Reforming teacher reform: teaching as bounded rational design

F.J.J.M. Janssen, H.B. Westbroek, W Doyle

    Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


    Educational innovations had and still have little impact on teaching practice. A common view held by teacher researchers is that teachers do not implement innovative change proposals because they lack the necessary knowledge, skills and beliefs to do so (Grossman et al, 2009; Borko et al, 2010). In contrast, teachers often argue that innovative change proposals themselves are often not practical to implement in their existing complex classroom ecologies (Authors, 1977; Authors 2013). They argue that many change proposals lack workable procedures to convert ideas into concrete classroom activities (instrumentality), do not fit existing classroom demands and their related goals (congruence) and take too much time and resources to design and implement (cost) In this session we will present a new theoretical framework and methodology for understanding and changing teaching practice that is grounded in a conception of ecological practicality. These practicality issues are further explicated drawing on recent theories of bounded rationality. We will show how this framework, in which teaching practice is viewed as bounded rational design enriches, dominant perspectives on teacher reform, and how it can help us to not only better understand but also effectively change teaching practice. Three highly distinguished teacher researchers, Hilda Borko, Pam Grossman and Judith Warren Little will relate this new framework to current thinking in their respective domains of expertise.
    In contributing to the overall objectives of the session, the first presentation will explicate the framework in which teaching practice is viewed as bounded rational design. The paper begins with an overview of theories on classroom
    ecology, practicality, and bounded rationality on which the design framework is based. It is argued that teaching practice is fundamentally a design process, i.e., the construction of a tool or artifact to achieve goals in a specific context with
    available resources. Furthermore, teachers are not able to optimize their designs exclusively for promoting student learning, because their rationality is bounded—i.e., classroom contexts in which teachers work are complex demanding places that require teachers to attain multiple goals simultaneously, while information and resources are always limited.
    The second presentation advances the argument that an understanding of a classroom context and the content and organization of a teacher’s multiple goals, which are partly derived from complex classroom demands, is a foundation for any teacher reform initiative. The third paper explores how knowledge about goal systems and knowledge about heuristics
    (cost-effective procedures) can readily be used by a teacher to effectively change his/her practice. In addition to the evidence for the effectiveness of this approach, the presenters illustrate the process with a case of a biology teacher who is supported to adopt open inquiry labs into her practice. After these short introductory contributions, three very distinguished teacher researchers will critically comment on the framework and encourage audience discussion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationReforming teacher reform
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventAnnual Meeting AERA (American Educational Research Association) - San Diego, USA
    Duration: 12 Apr 200416 Apr 2004


    ConferenceAnnual Meeting AERA (American Educational Research Association)


    • teaching as bounded rational design, goal systems, bridging


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