finally, the team identified overarching themes and potential exemplars of these for dissemination, making clear the selection criteria and negotiating the content and structure of the final CD-ROM for each subject. This process included generating questions for other teachers to consider (concerning ways of making use of the technology more effective) and discussion of applicability to other contexts, topics, and student groups.


It is important to note that a very labor-intensive component of Phases 1–3 was the preparation and timely distribution of materials to all team members, which proved critically important in supporting the process of joint data review. This involved the project secretary and the lead researcher for the particular case study in summarizing or transcribing meeting notes, interviews, and videos; continually liaising with the teachers to obtain materials such as IWB slides, lesson plans, and handouts; formulating, piloting, and revising the instruments, observation records, commentary grids, glossary, and video review guidelines; collating, checking, and integrating the various data sources (e.g., observation notes, video summary, and IWB slides/nondigital whiteboard representations were systematically combined for every lesson); and cataloguing and tracking distribution of the materials comprising a multimedia database for each case (an extended version of the “video portfolios” employed by Maher and Martino, 1996). Phased distribution of materials and review of data from one to three lessons between meetings helped to avoid overwhelming team members unduly with a large volume of data. Timing was also engineered so that interview data, diary excerpts, and specialist comments for a specific lesson were circulated by the lead researcher only after all team members had commented on the grid (so as to maintain rigor and avoid influencing perceptions) but before the relevant review meeting so that there was time for perusal.


Phase 4


Integration and coding of all data sources using HyperResearch 2.6 qualitative analysis software8 was carried out by the university research team using the final coding scheme. Further analytical review—by researchers in collaboration with teacher, colleague, and subject specialist—included a final teacher interview to further clarify issues emerging from the analysis or raised by specialists. The process culminated in the development of a simple but comprehensive narrative account contextualized for each of the four subject areas. Each narrative was represented by a map with links to selected video sequences and slides (reproducing whiteboard displays) illustrating the main themes identified, plus the informative interview, diary, and meeting excerpts (“nuggets”), and review grid commentary from all three groups. A further account examined similarities and contrasts of pedagogical approaches within and across cases, reviewing these in light of the negotiated theoretical framework.


Phase 5


The findings were ultimately exploited through collaborative development of five presentation CD-ROMs characterizing the key generic and situationally specific mediation strategies emerging from microanalysis across multiple data sources both within each case and across subject cases (drawing on the analytic tradition in the case study literature; Yin, 1998).9 The CD-ROMs present the aims and summaries of each lesson sequence; IWB features and other resources used; information about school background, project participants, and methodology; lesson resource banks and glossary; and the emerging themes and narrative accounts with hyperlinks to related clips and analytic commentary. These comprise points and questions for reflection and discussion by individual viewers or groups of teacher colleagues. Our consideration of any exceptional features of each case and of further applications, alternative strategies, other classroom contexts, and perceived “added value” of the IWB is also documented, permitting the results of the detailed case analyses to be discussed within a broader framework.


In representing complementary interpretations of a single video record using hypermedia, several issues need to be addressed. Based on related theory, the issues we considered included simultaneous use and proximity of multiple representations, cognitive load, and degree of user control over navigation (Clark & Mayer, 2003, Zahn, Barquero, & Schwan, 2004); contextual factors that may limit generalizability (National Research Council, 2001); and the merits of the “guided noticing” paradigm developed by Pea et al. (2004) for expressing multiple perspectives on significant interactions. Professional, broadcast-quality video recording proved important in this context of technology use for providing rich data that clearly capture the dynamic processes of annotation and interaction with projected images. Finally, we recognize that viewers themselves may bring new levels of meaning and different interests to our own. Our already layered interpretations need to be open to new interpretations and contexts (Goldman-Segall, 1995) and to continued theorizing and hypothesis testing rather than imparting “recipe knowledge” (Alexander, 1984). Prototypes were piloted with academic and practitioner subject colleagues, including student teachers, and commentary on the resulting resources from different audiences continues to be welcomed.


DEVELOPMENT OF “INTERMEDIATE THEORY”


The main goal of the research collaboration was the joint construction of an analytic framework that elicited and codified the explicit and implicit, initial and evolving theories and expectations of the different individuals involved. In this section, we describe how that process was conceptualized and realized.


A sociocultural framework provided the initial theoretical language, constructs, and lens through which to begin our analysis and ultimately proved to be a powerful “guide to thought and instrument of interpretation” (Gordon & O’Brien, 2007, p. xi). Whereas our approach to analyzing classroom interactions was explicitly informed by varied (subject-specific and sociocultural) literature, the aim was to engage in “problematizing” (Freire, 1976), that is, dialogue centered on explaining the data. This brought together the scholarly knowledge of university researchers and academic subject specialists derived from existing theory, research findings, and experience, with expert teachers’ practical theories, or perspectives on how technology supports learning (Deaney et al., 2006), and their extensive, professional craft knowledge: that is, tacit knowledge arising from and in turn informing everyday practice (Cooper & McIntyre, 1996). Through joint reflection on specific classroom experiences, we aimed to represent and understand them in new, grounded, and detailed ways that were helpful for all team members and for other practitioners and researchers.


We understand that although sociocultural theory may broadly frame an educational practice, it does not bridge directly to it; grand theory lacks orientation to particular contingencies and tends to pass over important details. Accordingly, we drew on the idea of an intermediate theoretical scope (diSessa, 1991) that is located, and serves as a bridge, between specific setting and grand theory, specifying the conditions in which theory applies. This is a characteristic of design-based research methodology (not employed here, although there are some commonalities) in which reflection and theory building may occur at an intermediate level of analysis, namely one focusing attention on the pathways connecting learning theory and practice (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003). Grounding theory in practice in this way helps to articulate the design and its instantiation and informs its modification, though the research cycle is probably less likely in turn to directly inform or to challenge grand theory.


The notion of “intermediate theory” in this project was developed through coordinating and accommodating the different purposes and perspectives of researchers and teachers, and engaging with each other’s practices. We drew on Ruthven’s work (2002), which suggests how synergy between researchers’ scholarly knowledge and teachers’ craft knowledge might be facilitated through a sustained, dialogic cycle—and how, through such exchange, elements of scholarly knowledge become recontextualized and activated within teaching, and craft knowledge is elicited and codified through researching. Digital video recording and review was selected (as part of a range of mixed methods) as the tool most suited to supporting this process. The choice drew on a body of recent literature about the methodology, as elaborated throughout this article. That work describes the transformation of meaning making into a public and shared experience through a process of cultural change in which participants exchange their viewpoints and interpretations (Goldman, 2004). Goldman-Segall (1995) described how researchers may obtain configurational validity by layering multiple viewpoints and uncovering larger patterns running through a data set to produce a shared, multivoice document with those they study. In our research, we similarly located areas of congruence, provided a forum for diversity of ideas to be expressed, and reconciled the complementary areas of independent focus emerging by negotiating either a shared or multidimensional focus. This necessitated setting up an arena for testing and stretching the boundaries of a priori practical theory and grand theory in relation to technology-supported activity.


