Learning study: The dual process of developing theory and practice

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Purpose– Variation Theory has been used as a source of guiding principles for pedagogical design, lesson analysis and improvement in Learning Study (LS). The purpose of this paper is to argue that the LS approach provides an important opportunity for teachers and researchers not only to improve the teaching strategies together but also refine the Variation Theory in action. Design/methodology/approach–A case study of teaching writing in Chinese at Primary 4 level of a LS project is selected using analysis of covariance to identify lessons that had significant differences in student learning outcomes. Analysis focuses on examining one of the major claims in Variation Theory which is that “contrast should precede generalization” in order to explore if this argument is able to provide a possible answer to the difference in student performance in the two classes of students of similar ability learning the same topic. Teachers’ contribution to the discussion of the application of the theory is analysed to explain the different teaching strategies chosen. Findings–The case study shows that in a LS platform, teachers’ teaching act and their interaction with theorists contributed to a dual process of developing the practice as well as the theory itself. The results of students’ learning serve as evidences for the claim that “contrast should precede generalization” as the theory suggested. Originality/value–Most of the lesson study and LS projects emphasize teachers’ learning through the participation in the process. This paper illustrates that in conducting LS approach, when there is conscious effort to direct discussion toward how to handle the content in terms of Variation Theory explicitly, the result could contribute to the development of the theory itself. Hence, the LS provides an important opportunity for teachers and researchers to refine strategies as well as theories of teaching and learning together. Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-289
JournalInternational Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Ko, P. Y. (2014). Learning study: The dual process of developing theory and practice. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 3(3), 272-289.


  • Variation theory
  • Learning study
  • Lesson study
  • Contrast
  • Generalization


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