Designing Meaningful Learning Environments for Teachers: The Relationship between Representational Modes and Thinking Patterns

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It is well recognized in the field of teacher education that teachers need to better understand how theory and research relate to their teaching practices; however, teachers often struggle to find practical meaning in educational theory and research. As teacher educators, we are attempting to address this tension by studying teachers’ patterns of thinking and problem solving in an online graduate course. In particular, we investigate teachers’ use of experiential concepts and theoretical concepts as well as the movement between them. In this analysis we underscore Clarke’s (1990) distinction between inductive and deductive thinking patterns and how teachers might use these ways of thinking in classroom problem solving. In addition to ways of thinking, we explore three modes of knowledge representation (discourse, concept mapping, and written narrative analysis).

This research is a part of a series of design studies attempting to understand and enhance a course learning environment for practicing teachers. The goal is to design a hospitable learning environment that allows teachers to flexibly explore theoretical concepts in relation to practice in ways that are meaningful to them (Darling-Hammond, & Bransford, 2005). The course content is organized around a classroom scenario depicting common dilemmas. Participants use theory and research to resolve the dilemmas by engaging in discussions, creating concept maps, and writing narrative analyses. We examine these representations to illuminate how teachers integrate learner, teaching, and subject matter concepts. We expect the different modes to enable different ways of thinking and to allow teachers flexibility in exploring important ideas and potential solutions related to the dilemmas of practice. Ultimately we strive to derive design principles to support effective and hospitable learning environments for teachers.

Clarke, J. (1990). Patterns of thinking. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Keywords: Learning Environments, Teacher Learning, Representational Modes, Thinking Patterns
Stream: Teacher Training and Professional Development
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Designing Meaningful Learning Environments for Teachers


Diane Salmon

Associate Professor, National College of Education, National-Louis University
Chicago, Illinois, USA


Melissa Kelly

Instructional Designer, National College of Education, National-Louis University
Chicago, IL, USA


Ref: L09P0190