The video review meetings were employed as, and proved to be, a powerful catalyst for teacher introspection. The extensive scheduled discussions of both lesson plans and the various forms of data (see details that follow) were intended to create the critical space whereby “craft knowledge can legitimately come under respectful forms of examination comparable to those applied to scholarly knowledge” (Ruthven, 2002, p. 589). Of course, the experienced, hand-picked practitioners who participated already possessed well-developed pedagogical thinking and clear rationale for using the familiar technologies chosen. It was perhaps less of a leap for these individuals than for the typical teacher to articulate the associated practical theory that had become integrated with their craft knowledge through experience of trying out approaches over time. We use the term applied practical theory to describe this synergy. This conceptualization assumes that practical theory is situated in local, authentic pedagogical practices, perhaps related to specific student groups too, and that it evolves through adaptation to particular settings of use. A recent article by Ruthven, Hennessy, and Deaney (2008) on the interpretative flexibility of (dynamic geometry) software elaborates the process by which conceptions of a technology develop during both the evolution of its design and its appropriation as a functional tool, to become aligned with user concerns. Other recent work by de Freitas, Oliver, Mee, and Mayes (2008) devised workshops for practitioners to critically evaluate given pedagogical models for technology use and illustrates their adeptness at adapting the models to suit their own contexts. The conclusion from that study—that “teachers learn to talk the talk of educationalists by making sense of the artifacts that educationalists provide” (p. 12)—indicates that our related goal of collaboratively crafting intermediate theory with practitioners was not overambitious.


Two kinds of beliefs emerged during our data collection: (1) continually evolving perspectives on how projection technologies that supported learning within specific contexts were inextricably linked to (2) more generalized, common beliefs: for example, concerning the generic IWB tool supporting visualization of complex concepts and fostering student participation. Along with the interviews, participant observation by the teachers through video review was essential in eliciting an accurate, in-depth account of these forms of implicit rationale underlying their actions. It was additionally important in providing richer contextual information because researchers did not know the students, the constraints operating, or the subject matter in the way that the teachers did. The teachers possessed varied levels of experience with the hardware, software, and lesson materials employed, so some scope for testing activities and theory remained; applied practical theory thus provided a helpful starting point but was inevitably shaped and elaborated through experience of teaching the lesson sequence and of the review process.


Ruthven (2002) articulated in some detail how ultimately craft knowledge may be brought to contribute to further development (reframing and recontextualization) of scholarly knowledge and vice versa, with knowledge being filtered and reformulated. In our study, applied practical theory interacted with grand theory (perceived as elastic rather than deterministic) as researchers and teachers built a shared understanding of the evolving theory through such a “dialogic cycle.” Multiple perspectives and interpretations were made visible, debated, systematically tested, refined, and extended through an iterative process that helped establish a framework for the ongoing analysis, as documented in Lesh and Lehrer’s (2000) model of iterative videotape analysis. The process culminated in a coding scheme and a narrative account that are framed in a common accessible language.


Triggs and John (2004)—and likewise, teachers within our own schools-university research partnership (McLaughlin et al., 2006)—have highlighted the importance of overcoming the language barrier if teachers are to engage with research. To address this issue, categories and overarching pedagogical themes were described using participants’ own language or in vivo codes (Strauss, 1987) for key constructs wherever possible, and definitions were elaborated using concrete examples from observed lessons. However, the more abstract, specialized terminology of social science provided a useful framework with which to structure some of our collective interpretations. Its introduction offered the teacher participants an alternative language to describe their actions, which they could adopt or adapt to whatever extent they chose. Note that this was not merely a process of finding a common language to describe mutually recognized phenomena, but one of reshaping perspectives; both researchers and teachers saw activity in new ways and modified and refined their initial, more generalized theories.


Specifically, a priori sociocultural theory was operationalized, extended, and jointly elaborated (albeit not radically) over time, through critical reflection on its application to the context of technology use and to the specific case being studied. It was consequently integrated with practical theory and grounded in the diverse contexts in which technology is used. Our characterization of this process acknowledges that coding is never “theoretically innocent” but is shaped by, and constantly interacts with, our prior and developing perspectives: “A theoretical frame is embedded in any research design . . . the main function of data collection and analysis is to make one’s underlying premises as visible as possible and to challenge and develop the initial framework” (Alasuutari, 1996, pp. 372–373). The theory encapsulated within the final narrative needs to rise above highly domain-specific and pragmatic concerns to some extent if it is to be usefully applied in a range of other settings, as intended. Expression of the individual teacher’s rationale served as a set of terms of reference for co-construction of an account that transcended it.


In sum, our main objective was to couple the practices of researching and teaching in a way that would ultimately contribute to the negotiated, systematic formulation of grounded “intermediate theory.” Key research questions were (1) To what extent would the teachers be willing and able to engage with the theory-building process? and (2) How might we build a partnership in which researchers were “neither the legislators of practice nor the dispensers of wisdom”? (Boostrom, Hansen, & Jackson, 1993, p. 43).


RESULTS: THE METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH TO COLLABORATION


The study focused on developing understanding and articulating strategies and mechanisms (with the goal of dissemination) rather than improving the practice of case study teachers per se, as distinct from other research studies—for example, the InterActive Education Project’s collaborative development and evaluation of “subject design initiatives” . . . that focus on particular areas of the curriculum that students might normally find difficult and where a particular use of [technology] could enhance learning” (Sutherland et al., 2004, p. 413).


We were also concerned with theory building, specifically focusing on teacher mediation; exposure of teachers to key constructs from sociocultural theory, allowing them to select, appropriate, and apply relevant notions using their own language where desired; supporting initial alignment of all participants in terms of key ideas and subsequent negotiation of a shared analytic account; and collaborative development of graphical representations of the central themes in each case and connections between them. We present three examples that illustrate these two (interrelated) features.


(a) English Lesson 6


In this lesson, the class was writing their own poems to fit in with the three poems they had just studied. The teacher, Jackie, started them off using a series of IWB slides as prompts; these included images displayed in previous lessons, which she described as “a visual memory jog to remember the discussions.” Grids did not always contain four comments per episode, of course, but the excerpt in Table 2 and the marking of this as a “critical episode” by all four reviewers shows that here there was a clear consensus among all concerning the effectiveness of Jackie’s structured and supportive approach, with the IWB resources being an integral component. The slide shown at this stage contained some suggested starting strategies, such as, “Imagine someone has asked you a question about why you behave the way you do . . . repeat the question or start with the answer.”


The teacher interview also pointed out the specific role of the IWB and highlighted success of the prompts in terms of students often starting off independently, then referring to the slides for further inspiration:


There’s no way on a normal whiteboard would all of those things be up there, and on the handout it’s all there at the same time. Whereas with the SmartFile it wasn’t overpowering at all.


