Connecting does not necessarily mean learning: course handbooks as mediating tools in school-university partnerships

Alaster Scott Douglas, Viv Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Partnerships between schools and universities in England use course handbooks to guide student teacher learning during long field experiences. Using data from a yearlong ethnographic study of a postgraduate certificate of education programme in one English university, the function of course handbooks in mediating learning in two high school subject departments (history and modern foreign languages) is analyzed. Informed by Cultural Historical Activity Theory, the analysis focuses on the handbooks as mediating tools in the school-based teacher education activity systems. Qualitative differences in the mediating functions of the handbooks-in-use are examined and this leads to a consideration of the potential of such tools for teacher learning in school-university partnerships. Following Zeichner's call for rethinking the relationships between schools and universities, the article argues that strong structural connections between different institutional sites do not necessarily enhance student teacher learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-476
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Teacher Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • cultural historical activity theory
  • handbooks
  • mediation
  • student teacher learning
  • teacher education

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