You are on page 1of 16

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

ISSN: 1359-866X (Print) 1469-2945 (Online) Journal homepage:

Using Vygotskys zone of proximal development

to propose and test an explanatory model for
conceptualising coteaching in pre-service science
teacher education
Colette Murphy, Kathryn Scantlebury & Catherine Milne
To cite this article: Colette Murphy, Kathryn Scantlebury & Catherine Milne (2015) Using
Vygotskys zone of proximal development to propose and test an explanatory model for
conceptualising coteaching in pre-service science teacher education, Asia-Pacific Journal of
Teacher Education, 43:4, 281-295, DOI: 10.1080/1359866X.2015.1060291
To link to this article:

Published online: 25 Jul 2015.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 112

View related articles

View Crossmark data

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Download by: [University of Nebraska, Lincoln]

Date: 15 September 2015, At: 08:08

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 2015

Vol. 43, No. 4, 281295,

Using Vygotskys zone of proximal development to propose and test an

explanatory model for conceptualising coteaching in pre-service
science teacher education

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Colette Murphya*, Kathryn Scantleburyb and Catherine Milnec


Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland; bUniversity of Delaware, Newark, USA; cNew York
University, New York, USA
(Received 31 August 2014; accepted 14 March 2015)
Coteaching offers a model for the school-placement element of pre-service science
teacher education, based on its demonstrated positive impacts on lessening classroom
anxiety, supporting inquiry-based science teaching, improving students attitudes, and
addressing diversity effectively in science classrooms. Coteaching between pre-service
and in-service teachers is used to lessen the gap between theory and practice, to
develop reflective practice and to develop pedagogical content knowledge.
Explanatory frameworks have been proposed for coteaching, and we suggest that
Vygotskys zone of proximal development helps to propose a more nuanced developmental and learning explanatory framework which provides pedagogical structures for
implementation and highlights the importance of the social environment for learning.
In providing structure and tools for effective implementation of coteaching, our model
addresses three core elements of coteaching: coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation.
The model was piloted in relation to pre-service teachers development in reflective
practice and reducing the gap between theory and classroom practice.
Keywords: coteaching; pre-service teacher education; Vygotsky; zone of proximal

Science teacher education is constantly under revision as educators, researchers, and

policymakers seek to identify optimal models for learning to teach science. Over the
past decade, increasing numbers of science educators have explored coteaching as a
model for learning to teach that acknowledges the complexity of this process in concert
with the goal of improving pre-service science teaching. Coteaching occurs when teachers
share the responsibility for all aspects of students learning during an instructional time
frame (e.g. a class or curricular unit), including planning, teaching, assessment, and
evaluation (Martin, 2009). An advantage of this model is that coteaching provides a
structure for teacher reflection on theory, praxis, and practice.
There is increasing recognition of the need for high-quality pre-service teacher (PST)
education to improve the standard of education. Qvortrup (2008), in the first Global
Education Forum, concluded that: the most important single factor for the quality of
education and thus for the efficiency and quality of the pupils learning is the quality of
the teachers training (p. 2). Global challenges in education include increasing marketisation, the rapid but uneven influence of information and communication technologies on
the nature of learning and teaching, shifts in the learning needs of students from literacy,
numeracy and content mastery to include soft skills like communication, curiosity,
*Corresponding author. Email:
2015 Australian Teacher Education Association

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

resilience, cooperation, and problem-solving abilities, and the interests of a large number of
stakeholders in defining goals of education. Despite these challenges, the typical PST school
practicum has not changed in over 100 years (Bacharach, Heck, & Dahlberg, 2007).
Typically, a PST is placed with an experienced teacher who acts as a mentor during the
student teaching experience. Student teaching is akin to an apprenticeship, with the PST
learning from the experienced teacher with an on the job training approach. In this model,
student teaching has a power structure and hierarchy that places a student teacher in a
subservient position to a cooperating teacher, although the student teacher may have more
recent knowledge of the field both in content and pedagogy such as science content
knowledge and her/his perspectives on learning theories, assessment practices, and curriculum may be more consistent with the needs of twenty-first-century education than the
cooperating teacher. Coteaching provides a structure for student and cooperating teachers to
coteach and effect change via putting theory into practice and coreflecting on how their
teaching is developing towards ideal practice.
In the United States, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Educations
Blue Ribbon panel on clinical preparation and partnerships has noted the critical role of
field experiences in the development of PSTs and new teachers and praised coteaching
as a model for linking theory and practice in preparing teachers to teach (NCATE,
2010). As a model for pre-service teaching, coteaching requires that PSTs engage in
discussions with cooperating teachers about practice and the intersection between
practice and theory at a local level, which constitutes praxis. Unlike many other preservice teaching experiences, coteaching assumes that within a specific classroom there
is a shared and equal responsibility for student learning amongst all educators, regardless of their experience level. With coteaching, student teachers experience a teaching
model that foregrounds the importance of frequent collaborative, professional discussions, and recognises the expertise they bring to that context. PSTs reported that
coteaching provided them with the confidence to expand their teaching repertoires and
helped them to feel supported to implement innovative teaching practices (Gallo-Fox,
2010). Other studies have noted that coteaching improved PSTs pedagogical content
knowledge (Nilsson, 2010) and that after coteaching PSTs had fewer difficulties when
transitioning to in-service teaching (Scantlebury, Gallo-Fox, & Wassell, 2008).
Criticisms of coteaching
Critiques have voiced three main concerns about coteaching in science PST education,
mostly heard as questions in conference presentations, but also published (Murphy &
Carlisle, 2009). These questions include: how will PSTs who have cotaught go it alone;
pre-service coteachers could be encultured into poor practice by working with a less
effective classroom teacher; and if coteachers do not get along, this may cause major
problems in the classroom (Murphy & Carlisle, 2009, p. 462). Researching these questions reveals several models of coteaching, each of which needs to consider how to avoid
potential pitfalls. For example, in some coteaching models, PSTs coteach all their classes,
whilst other models combine some coteaching with solo teaching during a school placement. The former could risk dependency and perhaps problems with some coteaching
PSTs on transition to independent teaching as a new full-time teacher. Enculturation into
poor practice is less likely to occur if the coteaching is centred around a focus on shared
expertise (Murphy & Beggs, 2006) or corespect (Scantlebury et al., 2008). The relationship issue is the most common criticism levelled at coteaching. Anxiety about how to
coteach is the most challenging aspect for all concerned when teachers initially engage

