The use of the variation theory in the learning study

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In the past eight years, a research team in Hong Kong conducted several large-scale Learning Study projects and developed a pedagogical framework based on the Variation Theory. The Learning Study is an action research process in which teachers and researchers work collaboratively to plan and implement a lesson in a number of teaching cycles, using the Variation Theory as the underlying principle for lesson design. The Variation Theory, which is based on the school of Phenomenography developed by Ference Marton in 1970s, argues that the presence or absence of patterns of variation in teaching make significant differences to student learning outcomes. A pattern of variation essentially is an observable pattern manifested in what is being varied and what is being kept invariant with respect to a specific object of learning or its critical features . This paper explains the main constructs of the Variation Theory, in particular the three levels of Variation including: Variation 1 (V1), which refers to the variation in students' different ways of understanding what is to be taught; Variation 2 (V2), which refers to the variation in the teachers' understanding and ways of dealing with the object of learning; and Variation 3 (V3), which refers to using Variation as a guiding principle of pedagogical design. It also illustrates with examples the use of the Theory in conducting the Learning Study. This paper argues that this theoretical framework forms a strong underpinning and helps facilitate professional dialogue between researchers and teachers, therefore extends the potential of the Learning Study as a tool for improving instruction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Ko, P. Y. (2009, June). The use of the variation theory in the learning study. In P. Y. Ko (Chair), The use of the variation theory as a pedagogical tool for enhancing students' learning. Symposium conducted at the Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference: Designing New Learning Contexts for a Globalising World, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


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