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It is thus argued that along with its distinction between overt teaching activity and underlying learning process, this LPP-derived emphasis on the importance of attending both to in-principle potential and actual implementation quality provides a preferable alternative to the simplistic pedagogical determinism that appears to be implied in characterizing particular teaching strategies as ‘good practice’, whether ‘evidencebased’ or not.

Definitional aspect (3): The LPP of teaching as situated interaction

So far, the LPP concept has been defined in terms of just two elements in teaching:

particular forms of teaching activity and particular learning processes and outcomes.

We have namely started with the possibility that different teaching strategies may have differing potential to promote particular kinds of learning process required for particular kinds of learning outcomes, and that conversely, the same teaching strategy may have different LPP with regard to different learning goals: an approach strong on promoting declarative knowledge acquisition, for example, may fall somewhat short for achieving procedural capability/know-how.

However, the concept of teaching itself implies an interaction of a number of varying aspect elements, including teachers, learners, intended learning gains, teaching/learning activities, and contexts, including resources (cf. Tomlinson, 1981, 1985). Putting this in modern terminology: sooner or later teaching comes down to a situated interaction involving a particular teacher trying to promote particular learning gains through particular learning activities by some particular person or persons, in a particular Copyright © The British Psychological Society Reproduction in any form (including the internet) is prohibited without prior permission from the Society

The learning promotion potential framework 515

context and utilizing particular resources. Each of these varying aspect-elements of the teaching situation can make a difference, whether individually or jointly, so that adding these into consideration, a complexity of possible interactions is generated that may begin to claim valid reflection of the intricacies of real-life teaching situations.

An obvious first possibility to consider here is the potential interaction between learner variation and teaching strategy alternatives: even in relation to the same form of learning goal, different teaching strategies may have differing LPP, ‘be more likely to work’, for different learners. In fact, major strands of modern educational psychology have targeted the possibilities of differentiation or adaptation of teaching to learner characteristics of varying sorts (Cronbach & Snow, 1977; Randi & Corno, 2005). Indeed, consideration of such interaction has been widened to include variation in learning content as well as learners and teaching strategy, with Shulman (1987) pointing out that we need not just a generalized pedagogical understanding of how learners learn, but ‘pedagogical content knowledge’: an understanding of what is at stake in the teaching of different types of subject content to particular types of learners.

Equally, particularly when thinking in terms of planning teaching, it is obvious that context and resource availability may play a key part in affording and limiting the possibilities of using particular teaching strategies, let alone influencing their likely success if feasible. Nor, of course, should we forget the teacher as a further essential factor in the interaction. Even holding things constant in relation to a particular learning goal, available resources and learner characteristics, a teacher may be more capable or comfortable with some teaching strategies than with others.

However, perhaps the most important and practical implication of considering LPP within a situated approach is that it prompts us to take into account an aspect of teaching situations long recognized by practitioners as affecting potential teaching strategies and pedagogical success. Namely, most formal teaching situations involve the one-teacher-to-many-learners arrangement known as class teaching. Such a recognition means that whereas I have been tending so far to talk simply of the potential of a teaching strategy to bring about learning ‘within a learner’, realistically we need to extend this to considering LPP in relation to a class group of learners. That is, we need to consider the potential of teaching strategies to enable, assist and monitor learning across the whole set of learners making up the class, in conjunction with other interacting factors, not least limitations on resources, including time.

Having proposed and somewhat extended the LPP concept as a central basis for thinking about pedagogical effectiveness, I now want to broaden it into a framework within which to consider the role of psychological theory in relation to pedagogical design and evaluation, and thence to operationalize it into an approach that emphasizes certain options in the usage of such theory.

The broader LPP framework: Psychological theory in pedagogical design and analysis The concept of LPP was introduced in the previous section in the context of a consideration of pedagogical effectiveness, specifically by way of the analytical point that if by definition teaching aims to bring about learning, then the in-principle effectiveness of a teaching strategy will depend on the extent to which it enables the appropriate underlying learning processes, as also their monitoring and assistance.





This might give the impression of LPP being merely an abstract, quasi-quantitative assessment, a sort of ‘learn-o-meter’ rating of teaching strategies. This impression would Copyright © The British Psychological Society Reproduction in any form (including the internet) is prohibited without prior permission from the Society

516 Peter Tomlinson

be somewhat unfortunate in that whilst this feature may be recognized as one derivative aspect of the LPP idea, the more central feature on which any such comparative judgment of strategies might be based is constituted by the nature of the relevant learning and teaching functions required for promotion of the educational goals in question. This comes out all the more clearly when we adapt the LPP concept into a meta-theoretical framework for thinking about the possible contribution of psychology to pedagogical design, analysis and evaluation.

