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  The pedagogical reasoning of highly skilled teachers

In a seminal paper in 2007, Lee Shulman introduced the construct of pedagogical reasoning as referring to the thinking of a teacher who, confronted by some content they need to teach, plan to do this in ways that are ‘pedagogically powerful.’ As you would expect, the sophistication and complexity of teachers’ PR develops over time. Two different research projects have explored the PR of highly skilled teachers, they found that the teachers had several interdependent agendas or foci and that the teachers’ thinking commonly ‘pinballed’ between these.

These were:

Big ideas

What are the big ideas and key skills in this content? How can these be expressed in ways accessible to students?

Routes to engagement

Are there problems of engagement with this content (e.g. does it look boring or irrelevant to students)? How can I initiate and sustain not just mere behavioural engagement (students being on task) but affective engagement (student interest and enjoyment) and, most importantly, cognitive engagement?

Building quality learning and quality learners

How can I stimulate deep processing and cognitive strategies such as linking different ideas and experiences and metacognitive strategies such as reflecting on how well they think they understand the work. How can this be woven into the ongoing journey of my students learning to be more independent and reflective learners?

Contextual constraints and opportunities

(For example) How much time do I have to teach this? Are there local resources we could use?

This thinking is mediated by teachers’ personal identity and educational values.

For a longer article that elaborates this issue click here


PEEL – 2021

The rebuilding of the PEEL website and database onto a modern platform is an exciting development. One aspect of this is the set of 10 short videos that are on the peelweb.org site. In these videos we introduce and provide background to various aspects of the wisdom developed during the project in a format that is more user friendly than text. We hope that they will enable users to form a richer and more coherent understanding of the project.

What is unique about PEEL is that virtually all the teaching strategies, ideas and approaches to improving the learning of students have been developed by classroom teachers. PEEL groups as they were, are no longer active, however the resources that have been developed over 35 years are still very relevant to classroom teachers today.

In 2019 and 2020, Ian Mitchell and Jill Flack ran a pair of sessions in a Victorian government initiative to train leaders in Primary Maths and Science. The teachers were asked to write a case of a change they made as a result of what was a very substantial program. A number of these were clearly consistent with PEEL and the teachers agreed to allow us to publish them. They have significantly strengthened the database in the areas of Primary maths and Science. As the COVID pandemic hit schools, these also resulted in a new Classroom Practice -Online Teaching being added to the database.

In 2015 a major feature was added to PEEL in Practice database, the main PEEL resource. A category entitled Teacher Education Resources was introduced. This consists of over 100 articles containing ideas for university departments of education and teacher educators. It also provides ideas for professional development co-ordinators in schools who wish to use a PEEL approach or introduce others to ideas about learning and teaching espoused by PEEL.

A Taste of PEEL

On our Ideas page we have sample articles taken from PEEL resources. Here we feature extracts from PEEL resources developed by teachers over 35 years.

Click here for these articles

Adding to the database

The articles on the PEEL in Practice database are cohered by a focus on improving how students are going about their learning -they are more than just a set of tips and tricks for teachers. We would welcome articles that extend our resources and that fit the overall goals of PEEL. Feel free to submit one to Ian.mitchell@monash.edu. The biggest source for the articles is the 114 editions of PEEL SEEDS -the projects teacher journal. The suggestions for how articles might be written listed below are features common to many of the articles, but this should not be seen as a prescription -articles vary; many are stories from a classroom, but some are more reflective and some elaborate more general aspects of learning and teaching.

Features of a good PEEL SEEDS article

  • Sufficient detail and advice about what the teacher did for others to use.
  • Why the teacher took the actions/he did and what problems were s/he trying to address?
    This may well include some description of passive learning in the classroom.
  • How was this new for me?…How was this new for the students?
  • How it went – a window into the classroom with some descriptions of both teacher and student behaviours as well as any student reactions and comments, especially if there was a marked change from the behaviours that the teacher set out to change.
  • If relevant, some reflections as to reasons for success or failure and any thoughts about variations or improvements.