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

with the model. Coteaching programme leaders acknowledge this and find ways to
support new coteachers before and in the early stages of coteaching practice. For example,
Murphy and Beggs (2006) invited more experienced coteachers to share their different
ways of enacting coteaching for subsequent cohorts. They videoed several cotaught
sessions and provided concrete information about ways to coteach.
In some cases, PSTs were matched to teachers in the schools (Murphy & Beggs,
2006), for instance, very shy PSTs were placed with cooperating teachers who were aware
in advance and had expressed a desire to support the pre-service coteacher.
Indeed, a less than perfect coteaching relationship can provide opportunities for selfexamination in ones teaching and ways of working with colleagues. Carambo, an inservice coteacher, and Stickney argue that:
[D]ifference (pedagogical, epistemological, philosophical disagreements) between coteachers
is (under the right circumstances) a powerful motive for self-examination and change.
Difference achieves this because it does not allow for the reinforcement of the acceptable
or the familiar, rather it provokes the examination of ones assumptions, and challenges our
orthodox, habituated thoughts. . . the more difficult coteaching events forced me [Carambo] to
reexamine my perspectives in light of those represented by my coteachers. (Carambo &
Stickney, 2009, p. 435)

Theoretical framework
Addressing the question of why and how coteaching works, many theoretical explanations
have been proposed which offer frameworks that situate the activity of coteaching per se
(e.g. Roth & Tobin, 2004). The contribution of this article is to provide an explanatory
model which identifies specific practices within coteaching connected to developing and
improving teaching practices. We suggest that Vygotskys zone of proximal development
(ZPD) provides an explanatory framework for helping educators and practitioners to
understand how and why coteaching works, the conditions required for effective science
coteaching, and provides a set of tools that educators can apply to optimise the design and
development of coteaching as an educational model for PST education. The focus on
coteaching as development is based on Vygotskys concept of development, which does
not include just evolutionary but also revolutionary changes, regression, gaps, zigzags,
and conflicts (Vygotsky, 1931/1997, 221, cited in Silvonen, 2010, p. 38). Such a
complex, exciting, and visceral idea of development enables coteachers to remain confident, particularly in the early stages, when the enaction of coteaching is not as

The zone of proximal development

The influence of Lev Semenovich Vygotskys (18961934) education theories on research
and practice in teaching grew considerably once the first of his major works became
available in English (Vygotsky, 1934, 1962). The ZPD is the most widely used of
Vygotskys ideas in educational contexts, yet there is debate about his precise meaning
for ZPD because of his premature death before completing work on his theory. The ZPD
is infrequently referred to in Vygotskys publications. Tudge (1999) observed that in the
six volumes of Vygotskys collected works, the ZPD only appears on a few pages. Its
popularity in Western contexts seems to have been driven by the Vygotsky translation
edited by Cole, John-Steiner, Scrimsher and Souberman (1978) that comprises edited