Rather than thinking simply in terms of associating particular psychological theories directly with particular overt teaching strategies, I want namely to argue that from the LPP perspective the obvious and central pedagogical role for psychology is to provide well-warranted indication of the kinds of underlying processes that overt teaching/learning activity must somehow embody. As we have seen, these processes involve the learning functions required for particular kinds of learning gain and the teaching functions of monitoring and assistance, as well as any factors that may affect any of these functions, whether directly or indirectly. Awareness of such underlying processes should be useful in both the design and implementation of pedagogy, and in the analysis and evaluation of existing teaching strategies. Thus, for example, earlier I cited the Craik and Lockhart levels of processing theory of memory and Ausubel’s ideas about meaningfulness as corroborative bases for specifying particular learning processes or functions required for robust declarative knowledge acquisition. It would appear obvious that if we accept these theories and are concerned to design teaching strategy for such an intended learning outcome, then other things equal we should select activities likely to embody or stimulate such ‘meaningful/deep’ processes. As suggested earlier, there may be a number of different teaching strategies that share the capacity to do this, though there may also be other plausible candidates that actually fall short.

However, this then prompts the more general issue of how to select from the range of available psychological paradigms and specific theories. Whilst some eminent authors (cf. Bransford et al., 2000) suggest that educational psychological sources have been becoming increasingly relevant to practice in the last few decades, others, as we saw in this paper’s introductory section, point to persisting problems. They contend that far from providing an integrated, universally agreed set of resources, educational psychology still seems to be characterized by multiplicity, fragmentation, and paradigm competition. Recent wholesale shifts of favoured paradigm may indeed suggest that in educational psychology, no less than with pedagogy’s search for the ‘silver bullet’ teaching method, there is an implicit search for the sufficient, exclusive theoretical perspective, a concern which at the same time generates an emphasis on theory contrasts and competition rather than commonality or complementarity (cf. Beveridge, 1998; Tomlinson, 2005).

Open-critical eclecticism I want to argue that we need to confront this persisting state of affairs with an opencritical eclecticism, by which I mean that we should be open to any and therefore all offerings of psychological insight, whilst nevertheless applying a triple test of relevance, coherence and evidential grounding before adopting any of them.

It is surely clear that teaching presents a virtually overwhelming complexity of facets (cf. Doyle, 1986) that is mirrored by the multiplicity of its psychological aspects – the reason, one presumes, why educational psychology texts are typically so lengthy! Given this, and without denying the importance of ‘confrontational theory competition’ in Copyright © The British Psychological Society Reproduction in any form (including the internet) is prohibited without prior permission from the Society

The learning promotion potential framework 517

scientific progress, it seems healthy to remember the point made by the psychologistphilosopher George Kelly (Pope & Keene, 1981) that a theory has a limit in its focus and that, even if it turns out to illuminate a broader range of phenomena, this range will itself still be limited. Pending our possible arrival at a fully integrated, coherent understanding of human psychological functioning, a wide range of differing psychological theories, even paradigms (cf. Shulman, 1986), may therefore be severally relevant to the many goals and contexts of teaching. Such insight sources may be complementary and thus potentially combinable, in that they indeed deal with different issues: sometimes differing issues at the same level, sometimes perhaps with one theory targeting finer grained processes within the broader process unit dealt with by another theory. Sometimes the validity of apparently opposing theories may turn out to depend on further differentiations and sometimes, even, theories framed in very different terms and based on different paradigmatic axioms may turn out to have communalities (cf. Beveridge, 1998).

Whilst they also raise some issues to which we will need to return below, the above points surely oblige the adoption of an open and inclusive stance towards the variety of educational psychological offerings. That is, in seeking the processes and factors directly or indirectly basic to aspects of the learning we wish to promote, we should be actively open to whatever candidates formal psychology offers. However, it may be argued (Tomlinson & Hodgson, 1992) that before taking on any such candidates, we should subject them to critical examination on the three aspects mentioned above: their relevance, their coherence and their formal evidential grounding.

Theoretical coherence is arguably such a basic requisite it needs no further comment: one can hardly apply what does not make sense. On the other hand, psychology’s empirical orientation is its central strength and evidential grounding in its own terms is normally desirable as a basis for pedagogical use of any psychological theory. Though it may be added that if the only available psychological ideas concerning an aspect of pedagogy are hypothetical theorizing as yet lacking evidence, one might be tempted to try applying them anyway, particularly if they are derived from ideas that can claim such support.

Using relevance to the learning and teaching functions proposed above as a criterion might be thought an obviously useful exercise in economy that is likely to make the consultation and uptake of psychological sources more manageable. Such a view might, however, need revising on the basis of two further considerations.

Firstly, whilst theories of learning in some sense demand a primacy of consideration due to the centrality of learning within the concept of teaching, we do also need to consider the illumination of teaching functions. In principle this means, for example, that very wide ranging aspects of psychology – for example, pretty well anything to do with communication – may turn out to be relevant, all the more so when we extend the criterion from relatively direct influencing factors to those operating more indirectly.

To cite just one other previous example: the psychology of motivation is arguably relevant to learning itself both directly (the role of interest and arousal in learning processes) and indirectly (the generation of cognitively appropriate learner action).

Secondly, extending this line of argument would appear to imply that rather than simply approaching psychology with a selective list of concerns based on otherwise non-psychological analysis of teaching activity, pedagogues should be open to psychology in the more basic sense of becoming systematically aware in the first place of its broad range of offerings. How such awareness may be brought into pedagogical design is nevertheless something we will turn to below, since this is an appropriate point at which to briefly situate the present ideas against other comparable contributions.

Copyright © The British Psychological Society Reproduction in any form (including the internet) is prohibited without prior permission from the Society

518 Peter Tomlinson



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