I saw them looking up at the board and then getting on with their own writing and then if they’d run out of ideas looking back up at it again. . . . They used it as much as they needed to.  Different students within the group relied upon it completely, and then others sort of listened to what I was saying, looked at it maybe and then just did their own thing.


There was some corroboration of this from students too:


It was quite difficult getting ideas to write your poem, and how to start it and things like that. . .

We’re not really familiar with poetry writing. . .

She was like explaining things and how to write your own poem using pictures and text on the SmartBoard. . . . [These things] were very helpful. Normally some teachers just read things out . . . and it’s not as visual if you like, you can’t understand it as well.


Integration of this kind of focus group data—derived from interviews conducted by a trained peer—into the analysis process demonstrates the value assigned to the student perspective. Discussion of this lesson during the review meeting resulted in some additions to the developing coding scheme, in particular the notion of “drip feeding” ideas and support throughout the lesson—originating from colleague Tina’s comments on the grid a little later into the lesson after the previous excerpt:


By slowly building in the different stimuli T allows Ss to work with one idea at a time . . . . this also acts as a further [nondirective] framework for their developing narratives.

Constantly drip feeding examples assists Ss to frame their ideas but use their own words and phrases. [Tina has a nursing background.]


The teachers were already familiar with the term scaffolding, and the meeting discussion of Tina’s comments developed the notion of drip feeding in terms of Jackie having used the IWB slides to provide a subtle form of visible background support, evocatively termed silent scaffolding:


T: I think it’s part of scaffolding isn’t it? It’s just much more subtle and it’s a continuous process. . .  


J: . . .whilst they are in the middle of doing something rather than before. . .


T: There was something about the SmartBoard being unobtrusive, so as a background. . . it’s sort of like a silent scaffold, if you like!


J: With visibility for the whole class, a memorable object of joint reference.

[. . . .]


T: That’s the nice thing. It’s constantly there so there’s no fuss. You can just look at it. Nobody knows, it doesn’t matter, it’s there, it’s a reference point. And for some that’s very important.


J: And the multimedia aspect of that as well. For example, I’d used some of the images that we’d already used. I used different colors for different sections. I used italics I think, for the quotations. So just the fact that it’s [technology] meant that I could do all of that.


This dialogic exchange illustrates how a theoretical concept was co-constructed by the teachers, through adaptation and extension of an existing concept to a new context of application, while capturing the natural language descriptors. Both of the terms coined by Tina were added to the coding scheme. Their addition confirms the importance of research knowledge, selected for application to practitioner contexts, being “susceptible to practical tweaking” or “filtering, fragmenting or fiddling” (Bevan, 2006, p. 60); that is, it was selected on the basis of researchers’ sense of its relevance and facility for local adaptation. This point recognizes that, contrary to popular belief among student teachers at least, there is no one-to-one relationship between educational theories and practice, such that the former can be applied in their entirety; instead, they provide a frame of reference and a language with which to name and critically analyze many of the issues that teachers face daily (Gordon & O’Brien, 2007). They can be applied in multiple ways, as shown by the cases of bridging theory and practice reported within different disciplines (Gordon & O’Brien).


(b) History Lesson 1


This example, from the history case, illustrates the process by which the a priori framework encapsulated in the tentative coding scheme was collaboratively refined over the course of the review meetings. It began with discussion of two terms introduced by the researchers in comments on the first two lesson videos. These particular terms were derived from Mortimore and Scott’s (2003) framework for analyzing communicative approaches:


Dialogic interaction—teacher and learners developing ideas together, as elaborated earlier.


Dialogic synthesis—drawing together/building on/elaborating different views but no student input during synthesis. (Mortimore and Scott described this type of activity as “non-interactive/dialogic” rather than using the term synthesis, which we considered more apt.)


The teacher, Lloyd, felt that coding needed to reflect episodes in which learners built on each other’s ideas and responded to teacher questions. A new subcode, dialogic class discussion, was added to the scheme. Definitions were further refined during Meeting 2, when the teachers suggested that students and the teacher could engage in dialogic synthesis—for example, when summarizing and weaving together points made during class discussion (either via the IWB or on paper, and in verbal or nonverbal form). Exploitation of the IWB during this process was characterized using a variety of fine-grained themes. These included, for instance, focusing using IWB-specific features—spotlighting, zoom, hide, and reveal—to investigate detail and to maintain attention on key concepts and relationships.


One of Lloyd’s central aims, evident in his teaching, was to promote the role of students in each other’s learning. This commitment to fostering a culture of interdependence (his term) was corroborated by Rolf, his colleague:


L: What is really important is for kids to listen and to learn from what other kids say.


R: That’s key to your approach because you model that by listening intently to students. . . . So kids learn from that . . . in an atmosphere of appreciation and of mutual learning. . . . “I have learnt so much from you today,” you’re saying at the end of one of the lessons, and that’s key.


The teachers distinguished between interdependence and collaboration, preferring the former as a more powerful descriptor. This led to changing the global thematic category “Increasing learner participation, collaboration, and independence” to “Increasing learner participation, interdependence, and responsibility,” reflecting Lloyd’s parallel aim for students to develop responsibility for their own learning alongside interdependence.


Later, in Meeting 3, discussion focused on finer distinctions between codes, including consideration of the teacher’s mediating role in dialogic “class” and “peer” discussion—for example, in assistive questioning and setting ground rules, such as the requirement for participants to build on the previous speaker’s comments. Dialogic peer discussion was not observed during the study, thus it extended beyond grounded application in the data (although a similar kind of discussion had in fact been observed by the teacher in an older class), sparking teachers’ ideas concerning possibilities for development.


During the review, we introduced teachers to wider literature, including Alexander’s (2004) treatise on dialogic teaching. Lloyd subsequently shared these ideas within the department and with the students. We received his feedback via e-mail:


The pamphlet has created quite a flurry of excitement! . . . Discussed some of the pamphlet ideas today with an able Yr 9 group after we had discussed whether the Holocaust was a unique experience. Where writing occurred, it was in response to student contributions. Teacher faded and actually became a contributor and learner. We then talked about the different roles people including me had taken in the lesson. Some consensus that some students, NOT the teacher had provided the main points for others to reflect on/challenge/shape thinking. Hugely rewarding!!


Engagement with the research process clearly stimulated some creative development and critical analysis of practice in this instance.


(c) Science Lessons 1– 3


These next examples illustrate a couple of stages in the collaborative process of developing and refining theoretical ideas.


At the start of Lesson 1, teacher Chris used a vivid narrative to take the class through a visualization of the animal cell, then used the hide and reveal features of the IWB to outline the lesson sequence. He considered that this feature “keeps the screen active and draws the attention of the learner to what is about to be revealed.” Chris explained why he had done the visualization (“to reengage your memory with what the animal cell is”) and what the aim of next few lessons would be: looking at the plant cell and the process of photosynthesis, how plants make food. “This morning will challenge you to make it memorable.”