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

translation of excerpts from some Vygotsky manuscripts, and refers to the ZPD as a new
approach (p. 84).
The simplistic definition of the ZPD, seen in many textbooks and teaching guides, is
of a gap between the learning a student can achieve unaided, compared with the
learning attained with teacher assistance. Such a definition could imply little more than
that teachers need to help children, seemingly stating the obvious. Palincsar (1998)
claimed that . . . [the ZPD] is perhaps one of the most used and least understood
constructs to appear in contemporary educational literature (p. 370). She suggested that
the original purpose of the ZPD and its theoretical framework have been misunderstood
because of educators rush to use the ZPD as an explanatory tool, rather than to recognise
its descriptive power in terms of the use of cultural tools and artefacts that mediate
learning in the ZPD. Palincsar (1998) argued that people have taken too literally the
idea of the more capable other (in education, often the teacher) in creating spaces for
assisted performance.
The ZPD has been described as a discrepancy between a childs actual mental age
and the level she/he reaches in solving problems with assistance (Vygotsky, 1934/1986,
p. 187). Vygotsky characterised the ZPD as functions which have not yet matured but are
in the process of maturing. . .buds or flowers of development rather than fruits of
development (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86) and that it represents the domain of transitions that
are accessible by the child (Vygotsky, 1934/1987, p. 211). Van Oers (2007) noted that the
ZPD is not a specific quality of the child, nor is it a specific quality of the educational
setting or educators. . . it is. . . collaboratively produced in the interaction between the
child and more knowledgeable others (p. 15) (emphasis added). Other researchers also
discuss the ZPD as an interaction between the students and co-participants (Wells, 1999)
or a symbolic space for interaction and communication where learning leads to development (Meira & Lerman, 2001). The interaction definition, whilst popular, is contested.
Chaiklin (2003) argued that the maturing functions described by Vygotsky (1978) are not
created in an interaction, but that interaction helps to identify the existence of such
functions and the extent to which they developed. Veresov (2004) takes this argument
further by stressing that these functions originate as, not in, social relations, and that their
development into higher mental functions, such as reflection, attention, logical memory,
and concept formation, depends on the impact of the social relation on the individual.
Yamagata-Lynch (2010) argued that in North America the concept of ZPD is
frequently referred to as a pedagogical tool to justify instructional strategies in classrooms. She suggests that in these applications the ZPD is frequently separated from the
cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) perspective. Instead, it is referred to as an
artefact or variable which can be manipulated by educators. According to YamagataLynch (2010), Vygotsky used the ZPD as a metaphorical tool for elaborating how
interactions between individuals and their environments, including objects and social
others, took place (p. 19). We use the ZPD in our framework from a CHAT perspective
as a conceptual tool to help understand the complexities involved in the activity of
coteaching, as coteachers engage in meaning-making processes and interact with each
other, the students, and the school environment.
Vygotskian theory, including the ZPD, has received increasing attention in science
education over the past 30 years. Lansdown, Blackwood, and Brandwein (1971) explored
Vygotskys theories in relation to teaching science through investigation and colloquium.
Twenty years later, Wells (1994) and Howe (1996) discussed Vygotskys ideas in relation
to concept formation in science learning and Lemke (2001) highlighted the need to give
substantial theoretical weight to the role of social action. . . in the Vygotskian tradition. . .

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


to be central and necessary to learning and not merely ancillary (p. 296). The work of
Jones, Rua, and Carter (1998) and Ash and Levitt (2003) advocated the potential of
Vygotskys ZPD in science teacher professional development contexts because of the
transformational potential of activity within the ZPD. Jones et al. (1998) stressed the
ZPDs flexibility to encompass interactions between peers, instructors, students, along
with mediating agents, such as readings, physical and technological tools, all of which can
stimulate teacher development.

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Why the ZPD is fit for purpose as a conceptual framework for coteaching
Vygotskys cultural-historical theory arose from his dialectical synthesis of two theses
relating to the development of cognitive function: either it arose from the evolutionary use
of tools by early humans (thesis) or by the development of human culture (antithesis).
Vygotsky resolved the two theses by developing the concept of cultural tools, the
principal of these cultural tools being language. Thus, Vygotsky argued that higher
psychological functions were developed via the mediation of cultural tools that were
specific to the society and context within which the learning was situated (Gredler,
no date). If we use science teacher education as the context, cultural-historical theory
would argue that cultural tools such as language, learning theories, and learning activities
mediate such development. Vygotsky argued that language is the most important mediating cultural tool, and as such, lies at the very heart of learning through coteaching.
Development occurs over time and the ZPD comprises the changes that need to occur
for the learner to move along a learning trajectory. In coteaching, the trajectory moves
from mutual assistance (from each other in coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation) to
self-assistance as a creator of new practice, demonstrated by more confident, effective,
and enjoyable science teaching, as practice develops towards teachers ideal practice.
Coteaching is based firmly on sharing expertise and mutual respect providing the supportive framework needed for such development to occur. Central to these notions of shared
expertise and corespect is the concept of intersubjectivity. Schultz (1967) describes
intersubjectivity as face-to-face relationships in which partners are aware of each other
and sympathetically participate in each others lives even if briefly. Intersubjectivity is
central to coteaching as coteachers share expectations and feeling of a common world, at
least during the times that they are interacting with each other, a common language when
talking about teaching and learning science in the classroom, an understanding of
common goals and an agreement on how to achieve those goals (Milne, Scantlebury,
Blonstein, & Gleason, 2010).
Interpretations of the ZPD suggest it is a two-way learning process with all participants
learning through their interactions with each other (Tudge & Scrimsher, 2003). As a ZPD,
coteaching emphasises the collective and socially mediated nature of teaching and learning
and enables (new) collective actions to become part of the ongoing praxis of teaching and part
of the repertoire of the individuals action as a result of coteachers collective planning,
teaching, and evaluating lessons (Engestrm, 1987; Vygotsky, 1978). Thus, both experienced
and novice teachers expand their opportunities for learning when coteaching.
Development via the ZPD, as described by cultural-historical theory, occurs when
there is interaction between real and ideal forms; buds of development; category/drama/
emotion (the unity of affect and intellect); developmental tools; and sustainable results
(Veresov, 2010). Our conceptual framework for coteaching using Vygotskys ZPD incorporates these essential elements described by Veresov (2010), regression and recursion in
the ZPD discussed by other researchers (Zebroski, 1994), critical reflection using

