Learning study is “hard”: case of pre-service biology teachers in British Columbia


Yuen Sze Michelle Tan, (Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)


The purpose of this paper is to describe a pilot learning study (LS) comprising of three biology pre-service teachers (PSTs) in British Columbia, which took place during an initial teacher education (ITE) course and school-based practicum. The study explored PSTs’ learning experiences, and identified conditions that supported and challenged their engagement with the LS discourse.


Drawing from a variety of methods including teacher semi-structured interviews and reflective entries, the PSTs’ experiences of teaching and reflection were described and themes were constructed; course assignments, classroom materials, meeting notes and fieldnotes served triangulation purposes. Variation theory framed the LS and analysis of this case study.


Findings highlight how the PSTs developed comfort with the tension of making mistakes that supported their interpretation of classroom pedagogy and refining of instructional strategies. As the study alluded to how LS is “hard,” the PSTs demonstrated how positive experiences in the course-based cycle sustained their pursuit of learning despite challenges faced in the school-based practicum.

Research limitations/implications

This small-scale study has limited generalizability.

Practical implications

Exposing PSTs to a variety of “mistakes” in ITE and to approach them not merely as ontological objects of pedagogical shortcomings are discussed together with factors that promoted teacher learning.


This study contributes to literature exploring the organization of LS within ITE, as situated in educational contexts where LS is unfamiliar and organizational structures are not readily in place to fully support its implementation.

Keywords: CanadaInitial teacher educationBiologyVariation theoryLearning studyPre-service teachers

Type: Case study

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited

Received: 28 February 2017

Revised: 01 September 2017, 21 September 2017

Accepted: 22 September 2017


The author would like to thank the participating teachers for generously sharing their experiences and insights, and Kwesi Yaro for his support of the initial drafts of the paper. This paper refers to data from the research project “A researcher-instructor’s reflection: promotion of pre-service science teachers’ application of theoretical frameworks in their teaching practice”, funded by the University of British Columbia.

Copyright:© Emerald Publishing Limited 2018
Published by Emerald Publishing Limited
Licensed re-use rights onlyCitation:Yuen Sze Michelle Tan, (2018) “Learning study is “hard”: case of pre-service biology teachers in British Columbia”, International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 7 Issue: 1, pp.37-49, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLLS-02-2017-0013

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