Towards engaging classrooms: Understanding teacher development and change

When studying children’s agency and engagement we also need to study the adults that the children interact with. Many teachers have a strong motivation to develop their classrooms, teaching methods, and interactions with children to better enable children’s diverse ways of participation, engagement, and agency. However, classrooms and early learning settings have proved difficult to change.

This research project focuses on teacher professional development and change. We study the possibilities, prerequisites, and obstacles that teachers face in their efforts to engage children and prevent dropout and exclusion in diverse classrooms and early learning settings. We study these possibilities and obstacles on several levels: the societal, structural-institutional, interactional-discursive, and individual levels. We both critically examine the mechanisms of change and also co-develop forms of support together with teachers and other professionals to create more heterogeneous and inclusive classrooms and ECEC settings. The research is realized with teachers and children as co-producers of knowledge, with the aim of altering the hierarchy of academic research and knowledge production. 

The research has two sub-projects, led by Dr. Anna Pauliina Rainio. First, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge CEDiR-research group, we focus on teacher dialogue and developing new knowledge on the mechanisms of change at the discursive level (see our most recent paper: Rainio & Hofmann, 2021). The main collaborator is Dr. Riikka Hofmann. Second, together with colleagues from University of Tampere, we study both the societal-structural and the individual factors that enable or hinder teachers in developing their work. The main collaborators are Dr. Maiju Paananen and Dr. Kaisu Mälkki.