In commenting on this episode, teacher and researcher perspectives were initially seen to have different (albeit unconflicting) foci. For example, Chris and his colleague Ruth mainly commented on the provision of a sequence overview, whereas we highlighted how Chris appeared to be handing over responsibility to students by asking them to “make it memorable.”


Later on in the lesson sequence, the teachers began to draw on the existing theory that we had introduced and to comment from this perspective. For example, during Lesson 3, Chris encouraged a student who was annotating mini-diagrams (which matched IWB displays depicting stages of their practical activity) to “Put anything you like, it’s your notes.” In the postlesson interview, he explained how this activity enabled learners to “engage at a much deeper level with the work” and how technology “giv[es] you that capacity to allow the kids the flexibility to actually express themselves in the way . . . they want to.”  However, when he came to comment on the video (following introduction of sociocultural theory in the first review meeting), Chris summarized the same episode as shifting responsibility toward the learner and spoke of using technology to scaffold the task; these phrases thus became part of, and contextualized within, the shared theoretical framework.


Traffic was not all one-way. One example of reciprocal input was Chris’s introduction of the idea of a “learning journey” in Meeting 2. He construed this as a scaffolded pathway toward achievement of new learning (knowledge and skills)—facilitated by the teacher and aided by technology—and spontaneously put forward a graphical representation of our developing thematic framework in these terms. The diagram was iteratively developed through detailed discussion, continuing in the subsequent meetings; the process of mapping relationships between themes for the first time triggered further organization of our ideas. Input from both teachers and researchers led to radical revision and cumulative insights that ultimately informed our development and representation of intermediate theory. For example, codes were ultimately clustered under the three main themes collaboratively identified through our review: (1) fostering active involvement/learning/personalization, (2) supporting knowledge building, and (3) responsive assistance. They formed groups of strategies for facilitating the learning journey. Further, interrelated themes, such as affordances of the technology and modes of communication, ran throughout, underpinned by planning, structuring, and managing. Motivation and rapport were seen as all-pervasive, as was feedback. In fact, Chris had identified the latter as a key unifying factor, omitted from his first diagram:


It’s that very fine balance—which is not the sort of fine balance that you plan, [but what] you feel when you’re actually within a class . . . probably something that’s missing from here is this . . . whole aspect of feedback. It’s about how you react, how you change, what time you move on the pace, where are [the students] actually getting in terms of moving towards the new learning. And all the time, there’s feedback coming from the students in all sorts of different ways and that’s then informing your thinking on the hoof.


OBSERVATION AND DATE REVIEW SUSTAINED OVER TIME


Three equally significant aspects of our project design were closely related to the overarching focus on understanding practice and theory building. First, the mentioned examples, and the overarching thematic representation in the third example in particular, additionally exemplify the importance of observation and review being sustained over a series of six (usually consecutive) lessons. This enabled us to construct a picture of the pedagogic processes involved in planning, implementing, and assessing a technology-based module to generate overarching themes and test interpretations for robustness over time. The structure of the video review process itself was the second key element, as follows.


MULTIPHASE VIDEO REVIEW PROCESS


Independent video review and collation of written commentary by the four collaborators, followed by joint, in-depth discussion of key episodes, offered opportunities for researchers to formulate questions at their leisure, for teachers to articulate the reasoning behind their planning and decision making during lessons, and for all four to reflect at length on the events observed and on complementary accounts of the pedagogic strategies and styles of classroom interaction (between teachers, learners, and technology) emerging. Having enough uninterrupted time for this kind of informal discussion proved critical; substantial funding was built into the project budget to release practitioners from their teaching and other commitments, and payment was made for every hour spent in project meetings and data analysis. The review meetings complemented the postlesson interviews; the latter served to access immediate thoughts while they were still fresh, but meetings were relatively short (1 hour) and took place too soon after the lesson to allow in-depth reflection on it by researcher or teacher.


Video-stimulated recall is believed to provoke reflective, dispassionate, and considered responses and to help overcome working memory limitations on introspective reasoning (Lyle, 2003). It is ideal when provoking further evaluation and rethinking of what teachers normally take for granted, rather than pure recall, is desirable. In our case, the video data acted as a springboard and a scaffold for development of further interpretation; it both constituted and stimulated a source of evidence. Unlike the study by Lyle, teachers were thus not confined to accessing cognitive recollection of aims and events but encouraged to create explanations when those were not immediately salient. (The former goal is unattainable in any case; Lyle found that a “degree of reflection and order” crept into the accounts.) Soliciting teacher diaries and early interviews concerning planning supplemented and overcame the potential limitations of this indirect and inevitably selective method of obtaining accurate evidence for teacher thinking (outlined by Lyle, 2003; Powell et al., 2003; Roschelle, 2000).


Questions to the teacher (from researchers, colleague, and subject specialist) triggered reflection and deeper analysis. For example, the history teacher’s stated aims were phrased mainly in terms of specific historical knowledge, but what actually emerged from his own grid comments and the researchers’ observations was the intention to develop a set of more generic, or “transferable,” skills, such as prioritization and linking of causes. The review and discussion processes served to tease out these implicit goals and to highlight them as central components for incorporation in the thematic overview of the lesson sequence. Critical episodes had a useful disclosing function here, acting as windows through which the team could view the phenomena of interest. This resonates with the description of Sheard and Harrison (2005) concerning how “video quotations,” or teacher extraction of video clips for discussion (using the Interactive Classroom Explorer software), act as a powerful methodological and cognitive tool to support constructive learning.


The mathematics case in particular illustrated the strength of this methodology. The grid comments alone were somewhat brief, and the two teachers encountered various difficulties (including illness and other commitments) precluding them from spending much time on written commentary. By contrast, the video review process flagged up numerous points for discussion and questioning during meetings, which helped to fill in the gaps in our understanding and to explicate the underlying rationale for a number of teacher actions and interventions. For instance, when reflecting across lessons in the fourth meeting, the teacher Sarah elaborated at length on her rationale for using such a wide range of resources and activities, varying mode of technology use and “intertwining” technology and pencil-and-paper resources. This included variety being linked to student motivation, and developing life skills for the future:


I think we need to create young people that are very, very flexible; they may have 10 different jobs in their lifetimes . . . the way that they could jump from one technology package to another, to paper, to a different activity, actually shows something quite successful. . . . The more different software packages and Internet resources they can use, the better because that’s something they’re always going to be faced with, using lots of different types of things. . . and they’ve had to work individually on some things and in pairs and in collaboration on others—which again is a [transferable] skill in itself.


This elaboration was elicited partly through researchers’ direct questioning and partly as a result of teachers’ and researchers’ clarification of coding terminology, for example, familiarity [with] and ownership [of] materials, and fostering transferable skills and knowledge. Sarah’s phrase intertwining technology/paper resources was subsequently added to the coding framework.


The need to fit the activities to meet the specific objectives and class was also espoused by both teachers. Sarah’s colleague Hilary explained, “there’s not really that much point in having . . . a set program on how to work through because you’d have to change that anyway for your different classes.” Sarah continued, “And even after one lesson, you might have to change what you’ve planned for the next lesson, depending on how it’s gone.”