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

Lampert-Shepels (1999) and Roth and Radfords (2010) dimension of power relations
between individuals involved in interactions. They suggested that insufficient attention is
given to co-constitution of subjective and collective consciousness in which interacting
participants become each others teachers and students independent of their institutional
positions (Roth & Radford, 2010, p. 300). Their proposition to consider the ZPD from a
symmetrical perspective connects strongly with our position that coteaching is based on
sharing expertise and corespect.
In summary, Vygotskys ZPD focuses on learning as development via interaction, sees
learning as arising from the interaction between real and ideal forms and as the further
development of budding capabilities; it addresses the importance of emotion in learning; acknowledges the importance of recursion, affording opportunities for coteachers to
learn from struggles as well as affordances, and encourages Vygotskian imitation, which
comprises more than simply modelling practice. As such, it can be used to explicate how
best to coplan and coevaluate lessons as well as guiding ways to copractice, which focus
on appropriating ideal practice in the real practice of the classroom, and capitalising on the
role of emotion as affording learning and teaching.

Developing the conceptual framework for science coteaching

Our framework builds on previous work advocating the potential of the ZPD and its
elements in science teacher education. The specific ZPD elements that constitute our focus
are interaction between real and ideal form; buds of development; unity of affect and
intellect; Vygotskian imitation; and regression and recursion. We link specific elements to
coteaching phases as conditions, which underlie the enactment of each phase, to promote
the most effective coteaching (see Table 1).

Interaction of real and ideal forms

Vygotsky advocated the necessity from our earliest stages of development of having an
ideal in mind because such an ideal provides actors with motive and focus. LampertShepel (1999) argued that human action has a dual character: ideal and real. She
suggested that theoretical thinking shapes the ideal plan, but humanity creates the real
plan. Yet, no development is possible if there is no interaction between the ideal and real
forms (Veresov, 2010). Applying this element to our model for coteaching involves
coteachers identifying ideal practice based on theories about learning science and
learners as they coplan science lessons. When PSTs and cooperating teachers plan,
Table 1.

Elements of Vygotskys ZPD in different coteaching phases.

Coteaching phase

Vygotskian elements


Interaction between real and ideal forms

Buds of development


Vygotskian imitation
Unity of affect and intellect


Structured reflection

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

ideas about new science teaching approaches given to PSTs by science educators can be
tested against the experience of the cooperating teacher (the learning environment and
student characteristics) and alterations made which can pre-empt potential failures.
Coplanning between PSTs and in-service teachers can embrace the ideal learning
intentions of an inquiry-based science activity and rework these in order to maximise
learning for the diversity of students in their real classroom. The ideal real notion is akin
to theory practice. Thus, coteaching provides opportunities for coteachers to theorise and
test theory, with the result the new, local theory can be produced via the sharing of
expertise regarding latest theoretical ideas and rich contextual knowledge. Teacher educators involved with coteaching can play a key role here in supporting PSTs to theorise
about their practice.
Buds of development
The best learning occurs within the ZPD when the learner is at a stage, a bud or flower
according to Vygotsky (1978), which is proximal (or close to) to the next level of
development. Such ZPDs can be created using cultural tools to promote learning readiness. Good coteaching is not haphazard or spontaneous, but the result of coplanning,
which requires the participation and involvement of all coteachers. Coplanning as a ZPD
involves coteachers identifying buds of development and supporting each other via
shared expertise and cultural tools to further develop these buds. Coplanning is an
excellent professional development activity because during this time teachers share
ideas, use past experiences, and collectively develop an understanding of students
learning needs. Through coplanning, PSTs begin to understand the role of the ideal in
planning a curriculum and its evaluation and buds of development emerge in this
captured event. During coplanning, all participants share ideas, suggesting an appreciation
of starting buds and an acceptance of ideal models or goals for practice. In previous
studies (Gallo-Fox, 2010), teachers reported that the coteaching and coplanning experience brought new ideas into their instruction, and coplanning sessions were a safe space to
collectively generate visions of coteaching.
Vygotskian imitation
Vygotskys notion of imitation is not copying but emulation of an activity as part of the
learning process. Effective imitation within the ZPD pushes learning and development to a
higher level, with successful emulation indicating the level of development of a maturing
function (Chaiklin, 2003). During coteaching, Vygotskian imitation can be enacted as one
coteacher emulates practice of the other that is nearer to the ideal, thereby expanding his
or her agency in relation to creating his or her new practice. Roth and Tobin (2002)
identified this as a feature of coteaching that they described as being like the other. This
was not proposed as an integral feature of an explanatory model but as a consequential
outcome of two teachers working closely together. Vygotsky allows us to identify,
promote, and support these important behaviours as integral within coteaching.
Unity of affect and intellect
The unity of affect and intellect in Vygotskys ZPD, that emotion and learning are
interdependent, foregrounds the importance of emotion in learning. Emotional engagement is required for a learner to maintain attention (which is impossible without emotive

