A method of description and analysis of teaching sequences to understand the teachers’ work and the objects taught in L1 classrooms

Submitted by: Bernard Schneuwly
Abstract: Our research aims at describing and understanding what is taught in L1 classrooms. To this end, we ask teachers to allow us to videotape their lessons on a given object to teach, the same different teachers: the relative clause in grammar, the opinion text in writing, a fable and a short story in literature, a picture book in preschool classes. For each “taught object”, we have 15 to 30 videotaped teaching sequences of 2 to 8 lessons of 20 to 60 minutes. This faces us with the following problem: how to obtain an overview allowing sequences to be compared in order to analyze constants and variations in the work of teachers and the objects taught?
Our research group has developed a description and analysis method in order to give as legible a description as possible of the product of the co-construction of the objects taught in the classroom without losing too much content that would no longer allow us to grasp its meaning at all. It is called, using connotations coming from the etymology of the word and cinematography, « synopsis ».
The reduction of information by the synopsis must make it possible to understand the structuring ofa sequence without resorting to the transcripts. The degree of reduction of the synopsis is defined pragmatically: for each teaching sequence, it is a question of obtaining a document which allows a description of the principal parts and actions, and the principal contents approached, always with this aim of making comparisons between sequences possible. The form of this reduction must model the necessarily sequential and hierarchical organization of a teaching sequence. The direction of the reduction, what it reveals and what it leaves out, is determined by the objective of the research, namely the (re-)construction of the taught object created in the interaction between teacher and pupils. What is reduced or summarized by the researcher is essentially the content worked on, taking into account of course the form through which it is transmitted.
The objectives of the workshop are as follows:
- be familiar with the principles underlying the teaching sequence description and analysis process to obtain a “synopsis”;
- master the basics of the process;
- place it in the broader context of research aimed at understanding the teacher's work in constructing objects taught with students.
The workshop is structured as follows:
1. Presentation of the theoretical background of the method (based on a guideline distributed to the participants of the workshop)
2. Discussion of a partial synopsis in relation to the transcript of the teaching sequence he reports on
3. Practical work of reconstituting a part of a synopsis to re-establish its hierarchy
4. Comparison of the solutions proposed by the participants of the workshop
5. Discussion of the proposed approach in relation with the research questions of the participants of the workshop.