In the history case, the grid comments themselves were often very enlightening, as illustrated in the next example.


History Lesson 3: 0:51:08 – 0:54:08


Video summary: T revisits a previously annotated slide from last lesson when Oliver came to the board and linked together three issues that were problematic in Elizabethan times (poverty, crime, and unemployment). T shares objectives: Today we will explore the causes of this poverty and what E’s government tried to do about it. T invites O to explain the order in which he linked these items. O: “Because if you are unemployed then you don’t have any income so you can’t buy food and drink and all the necessities. . . . Then it leads to crime because people just can’t think there’s any way else to get [them].”  T asks if every poor person turns to crime. Class says “No.” Discussion continues as other Ss make contributions and T responds to them, identifying significant causes and ensuring that Ss are distinguishing between prioritization and causal linking (O had done the latter).


This episode reflects Lloyd’s strong commitment to encouraging an active learner role in collective knowledge construction, facilitated by exploiting the unique “saving and revisiting annotations” feature of the IWB. The class is building up a shared interpretation under the teacher’s guidance and orchestration; genuine openness and responsiveness to student contributions was coupled with teacher elaboration and reshaping of students’ ideas. Lloyd describes this on the grid as follows:


Sometimes I will summarize responses from students, but not always. I am consciously wanting the students to listen to their classmates for ideas. Teacher shouldn’t always mediate student responses. Such an approach can suggest that teacher must intervene to give an answer status.” He also noted that “when Becky contributes from the back, some of the kids turn and look at her—just emphasizes the teacher isn’t the sole focus for ideas.


Contextual information in this case was derived from the teacher’s interview comments, which revealed his secondary motivation for crediting Oliver (“because he’d done some brilliant homework that he’s e-mailed me, which I’ve marked, and he’s going to present it to the other kids”), otherwise obscured from researchers. Comments from one subject specialist on his grid illuminated the subject context, noting as unusual both the use of student decision making to create a link with the previous lesson, and Lloyd’s reference back to joint endeavor (“Can I take you back to where we were when Oliver. . . ”): “in most lessons, I imagine that the link would be back to teacher exposition (or similar) or teacher questions.” Similarly, colleague Rolf noted on the grid, “This immediately acknowledges role of students in joint investigation.” The other specialist reviewed the lesson as a whole (during a discussion with the researchers after the standard review meetings had been completed) and highlighted the dangers of conflating evidential thinking with causal reasoning or reliability with authenticity, and the need to treat bias constructively. These specialist contributions neatly illustrate the final feature of our approach that was absolutely critical to its success, namely the bringing together of multiple, unique perspectives, as follows.


INTEGRATION OF MULTIPLE PARTICIPANT VIEWPOINTS


Colleague Perspective


A prominent characteristic of our approach, illustrated by the English example following, was involvement of a teacher colleague as a critical friend to each case study participant and as an equal partner in the analysis process. The colleague complemented the teacher’s articulation of rationale by offering a different, more detached perspective on the teaching and learning processes under scrutiny, informed by specialist knowledge of the subject, the syllabus, the technological resources, and the students.


English Lesson 3 0:02:40 - 0:06:27. Jackie used an animated clip art image of a hippie as a stimulus at the start of the lesson and annotated the slide with students’ prolific ideas about hippie culture; the brainstorm format and some elaboration of student ideas by the teacher created a collective representation as the outcome. Her colleague Tina interpreted this for us through her comments on the grid and made tentative use of thematic coding (terms in parentheses) in describing the commonly observed mix of dialogic interaction and subtly reshaping students’ thinking:


T allows Ss to come up with ideas. A way of T finding out how much they already know. Ss able to engage with the time period through visual representation. Clues in the images to assist. These images link directly to the lesson and act as a way to socially contextualize the poem. Questions allow T to extend thinking and ideas and to discuss preconceived ideas. This also reinforces confidence of Ss as they can see how much they already know. (Dialogic interaction – funnelling and focusing)?


Researcher Perspective


The two researchers offered a complementary theoretical perspective to that of the two teachers, hence increasing validity of critical episodes or teacher strategies through triangulation and giving equal weight to researcher and teacher voices during the process of reciprocal exchange. The process yielded verbatim dialogue between teachers and researchers and between teachers and learners within the classroom.  


Subject Specialist Perspective


Critical commentary from an academic colleague with specialist subject knowledge and extensive experience of teacher development offered additional detailed insights. It served to relate the observations pertaining to use of a relatively new technology to a wider context of subject teaching using technology, and to suggest alternative potential approaches. Significantly, this colleague was an impartial observer and thus able to pose probing questions indirectly (usually in writing) to the teachers for their subsequent response and clarification (the form and degree of specialist input was flexible and varied).


In mathematics, Sarah’s rationale for using multiple resources and activities mentioned previously as being elicited in Meeting 4 was further elaborated through follow-up (and thus reconciliation) to the specialist’s provocative comments. These pointed out that the chosen software seemed to have been designed to support a guided discovery approach to intercept-gradient through initially focusing on coordinate patterns, and questioned how well this corresponded to the agenda for student use in the lesson. Sarah responded,


I think the students need to see both of those things. I think they need to see that there’s a pattern between the coordinates and the line. I think it’s also important for them to notice patterns of the line and the intercept and gradient of the line, but I think they also need to see how that line has been produced in the first place. And sometimes that step, I think, is particularly missed out when you are using . . . AutoGraph because the line is just drawn for you. You could use AutoGraph to plot each coordinate but you don’t use it in that way often.


Hilary added,


I think they’ve got to know both bits. I think, though it is difficult and I suspect maybe once your class comes back to it [next year], then that can be really cemented in. . . it takes a bit of time. . . to try and see it from two points of view. You know just getting them to realize that the “2” might be something to do with the gradient and the “1” there is the intercept—is a start, isn’t it?


In science, an example of a question put forward by the subject specialist in her written comments concerned a matching activity (“Fate of Glucose”) in Lesson 3:


A student, Terry, was invited to drag and drop given words (Respiration, Fats, Protein, Cellulose, Starch) on the IWB to link them correctly with their functions, and the class were asked not to comment yet. T read out Terry’s results and asked the class to compare them with their own results. T asked how many of the class thought he had 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 right and Ss raised hands each time.


The specialist asked, “What was the purpose of this canvassing?” Raising it with the teacher, Chris, at the review meeting elicited considerable insight into his rationale:


The point of it is very much to reinforce the fact that they are all involved in a process, and to try to delay the giving of the answers before people commit themselves to their views . . . they are [thus] far more likely to want to know whether they are right or wrong and . . . that makes it more a public recognition of whether they’ve got it right or wrong . . . it gives them that . . . extra sort of concentration . . . There’s a technique that I’ve been using for a few years now in terms of getting them all to . . . express and verbalize their understanding . . . if they give the wrong reasoning, with the class you can then enter into a discussion about understanding where it’s actually gone wrong . . . lots of unspoken misconceptions can then be picked up in that way. It’s just a nice, almost safe forum, within which they can put their hands up and just be more involved in the outcomes. So [the canvassing] gets you so much more value out of that process and gets the kids more engaged . . . suddenly the lesson is going much faster for them . . . It’s preventing kids from being able to be passive recipients.