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

engagement (Reid, 1788/1969) and other higher mental functions (Mahn & John-Steiner,
2002)). Veresov (2004) explained the omission of emotion in Vygotskys ZPD in initial
English translations was because they ignored the word category from Vygotskys general
law of the development of higher psychological functions. Category, in Russian theatre,
refers to a dramatic collision, or a dramatic event, or the event that creates the whole
drama in a play (Veresov, 2004). The role of emotion is an essential element of learning in
Vygotskys theory a social relation which causes us to feel strongly, that is, a category, is
more likely to be internalised and remembered, reflected on and to lead to enhanced selfawareness and the consequent change in behaviour. Vygotskys general genetic law of
cultural development describes how cognitive function develops. He stresses the dependence of such development on social relations, which become internalised in the
Acknowledging the unity of affect and intellect in copractice helps make explicit a key
role for emotion in learning. Vygotsky considered that development occurs in learning
only when the learner is aware when she is making a mistake and that it is her own
behaviour that determines her learning. Awareness of learning occurs via emotional
experience (negative as well as positive) and can be harnessed to develop better understanding of each others needs as coteachers, so that, in turn, the collaboration can
generate conditions that engage the emotions of their students to improve their interest
and achievement in science. In their study of coteaching, Carambo and Stickney (2009)
highlighted the importance of emotion in the complexity of professional relationships and
collaborations in several cultural fields, which underlay successful enactment of coteaching. Although dissimilar orientations between coteachers may be a source of disharmony,
disharmony itself can provide a powerful motive for self-examination and lead to change.
Linked to the key role for emotion and self-awareness, a learners behaviour as it affects
learning is the realisation that learning can be difficult that it does not always assume a smooth
upward trajectory. Regression is key to deep learning. Tharp and Gallimore (1988) proposed a
four-stage model of the ZPD that addressed the development of any performance capacity
based on the relationship between self-control and social control in an activity, which includes
a recursive loop, in which learners revert to an earlier stage and progress through subsequent
stages back to where they were in effect they re-learn. Zebroski (1994) used the image of a
tidal wave in relation to Vygotskys work on development as a process that is progressive and
regressive at the same time. The core aspect of the ZPD described by Robbins (2001) is
personal transformation, which is not always positive. In fact, she suggests that regression
must occur for real growth and development. The element of regression and recursion allows
teachers to acknowledge that learning is hard work.
Structured reflection
During reflection, it is important for coteachers to accept that as they develop towards
creating new practice the path will not necessarily be smooth. Consistent with Vygotskys
theory, Lampert-Shepel (1999) argued that because human action has a dual character
ideal and real structuring coreflection requires coteachers to explore on how their
practice was progressing towards the ideal. Coteaching provides the potential for deep
learning through coreflection by PSTs in particular, who frequently use a trial and error
method. The Lampert-Shepel (1999) model of reflection is based has a dual basis in the

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


work of Vygotsky and Dewey. Dewey suggested that structured reflection differs from
trial and error chiefly in two aspects of the (co)reflective process. Firstly, a careful survey
(examination, inspection, exploration, analysis) which defines and clarifies the problem,
and secondly, by elaboration of a tentative solution to make it more precise and more
consistent. The research team introduced coteachers to reflection tools including
Lampert-Shepels (1999) model of the reflective process and an adapted version of
Larrivees (2008) tool to assess teachers level of reflective practice. The resulting
conceptual framework for coteaching engages the three phases of coteaching (coplanning,
copractice, and coevaluation), within a ZPD, which also includes recursion to promote the
constant evaluation of practice and experimentation towards improvement. Coplanning,
copractice, and coevaluation require coteachers to share knowledge and expertise; to work
also to individual strengths as appropriate; to support each other in developing their
practice to a higher level; and to evaluate their progress after each lesson such that future
coplanning and copractice is improved. The essential elements of the conceptual framework promote a joint focus on self and mutual learning at all stages of coteaching,
resulting in constant examination of, and experimentation with, ways to enhance science
learning and teaching. It also sets out conditions comprising elements of Vygotskys ZPD
leading to effective coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation, thus indicating how to
create a ZPD for effective coteaching.
Development of coteaching such that it can move further towards ideal practice occurs via
a series of stages in which coteachers initially act as participants in the process and eventually
act via shared cooperation. Progression through each stage proceeds via the coteaching ZPD.
Pilot test of the model
The model we have outlined was pilot tested by being implemented as part of a primary science
module in a Bachelor of Education programme (details available from Murphy, McCullagh,
& Doherty, 2014).
In total, 10 PSTs partnered with 10 teachers from 6 primary schools. There were three
distinct phases of activity; planning and preparation; copractice; and solo practice. Coteacher
pairs attended workshops on a range of innovative approaches. Participants explored coplanning, coteaching, and coreflection and designed their own methods for recording and data
collection. Seven science lessons were coplanned, cotaught, and coevaluated. A dissemination seminar was held for coteachers to share coteaching experiences and exchange ideas in
preparation for their solo practice. On solo teaching placement, PSTs put into practice the
pedagogical approaches developed during copractice. Data were collected from several
sources, including pre- and post-questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, for example, coplans, coevaluations, classroom observations, PST assignment essays
on coteaching and reflective practice. Full ethical approval for this research, assuring
confidentiality, anonymity, and the right to withdraw from the project, was obtained from
the Stranmillis University College Belfast Research & Research Ethics Committee.
Findings: adaptation of the ZPD model
Evidence from PST reflections indicated that some essential elements of the ZPD model
appeared to be more important than others. Data were collected at the end of the project,


C. Murphy et al.

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

so PSTs reflected on development during coteaching and afterwards, when they enacted
only solo teaching.

