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Exploring the nature of Pedagogical Equilibrium

posted on 26.02.2017, 22:47 by Mansfield, Jennifer Louise
This thesis explores how during the everyday routines of teaching, teachers are confronted by moments of surprise, confusion or perplexity. It is through these moments that teachers discover conflicts between their beliefs, understandings and the context in which they operate. The moment of conflict is characterised by feelings of uncertainty which may spark inquiry and result in learning. The human tendency is to hurry through these experiences of uncertainty as they cause discomfort, however it is through these experiences of interruption that reflection and new learning may emerge. Pedagogical Discontent has been described as a way of framing and describing such situations, where teachers are unable to enact their goals for teaching due to a variety of reasons. This study sought to explore the nature of Pedagogical Discontent and the ways teachers sought to manage their feelings of discontent. Fifteen primary and secondary school teachers were interviewed and asked to recall examples of Pedagogical Discontent that they had experienced during their daily routines of teaching. The study found that interruptions, or episodes of unrest, primarily arose due to something the teachers did (internal factors) or something that manifested within a teacher’s context and thus happened to the teacher (external factors). Such interruptions could also occur over a prolonged period due to an ongoing expectation or simmering tension, such as the school based or curricular expectations and constraints. Four broad areas in which teachers predominately experienced interruptions were identified. These areas were related to: subject matter knowledge; organising for teaching (pedagogical approaches); organising for learning (understanding and addressing student needs); and, managing student behaviour and attitudes. The study found that interruptions prompted teachers to search for a more certain state and thus resulted in the proposal of a new construct, Pedagogical Equilibrium. Pedagogical Equilibrium is a way of conceptualising the complex process from perception of the existence of an interruption, through how the teacher reacted and managed the uncertainty, to the resultant learning. The findings of this study suggest that teachers are constantly searching for a state of Pedagogical Equilibrium as they seek to manage problematic situations with which they are confronted and in so doing, their professional knowledge of practice develops.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

John Loughran

Additional supervisor 1

Gillian Kidman

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education