OVERVIEW OF EMERGING CONSTRUCTS


In sum, the assertions of Lesh and Lehrer (2000) that video vignettes cannot “speak for themselves” and that “video draws its power from the interpretive framework established by researchers” (p. 673) and encompassing multiple sources of evidence were borne out; the interpretive framework was, however, co-constructed with participating practitioners. Table 3 summarizes the main elements of this framework for describing teacher mediation strategies. The analytic codes listed were, of course, defined in more detail and woven into longer narrative accounts in which interrelationships were also described and concrete exemplars offered illustration. Further emergent codes were concerned with planning and task structuring, lesson pacing, managing use of technology, and so forth, but space precludes listing them here.



Table 3. Terminology Emerging From Intermediate Theory Building Process (across subjects)

Formal theory

Intermediate theory

dialogic interaction

dialogic class discussion, dialogic peer discussion

dialogic communication   (noninteractive)

dialogic synthesis

scaffolding

coaching

responsive assistance

drip feeding, injecting information, feeding in ideas, silent scaffolding, use of keywords

clarifying parameters, constraining tasks, stepped revelation, avoiding alienation, provoking conflict

filling in (diagnosed gaps in knowledge)

shaping and reshaping thinking, revoicing

learning journey

fading

shifting responsibility

deferring response, hide and reveal (withholding and timely release of teacher knowledge)

giving responsibility / ownership to learners

active involvement, vicarious involvement

focusing

focusing on correct/salient part of response

annotation, highlighting patterns/similarities/differences/links

illustrating progress/orienting

scene setting/priming for forthcoming activity/centering

rehearsing ideas (individually or with peers before class activity)

tailoring to learners’ skills and interests

empathy or personalization

relevance (socially contextualizing)

challenge

targeting/calling on individuals

differentiation

articulating

intersubjectivity

guided participation

  

interdependence, public sharing, public dissemination, teacher relaying student views to class/individual/group

peer collaboration—“phone-a-friend,” peer tutoring, and direction

encouraging expression of different ideas/highlighting diversity

showcasing student work

supportive learning environment

collaborative construction of knowledge

collegial, inclusive, democratic classroom culture

student as expert, teacher as learner, giving status/value to student contributions

reflecting

exploring

encouraging analytical/independent thinking

supporting exploration, prediction, and verification

capitalizing on unexpected outcomes and errors

fostering generalizable skills

modeling

developing tools for learning/remembering

transferable skills

consolidating and reinforcing

reigniting/revisiting prior learning (and annotations)

mini-plenaries (interspersed throughout lesson)

aide memoirs, matching digital resources with miniature paper copies

intertwining technology/paper resources, corroborating manual methods

use of multiple resources



Note. There are some interrelationships between categories, and the intermediate theory column contains sets of emergent codes related to, not necessarily directly defining, the formal terms listed; there is no definitive 1:1 correspondence. Many of the formal terms listed were themselves adopted and used on some occasions in addition to being replaced or elaborated through use of the new terms depicted in column 2. In particular, dialogic interaction, scaffolding, and fading were terms very often employed by teachers. Likewise, some terms not listed (funnelling, authoritative interaction, modeling, affordances, zone of proximal development, assistive questioning, spiraling) were adopted and used without modification.


REFLECTIONS ON THE RELATIVE ROLES WITHIN THE RESEARCH TEAM


In this section, we look back on our experiences of the research collaboration to examine in a bit more detail how our respective roles evolved. During data collection, each teacher was occupied with teaching and we directed the video camera, thereby rendering our focus, perspectives, and mental selections transparent to the viewers (Goldman-Segall, 1995;  Roschelle, 2000). Only occasionally were teacher suggestions made concerning the design or methods, because these areas were probably mutually considered our responsibility; minor alterations were made in response. For instance, the science teacher’s suggestion that two older students who had previously engaged in some other research in the school might interview the students in the target class was taken up and proved successful.


Throughout the project, however, we strove to remain aware of the need to maintain an equilibrium between teacher and researcher perspectives. Awareness of the potential danger of teachers being “polite” and acquiescing to their perceived expectations, resulting in superficial interaction, led us to offer constant encouragement and reinforcement of the need for teacher input in the project collaboration. This characterized the pattern of communication right from the start and meant that security to share perspectives was gradually built up. Collaboration became our mode of working, although this is perhaps more accurately described as equitable than equal. The balance between researcher and practitioner perspectives within our project context shifted back and forth constantly. This was attributed to the differing nature of our prior professional expertise.10


Specifically, the researchers possessed extensive experience with the methodology of educational research and made fluid use of sociocultural theory (much of this was previously unfamiliar to the teachers). The teachers adopted more of our suggested coding terms than vice versa, simply because researchers made more suggestions and had more scholarly theory available to draw on. In contrast, teachers were the recognized experts in terms of situated pedagogical knowledge for using technology in their subject area and designing activity to optimize its use. They were also keepers of rich contextual knowledge about the students, the school, and the subject curriculum. Both bodies of knowledge were equally valued and deliberately exploited as we set about integrating them and learning from (and about) each other in the process. For example, there was an observable shift over time within teachers’ written and verbal commentary toward (1) a broader range of characteristics of practice, including more emphasis on classroom interactions, (2) more analytical interpretation, and (3) articulation of tacit intentions and practices executed automatically or initially taken for granted. This is partly attributed to the lead researcher in each case orchestrating the team discussions and activities in some key ways, especially recognizing critical ideas in participants’ comments, as described in Carroll’s (2005) study of mentor teacher study group discourse: “picking up larger patterns of ideas lurking in the details of ongoing conversation and rebroadcasting them in ways that [highlight] new perspectives or apparent underlying principles” (p. 472); demonstrating “a tactful command of language to present thoughts in respectful but clear terms” (p.471); recording the evolving ideas and circulating them back into the interchange, both (verbally) during and (in writing) between our review meetings; and hence responsively facilitating the discussions and the alignment and repositioning of participants with respect to each other and to key ideas.


The teachers appreciated our efforts here. Tina reported that her initial fears about moving into an unfamiliar environment and losing control were dispelled during the first meeting “because the environment was very safe and secure”:


As practitioners in our own right, that was what we were bringing to the group so therefore. . . we were actually talking about things that we had a secure knowledge and understanding of, and . . . I felt that our contribution was as valued as anybody else’s. It was completely equal in that respect and . . .I think the whole process, the dynamic of this group has been really positive.