Coplanning: interaction between real and ideal forms and buds of development
The two Vygotskian essential elements ascribed to coplanning were interaction between
real and ideal forms and buds of development. There was much more allusion to the
former among the PSTs. Ideal practice became a powerful construct in their coplanning.
Most commented on ideal practice as thinking more about childrens learning than about
lesson resources. Their reflections highlighted this focus on childrens learning instead of
the former focus on resources (see Murphy et al., 2014, for data).
Key evidence for developing buds came from solo practice following the learning
gains from the coteaching experience. No PST mentioned the term buds of development
so the relation is inferred.

Copractice: Vygotskian imitation and unity of affect and intellect

PSTs reflected more on Vygotskian imitation than on the unity of affect and intellect.
Indeed, there was little conscious reference to emotion in their reflections, apart from
relating childrens enjoyment and PSTs positive feelings in response. Vygotskian imitation was evident both during coteaching and in subsequent solo practice. PSTs recalled
examples in their interviews; most related to aspects they had noticed during coteaching
and had integrated into their solo practice. Vygotskian imitation was commented on in
more depth in PSTs reflective essays.

Coevaluation: regression and recursion and structured reflection

Most PSTs experienced a slow start to becoming effective coteachers, more akin to the
participant phase than to that of shared contribution to the process. There was not much
evidence of regression in the data; it was more a case of gradual improvement in relation
to their level of comfort while coteaching and a steadily improving relationship with the
teacher. The earlier phase was characterised by little risk-taking and more developing
familiarity with each others style of practice.
In terms of structured reflection, earlier coteaching studies (Murphy & Scantlebury,
2010) revealed fairly low-level reflection from coteachers in that little attention is paid to
how lessons were enacted in relation to ideal practice and more to surface-level description. PSTs were provided with eight core articles that explored reflective practice and were
encouraged to use these in writing a reflective essay on their coteaching experiences. Such
structured reflection, which included reference to Larrivees (2008) tool for reflection
which identified levels of PST reflection, generated much deeper engagement by PSTs
with coteaching practice in their essays than was evidenced in the interviews. PSTs used a
template for reflection and one critiqued this instrument in her reflective essay:
Throughout the coteaching experience, reflection arguably occurred through the provision of
a structure, in the coreflection template, maximizing the thinking process. This structure gave
reflections a premise, however, care must be taken in the use of templates when reflecting to
ensure that the process is not hampered by the completion of sections on paper.

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Another comment from a reflective essay indicated how the PST was considering her
coteaching experience in relation to her teaching career.

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Through coteaching I have developed my reflective practice through the levels of progression
and in a variey of ways through reflection in action and reflection on action. . . It is evident
that whilst coteaching has developed my refective practice, the road to becoming a competent
Reflective Practitioner (GTCNI, 2007) will be long. Reflection is arguably a process, not a
method, but a process which must be developed throughout a teaching career. This journey of
effective reflection, facilitating lessons which site pupils learning in the forefront has begun
and it will be interesting to chart the progress and effectiveness of my reflections throughout
my teaching career.

In terms of level of reflection, the reflective essays on coteaching evidenced reflection at

levels we identified by adapting Larrivees tool, chiefly the following three levels: level 2,
surface reflection (e.g. using evidence and making adjustments based on experience only);
level 3, pedagogical reflection (e.g. adjusts methods and practices based on students
relative performance); and level 4, critical pedagogical reflection (e.g. commitment to
continuous learning and improved practice; constructive criticism of own practice; sees
teaching practices as remaining open to further investigation).

The data describing the PST experiences make a strong case for including coteaching
within science initial teacher education programmes. The ZPD which coteaching
provides facilitates meaningful thinking coupled with purposeful activity in the areas
of planning, teaching, and reflecting. Coteaching attends to several of the principles to
guide development of responsive teacher education programmes that make a difference as identified by Korthagen, Loughran, and Russell (2006, p. 1036). Whilst most
of the discussion below relates to the adaptation of the model via the six identified
ZPD elements, further research could improve the model in relation to other extremely
important ZPD constructs, such as language as the key mediating tool and the concept
of intersubjectivity in attaining shared meaning between coteachers in relation to
learning and teaching science.
Evidence accrued from this pilot study suggested that the coteaching has three phases
of coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation, further structuring each phase as satisfying
elements of Vygtoskys ZPD, and providing a structure for progressing in coteaching,
could be adapted and simplified to make it more workable. For instance, the data indicated
that certain Vygotskian constructs were used more than others. Thus, the model was
adapted to remove those elements which were not embraced by PSTs in their reflections.
The cooperating teachers were also interviewed and their data exhibited the same trend in
the relative attention paid to the six identified essential elements of Vygotskys ZPD.
Thus, we have reduced the six to three; one for each phase of coplanning (interaction
between real and ideal form); copractice (Vygotskian imitation); and structured reflection
The pilot study highlighted the impact of the notion of ideal practice, which seemed
to galvanise PSTs into a higher level of coplanning. They used Vygotskian imitation when
they identified good practice in the classroom. Additionally, when given tools for reflection, PSTs reflected at very high levels, much improved on any reflection that has been
recorded in coteaching studies which have not incorporated the use of reflection tools. The
amount of time required for coplanning and coevaluation and a shared understanding of

