Exploring paired-placements to support teacher professional learning: a sociocultural activity theoretical perspective

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This paper explores the potential of an alternative placement model, the paired-placement, in facilitating teacher professional learning in a second language teacher education context. The study reported in this paper asks two specific questions. First, does teacher learning occur in the paired-placement context? Second, if it does, what types of teacher professional knowledge are identified?
Methodologically, the study draws upon case-study research of four pairs of Vietnamese pre-service teachers of English over their 15-week paired-placement. Data include individual interviews with the pre-service teachers; observations of the pairs’ co-taught lessons; video-recordings of planning meetings and lessons; and relevant artefacts such as instructional materials. Theoretically, the study is grounded in Vygotsky’s (1978, 1981) sociocultural theory of learning and third generation activity theory (Engeström, 1987, 2008). Deviating from the conventional conceptualisation of learning, the study views ‘contradictions’ in the pair-work as sources of change and development. The findings across the four pairs reveal that the paired-placement was conducive to teacher professional learning. Teacher learning opportunities were initially manifested in contradictions in the teacher pairs’ joint-activity. However, as a result of resolution of contradictions in their joint-activity systems over time, all the pre-service teachers demonstrated growth in teacher professional knowledge (Shulman, 1987). Their growth was most evident in terms of pedagogical content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge or broad teaching principles and strategies, and knowledge of the learners and their characteristics. Further, the findings suggest that within the paired-placement context, the pre-service teachers changed not only in cognition but also in practice. While highlighting the paired-placement as a promising model, the study offers a new approach of conceptualising teacher learning in such collaborative settings, suggesting a new line of inquiry capable of many further applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeacher Education: An Audit. Building a platform for future engagement
EditorsTania Aspland
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAustralia Teacher Education Association
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralian Teacher Education Association Conference 2014 - North Sydney, Australia
Duration: 6 Jul 20149 Jul 2014


ConferenceAustralian Teacher Education Association Conference 2014
Abbreviated titleATEA 2014
CityNorth Sydney
Internet address

Cite this

Dang, T. K. A. (2014). Exploring paired-placements to support teacher professional learning: a sociocultural activity theoretical perspective. In T. Aspland (Ed.), Teacher Education: An Audit. Building a platform for future engagement (pp. 54-69). Australia Teacher Education Association.