The teachers in turn rose to the challenge—perceived as a “luxury”—of grappling with educational theory, as two of them described after the study:


Being able to discuss a particular topic at a high level is something that you don’t get a chance to do in school. You have odd learning conversations but you don’t really get the chance to analyze teaching practice in any depth. So for me that was quite exciting. (Tina)

[One] thing that certainly helped me was your patience and helping us understand those terms initially . . . to feel equal and not feel intimidated at all was really helpful. . . Towards the end I . . . got used to that language. It’s just a whole new meta-language for us to be dealing in really, it’s a research language rather than the language of the classroom. (Tina)

You don’t [usually] put labels on these things . . . that was initially quite scary . . . Actually it wasn’t about getting it wrong, it was just about somebody else’s interpretation, looking at it through a different pair of eyes.  (Jackie)


The teachers increasingly made suggestions that shaped both the detailed coding scheme and characterization of global themes, as illustrated. In one case, we saw how the teacher undertook to devise complex graphical representations of the intermediate theory under development, one diagram helpfully portraying and linking the emerging affordances of the IWB and the other centered on the “learning journey,” a construct also adopted by the whole team. The teachers’ applied practical theories played a valuable role in our operationalization of scholarly knowledge through jointly analyzing pedagogic strategies. This process entailed deliberately drawing on a broad range of sociocultural perspectives as applicable, treating the grand theory as somewhat pliable, using selected classroom contexts as its test bed, and validating certain constructs (e.g., the nature and applicability of the term dialogic interaction to multiple episodes in three cases was debated at length), then recasting the theory where needed so as to achieve the best fit with practice and to integrate practical theory.


The process through which teachers and researchers informed each other’s perspectives was cumulative as we tuned in to the new priorities encountered and features of classroom practice highlighted by our co-inquirers. Co-construction of the analytical account became tightly consolidated toward the end; we noticed that in every case we appeared to be working more in harmony during the final two review meetings.


Upon reflection, two interrelated factors are believed to have facilitated the smooth evolution of our complementary roles and the teachers’ marked confidence in laying their practice open to scrutiny: (1) our previous relationship derived from working together, albeit with the researchers in more of a mentoring role in the past, which generated an atmosphere of mutual respect for each other’s strengths, experiences, and ways of working, and (2) ironically, the fact that we were not specialists in the particular subjects and thus less inclined to participate in or evaluate the design and implementation of classroom activities. The latter had some disadvantages in terms of our ability to engage with the subject matter in depth (we relied on our specialist colleagues here) but did mean that each category of participant had a unique form of established expertise that was valued by the others. We believe that this made for a more equitable relationship than research partnerships in which university-based participants have themselves taught the subject at school level and plan lessons, coteach, or exchange roles with the teacher. In such cases, tensions can arise as diverging perspectives conflict or teachers feel that they are being negatively evaluated (as reported by Wiske, 1995). This occurred only in one of our cases and was soon resolved, so that the evolving collaborations on the whole proved very amicable and productive, culminating in shared ownership of outcomes.


The process of establishing a framework of trust is a time-consuming but critical one (Edwards & Jones, 2003). The interpersonal relationships between T-MEDIA participants developed through regular dialogue, building on the foundations laid during previous work with five of the teachers, and particularly on the time and energy already invested in creating a “channel for open and honest debate” (Baumfield & McLaughlin, 2006, p. 140) about the benefits and frustrations of working within our schools-university partnership. It is in fact perceived as a further significant factor in the success of our collaborations. Mello (2005) noted that such relationships are underexplored but can have a major impact on the evolution of educational programs under evaluation; critical factors include informal and social interactions. (Her study focused on university researchers but has implications for partnerships with teachers too.) The nature of our working relationship was supportive as well as equitable and respectful—for example, in terms of researchers providing gradual induction and assuaging teacher concerns about grappling with theory, and teachers providing patient explanations about subject practices for nonspecialist researchers. This meant that all participants were willing to articulate, justify, be challenged about and renegotiate their perspectives (Edwards & Jones, 2003) in the pursuit of the common research goals associated with theorizing about classroom practice.


Inevitably, competing demands in the school environment were occasionally disruptive of the process, but a fundamentally positive disposition toward the research meant that it was highly prioritized by the teacher pairs in three cases (and followed through with interest in the fourth, in which disruption by contingencies proved more frequent). The work of Fisler and Firestone (2006) on teacher learning over 3 years within a school-university partnership confirms that individual teacher factors can mediate the influence of such partnerships on pedagogical change, and again are often overlooked. Variation in social trust—determining whether one engages in action with others that incorporates some degree of risk—is a key factor. Fisler and Firestone noted that collaboration, observation, and feedback all involve risk for teachers, and here the balance between risk and benefits of the research may also have been perceived differently by the fourth pair.


CONCLUSIONS


This study set out to illuminate and ultimately disseminate a shared theoretical perspective on pedagogical strategies for using technology in subject teaching. Participation of carefully selected teachers whose technology-integrated practice and thinking were well developed, articulated, and documented over a period of several years, coupled with involvement of like-minded colleagues and subject experts, proved crucial to achieving these goals.


Our aims were also served by an in-depth, small-scale case study design underpinned by triangulation (within each case) between the multiple perspectives of teachers, researchers, academic subject specialists, and students, and across multiple data sources. These included data obtained both via mixed methods and over time in the same setting. The theme of interdependence arising during the analyses (in the history case in particular) likewise described the relationship between the research participants. Each played a unique, mutually respected, contributory role in the definition and identification of critical episodes and their categorization during the iterative co-construction of a theoretically informed and empirically grounded analytic account. This account is thus considered to be significantly more than the sum of its parts. The process by which it was achieved was not strictly one of “video-stimulated recall” (e.g. Lyle, 2003). It could more accurately be described as one of video-stimulated reframing, because individuals’ perceptions and experiences were made explicit, scrutinized, elaborated, contrasted, and reconciled through intensive engagement with, and retrospective reflection on, the digital video and other data over a substantial period of research time.


In sum, teachers’ and researchers’ initial theories were modified through the deconstruction and reconstruction of practice. Our understandings were enriched as we applied unifying theoretical concepts to concrete examples, and reconceptualized teacher actions and strategies more broadly and in new terms. This process, like the coteaching process described by Tobin and Roth (2007), has thus suggested that strategies used by individual teachers can be considered as cases of more generalized strategies—here employed across subject, school, and student contexts. Moreover, our final analysis of this process might also yield new instructional goals (as some of our subject specialists suggested), reformulation of existing goals, or new measures of success (e.g., in terms of learner participation in whole-class activity), as described by diSessa and Cobb (2004).