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

the coteaching concept between the participating teachers (student and cooperating) and
university personnel (supervisors and researchers) are constant and consistent challenges
for implementing coteaching, regardless of the coteaching context. Thus, coplanning,
copractice, and coevaluation require equal priority.
This model provides a framework of how teachers can effectively enact coteaching, and
it contributes towards theorising the coteaching process, which has demonstrated significant
benefits in the preparation of pre-service science teachers, and in most cases, for the
cooperating teachers as well. Most importantly, the model provides tools and structures
which can be used in the implementation of coteaching as an essential element of PST
education programmes. Future research could consider contextual factors, in addition to time,
that support or impede the design and development of coteaching. The outcomes of this
model should realise coteaching as a way to develop practitioners who are more reflective in
the classroom, who have benefited from working with another teacher in developing,
delivering and evaluating good science lessons which aim at, and reflect, ideal practice.

We have proposed and pilot tested a model for coteaching using Vygotskys ZPD to examine
coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation from a developmental perspective and provided a
structure where these three coteaching elements are given equal priority. Future research
could focus on developing this coteaching model by evaluating the impact of structured
coplanning, copractice, and coevaluation, and by introducing additional and/or different tools
for coteachers to optimise these three coteaching elements. Research could also consider
contextual factors, in addition to time, that support or impede the design and development of
coteaching and the role of emotions in learning to teach, teaching to learn, and improving
ones teaching. Coteaching can develop more reflective practitioners because of their shared
teaching experiences, the planning, implementation, and evaluation of those experiences and
an acknowledgement of the complexity of learning to teach. In addition, coteachers who
have practised using this model may develop an increased awareness of, and a focus on,
addressing issues in science learning and teaching that arise outside the classroom.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Most of the coteaching research carried out by Professor Murphy was generously funded by the
Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) who have published a teacher professional development
resource based on coteaching at:

Notes on contributors
Colette Murphy is a Professor of Science Education at Trinity College Dublin. She co-edited the
seminal text: Coteaching in International Contexts: Research and Practice.
Kathryn Scantlebury is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the
University of Delaware and Director of Secondary Education.
Catherine Milne is Professor at New York University. She is the author of The Invention of Science
and co-editor-in-chief of the journal Cultural Studies of Science Education.

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Ash, D., & Levitt, K. (2003). Working within the zone of proximal development: Formative
assessment as professional development. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 14, 2348.
Bacharach, N., Heck, T., & Dahlberg, K. (2007). Collaboratively researching the impact of a
coteaching model of student teaching. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
Carambo, C., & Stickney, C. T. (2009). Coteaching praxis and professional service: Facilitating the
transition of beliefs and practices. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 4, 433441.
Chaiklin, S. (2003). The zone of proximal development in Vygotskys analysis of learning and
instruction. In A. Kozulin, B. Gindis, V. S. Ageyev, & S. M. Miller (Eds.), Vygotskys educational theory in cultural context (pp. 3964). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Engestrm, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental
research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit Oy. Retrieved March 28, 2015,
Gallo-Fox, J. (2010). Risk-taking as practice in a coteaching professional learning community. In C.
Murphy & K. Scantlebury (Eds.), Coteaching in international contexts research and practice
(pp. 105124). New York: Springer Publishing ISBN: 978-9048137060.
Gredler, M. (no date). Lev Vygotsky (18961934) - Cultural-historical theory, education and
cognitive development. Retrieved December 2014, from
Howe, A. C. (1996). Development of science concepts within a Vygotskian framework. Science
Education, 80, 3551. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-237X(199601)80:1<>1.0.CO;2-Y
Jones, M. G., Rua, M. J., & Carter, G. (1998). Science teachers conceptual growth within
Vygotskys zone of proximal development. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(9),
967985. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736
Juck, M., Scantlebury, K., & Gallo-Fox, J. (2010). Now its time to go solo: First year teaching. In
C. Murphy & K. Scantlebury (Eds.), Coteaching in international contexts: Research and
practice (pp. 241261). New York: Springer Publishing.ISBN: 978-9048137060
Korthagen, F., Loughran, J., & Russell, T. (2006). Developing fundamental principles for teacher
education programs and practices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 10201041.
Lampert -Shepel, E. (1999). Reflective thinking in educational praxis: Analysis of multiple perspectives. Educational Foundations, 13(3), 6988.
Lansdown, B., Blackwood, P. E., & Brandwein, P. F. (1971). Teaching elementary science through
investigation and colloquium. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Larrivee, B. (2008). Development of a tool to assess teachers level of reflective practice. Reflective
Practice, 9, 341360. doi:10.1080/14623940802207451
Lemke, J. L. (2001). Articulating communities: Sociocultural perspectives on science education.
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 296316. doi:10.1002/1098-2736(200103)
Mahn, H., & John-Steiner, V. (2002). The gift of confidence: A Vygotskian view of emotions. In G.
Wells & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for life in the 21st century (pp. 4658). London:
Blackwells. doi:10.1002/9780470753545.ch4
Martin, S. (2009). Learning to teach science. In K. Tobin & W.-M. Roth (Eds.), World of science
education: North America (pp. 567586). The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Meira, L., & Lerman, S. (2001). The zone of proximal development as a symbolic space. Retrieved
Milne, C., Scantlebury, K., Blonstein, J., & Gleason, S. (2010). Coteaching and disturbances:
Building a better system for learning to teach science. Research in Science Education,
Published online. doi:10.1007/s11165-010-9172-7.
Murphy, C., & Beggs, J. (2006). Addressing ethical dilemmas in implementing coteaching. Forum
Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(4), Art. 20. Retrieved from

