How to make innovations practical

Fred Janssen, Hanna Westbroek, Walter Doyle, Jan Van Driel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Background/Context: A fundamental tension has long existed between school reform proposals and actual teaching practice. Despite a large literature on teacher change, the discontinuity between innovation and practice continues and many attempts to reform teaching fail to be enacted in most classrooms. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this paper is to present a bridging methodology for connecting pedagogical innovations to the practical demands of teaching. The methodology is framed within practicality theory, which is an ecologically grounded analysis of the design issues and constraints that practitioners face in the everyday work of teaching. To conduct lessons, teachers must construct procedures (instrumentality) that fit circumstances (congruence) within available time and resources (cost). Underlying these practicality dimensions is a set of reasoning processes that can be understood from the perspective of three strands of research on bounded rationality-goal systems, heuristics, and evolutionary planning. Intervention/Program/Practice: The analysis of teacher practical reasoning provides a design foundation for a bridging methodology consisting of (a) construction of a heuristic goal system (HGS) representation of the hierarchy of goals and heuristic means that underlie a teacher's planning decisions with respect to lesson segments used to carry out instruction; and (b) a teaching impact analysis (TIA) that connects an innovation's lesson structure to a teacher's heuristic goal system and shows how a teacher can adapt his/her current practice to achieve increased expected value (i.e., an improvement). Research Design: This study was designed as an analytical essay that theorizes teaching practice, teacher reasoning, and a bridging methodology for connecting teaching practice with specific educational innovations. Cases of an experienced biology teacher and of 11 student teachers are presented that demonstrate the nature of this bridging methodology and variations in its use in particular circumstances. Conclusions/Recommendations: The bridging framework provides a practical tool for identifying the action-guiding model of a teacher, the connection of this model to the precise components of an innovation, and the recombination or adaptations a teacher can make to achieve personal goals through an innovation. Although further studies are needed, this framework promises to furnish a powerful tool for making innovations practical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number070308
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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