The collaboration culminated in development of intermediate theory that brings together scholarly knowledge and applied practical theory, and the ways of working and languages of academic and practitioner discourses. This theory is characterized at the levels of both fine categorization of teacher mediation strategies in relation to emerging affordances of projection technology and the specific settings investigated, and overarching themes across lessons (and subject cases in some instances). That is, we are developing theoretical constructs that “empower us to see order, pattern, and regularity in the complex settings” (diSessa & Cobb, 2004, p. 84) of our studies, as the design-based research paradigm aspires to do too. Here, fundamental theoretical assumptions are retained, but reframing incorporates a strong element of recontextualizing a priori theory through a process of continually adapting to emerging issues, values, and context-specific practices. We ultimately captured the pedagogic rationale underlying four substantial lesson sequences over a fixed time period. And yet, the emerging strategies themselves remain fluid and subject to further adaptation as other practitioners may engage with them (de Freitas et al., 2008), or as the same individuals employ them with new student groups and topics. Extensive research into “adaptive teaching” informs us that teachers continually reevaluate and dynamically modify their practices—including during lessons—in light of their informal assessments of students’ motivation, participation, learning needs, and progress (Randi & Corno, 2005).


Finally, the teachers’ comments about their experience as co-inquirers in the T-MEDIA project indicate that they appreciated having the time and opportunity to step back and view their own practices as observers, to participate in academic discourse relating to strategies for supporting technology use, and to consider how these might be adapted to different contexts. Likewise, Armstrong and Curran (2006) concluded that through the joint analysis of digital video data, “teachers are able to develop new ways of thinking . . . which can immediately feed back into actual teaching situations” (p. 11). We are currently exploring the impacts of that process of analytical and critical reflection—and in this case, of individual and joint theorizing—on knowledge creation and on the thinking and everyday practice of teachers, departments, and schools. The results of a series of follow-up interviews, undertaken 1 year on, will be reported in a forthcoming paper. We are assessing whether and how engagement in the research has influenced the 8 participating teachers’ approaches to teaching and learning in contexts beyond the study. Early indications suggest that for at least some of those involved, this intermediate theory is providing a powerful analytical lens on existing and emerging practices, including those not incorporating technology.


DISSEMINATION


The research findings (and lesson materials employed) are being disseminated to practitioners, teacher educators, advisors, and the research community in an interactive, user-controlled hypermedia format that aims to make practice and our jointly negotiated understanding of it accessible and meaningful to others. This includes capturing tangible activities in their authentic classroom context rather than presenting an artificially “ideal” environment, and provoking debate rather than prescribing models of “best practice” to emulate. In more detail, the aims of the CD-ROMs and other outputs are to stimulate teachers’ thinking and self-questioning about their practice; to share a theoretical lens through which the rationale underlying practice can be rendered more visible; to allow teachers to engage with the material at a deeper level and to build bridges with their own experience and practical theories of how they can promote learning using technology; and to stimulate discussion between departmental colleagues about effective or innovative approaches and possible alternatives. The outcomes are being distributed widely, for example, via subject associations and teacher education networks, publications for the teaching profession, and our Web site.11


Acknowledgements


An enormous thank you is extended first and foremost to the 8 collaborating teachers who willingly devoted so much of their time and energy and from whom we learned a great deal. We also acknowledge the pivotal role of our project secretary Theresa Daly in painstakingly preparing and distributing the data, and managing the extensive project database. We are immensely grateful to the 6 subject specialist colleagues who voluntarily engaged with our video data and shared their learned insights. We are particularly indebted to one such colleague, our project consultant Prof. Kenneth Ruthven, for his input into the discussions that shaped the collaboration and theory-building aspects of our methodology, including his treatise on the synergy of craft and scholarly knowledge and work on mapping pedagogical concepts within sociocultural theories of learning. Last, we extend our thanks to the late Prof. Donald McIntyre for his informative comments on an earlier draft of this article, and to Lyn Corno and two anonymous reviewers who provided further helpful guidance. (An earlier version of this paper was presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference in Glamorgan, September 2006.)


Notes

1. Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-23-0825) from January 2005 to June 2007. Final report available at http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/istl/.

2. Interactive whiteboard systems comprise a computer linked to a data projector and a large touch-sensitive board displaying the projected image; they allow direct input via finger or stylus so that objects can be easily moved around the board (“drag and drop”) or transformed by teacher or students. They offer the unique advantage of one being able to annotate directly onto a projected image, text, or software display and to save the annotations for reuse or printing. The software can also instantly convert handwriting to more legible typed text, and it allows users to hide and later reveal objects. It can be used with remote input and peripheral devices, including a visualizer (e.g., to display and annotate student work or experimental results).

3. Two of the teachers were heads of department, one was a head of year, the fourth was assistant principal, advanced skills teacher, and lead science teacher for Cambridgeshire, specializing in IWBs. Two had participated in the Technology-Integrated Pedagogic Strategies (TIPS) project (2000–2002), and two in the Situated Expertise in Technology-Integrated Teaching: Mathematics and Science (SET-IT) project (2002–2004).

4. The Specialist Schools Programme (http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/specialistschools/) helps schools, in partnership with private sector sponsors and supported by additional government funding, to establish distinctive identities through their chosen specialisms.

5. Not all lessons were consecutive; in a couple of cases, interim lessons were observed but not videoed.

6. Video data (camera 1) were provided in compressed, easily viewable .mpeg1 format. There were two video cameras. The main, mobile camera on a tripod (operated by a professional cameraman, directed by the researcher, and usually positioned at the back of the classroom to minimize intrusion) focused on the teacher. A second, fixed camera was focused on the class so that student faces were visible when answering questions and so on; this footage has been incorporated in the final CDs where appropriate. Note that induction of the cameraman and piloting of the filming procedure were necessary for smooth operation and a high-quality outcome (briefing covered the broad focus of research; the specific focus of filming and criteria for removing the main camera from its tripod in order to follow the action; set-up procedures and timetable/physical constraints operating; criteria for intervention; and the need for a neutral personal demeanor). Piloting during a familiarization lesson before each study began assisted determination of camera location and resolution of technical issues such as IWB glare and poor contrast.

7. These guidelines were deliberately framed to provide sufficient information for reviewers to act on but to be open-ended enough to reveal the features of interest to each individual without overly constraining the process. (They were less prescriptive than those employed in studies such as Moyles, Hargreaves, Merry, Paterson, & Esarte-Sarries, 2003; see their Appendix E for the 40 reflective questions posed). Commentary was applied only to viewer-selected salient portions of video, but coverage proved extensive in all cases.

8. See http://www.researchware.com.

9. Our previous work on technology use related to subject culture indicates that although practitioner knowledge and thinking is largely contextually bound, tied to specific pedagogies, activities, student groups, and subject cultures, more generic patterns can be identified.

10. It was also notable that those present in the classroom during filming and participating in interviews (teacher + researcher 1) enjoyed an advantage over the other 2 participants (colleague + researcher 2) in terms of familiarity with the material during review; they consequently tended to spend less time looking at the videos. Thus, the distinction in approach was not purely a teacher-researcher one but was confounded by the insider and outsider roles too.

11. Interested readers can obtain copies of one or more of the CD-ROMs at cost price via the authors’ publications website http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/istl/

 


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 7, 2009, p. 1753-1795
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