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015


C. Murphy et al.

Murphy, C., & Carlisle, K. (2009). Can they go it alone? Addressing criticisms of coteaching.
Cultural Studies in Science Education, 4(2), 461475. doi:10.1007/s1142200891509
Murphy, C., McCullagh, J., & Doherty, A. (2014). Piloting a model for coteaching. Paper presented at the
annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Philadelphia: AERA. Retrieved
Murphy, C., & Scantlebury, K. (Eds.). (2010). Coteaching in international contexts: Research and
practice. New York: Springer Publishing. ISBN: 978-9048137060.
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). (2010, November, 25)
Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare
effective teachers. Washington, DC: NCATE.
Nilsson, P. (2010). From theoretical explanation to practical application Coteaching in a preservice
primary physics course. In C. Murphy & K. Scantlebury (Eds.), Coteaching in international
contexts: Research and practice (pp. 105124). New York: Springer Publishing ISBN:
Palincsar, A. S. (1998). Keeping the metaphor of scaffolding fresh a response to C. Addison
Stones The metaphor of scaffolding: Its utility for the field of learning disabilities.. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 31, 370373. doi:10.1177/002221949803100406.
Qvortrup, L. (2008, August). The first global education forum. Teacher Education Quarterly, 01, 2.
Reid, T. (1788/1969). Essays on the active powers of the human mind. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Robbins, D. (2001). Vygotskys zone of proximal development, imitation, and mimesis. Published in
Works of the Vygotsky Institute of Psychology, Russian State University for the Humanities,
Roth, W.-M., & Radford, L. (2010). Re/thinking the zone of proximal development (symmetrically).
Mind, Culture, and Activity, 17(4), 299307. doi:10.1080/10749031003775038
Roth, W.-M., & Tobin, K. (2004). Coteaching: From praxis to theory. Teachers and Teaching:
Theory and Practice, 10(2), 161179. doi:10.1080/0954025032000188017.
Roth, W-M, & Tobin, K. (2002). At the elbow of one another: Learning to teach by coteaching.
New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Scantlebury, K., Gallo-Fox, J., & Wassell, B. (2008). Coteaching as a model for preservice science
teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(4), 967981.
Schultz, A. (1967). The phenomenology of the social world. G. Walsh and F. Lehnert (Trans.). New
York: Northwestern University Press.
Silvonen, J. (2010). Vygotskys plural discourse on human mind. In P. Aunio, M. Jahnukainen, M.
Kalland, & J. Silvonen (Eds.), Piaget is dead, Vygotsky is still alive? (pp. 3761). Helsinki:
Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in
social context. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tudge, J. (1999). Discovering Vygotsky: A historical and developmental approach to his theory. In
N. Veresov (Ed.), Undiscovered Vygotsky. Etudes on the pre-history of cultural-historical
psychology (pp. 1017). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Tudge, J., & Scrimsher, S. (2003). Lev S. Vygotsky on education: A cultural-historical, interpersonal
and individual approach to development. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.),
Educational psychology: A century of contributions (pp. 207228). London: Lawrence
van Oers, B. (2007). In the zone. Children in Europe: Vygotsky Edition (pp. 1415). Edinburgh:
Children in Scotland.
Veresov, N. (2010). Introducing cultural historical theory: Main concepts and principles of genetic
research methodology. Retrieved from
Veresov, N. (2004). Zone of proximal development (ZPD): The hidden dimension? In A. Ostern &
R. Heila-Ylikallio (Eds.). Language as culture tensions in time and space. (Vol. 1, pp. 1330).
Vasa: ABO Akademi.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1934, 1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1934, 1986). Thought and language. Boston: MIT Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1934, 1987). The development of scientific concepts in childhood. In R. W. Reiber
& A. S. Carton (Eds.), Collected works of L. S. Vygotsky: Vol. 1 (pp. 167242). New York:

Downloaded by [University of Nebraska, Lincoln] at 08:08 15 September 2015

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M.

Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Vygotsky, L. S. (1931, 1997). The history of the development of higher mental functions. (M. J.
Hall, Trans.). In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. Volume 4: The
history of the development of higher mental functions (pp. 1251). New York: Plenum Press.
Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: Towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511605895
Wells, G. (1994). Learning and teaching scientific concepts: Moscow, Sept. 1994. Vygotskys
ideas revisited Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved December 2014, from
Yamagata-Lynch, L. (2010). Activity systems analysis methods: Understanding complex learning
environments. The Netherlands: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-6321-5
Zebroski, J. T. (1994). Thinking through theory: Vygotskian perspectives on the teaching of writing.
Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers.