Lifting Off the Ground to Return Anew: Mediated Praxis, Transformative Learning, and Social Design Experiments

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), pages 100–117. (January/February 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article proposes an approach to teacher development that situates learning in its context of development, with attention to what is learned, what tools are appropriated, and how teaching and learning are mediated in practice.
The article examines a praxis model of teacher education and advances a new method for engaging novice teachers in reflective practice and robust teacher learning.

The authors present the social design experiment as a tool for imagining and designing robust learning ecologies. Social design experiments are cultural historical forms of learning, powerful literacies, dialogic exchange, situated practice, and evidence-based observations of children’s learning. These forms are organized around expansive notions of learning and mediated praxis and provide new tools and practices for envisioning new pedagogical arrangements, especially for students from non-dominant communities.

The authors examine one long-standing social design experiment, the UCLA UC Links/Las Redes partnership, and the work of one exemplary novice teacher. The authors use these examples
to illustrate the importance of mediated, reflective practices in helping apprentice teachers develop a coherent and orienting framework for teaching and learning that has both heuristic and explanatory power.

The authors illustrate how cultural historical concepts of learning and development and situated practice become the means for university students to gain distance and reflect on the beliefs and practices that have informed their understandings of teaching and to “rise to the concrete” practices of learning jointly and resonantly.

Implications for Teacher Education

The authors argue that social design experiments are not free of tension and contradiction and require ongoing reflection and re-mediation. In the present case, the Las Redes/194 course instructional team members continually encounter contradictions that must be addressed. As they work to create a different educational ethos and practice, they also have to remain accountable to institutional demands, such as assigning students letter grades and preparing teachers for the realities of classroom life.

Furthermore, the authors argue that social design experiments can help promote instrumental uses of theory, through which novice teachers can develop and sustain thoughtful and informed understandings of learning.

Updated: Apr. 27, 2010