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Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research: VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education) in University-Based Teacher Education


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Evidence suggests that in the professional education of teachers the moral goals are currently a neglected topic in favor of the subject matter and knowledge. The constructivist instructional approach VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education) addresses this problem by combining the moral and epistemic goals through the discussion of moral dilemmas. The main research question of this practice-based study was whether teacher educators can improve their instructional practice by using VaKE. We describe an empirical study of a teacher educator who used VaKE in order to (i) facilitate pre-service teachers to solve moral conflicts which they are faced with in their workplace learning and to (ii) increase the moral climate in his course. 58 pre-service teachers who formed two classes participated in the study. The study consisted of three research phases: In the first research phase the types of the pre-service teachers’ moral conflicts were examined. In the second research phase the most frequent types of moral conflicts were used as a basis for an explorative quasi-experimental pre-posttest study. This study investigated the effects of VaKE compared to a traditional case-analysis approach with regard to the pre-service teachers’ application of discourse-oriented actions for conflict resolution. In the third phase, a case study method was used comprising a random sample of seven pre-service teachers chosen from each class to investigate the perceived learning climate during the intervention. The results indicate that VaKE provides the possibility to combine the moral and epistemic goals of the professional education of teachers.
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are currently a neglected topic in favor of the subject matter and knowledge. The
constructivist instructional approach VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education) addresses
this problem by combining the moral and epistemic goals through the discussion of moral
dilemmas. The main research question of this practice-based study was whether teacher
educators can improve their instructional practice by using VaKE. We describe an empir-
ical study of a teacher educator who used VaKE in order to (i) facilitate pre-service teachers
to solve moral conflicts which they are faced with in their workplace learning and to (ii)
increase the moral climate in his course. 58 pre-service teachers who formed two classes
participated in the study. The study consisted of three research phases: In the first research
phase the types of the pre-service teachersmoral conflicts were examined. In the second
research phase the most frequent types of moral conflicts were used as a basis for an
explorative quasi-experimental pre-posttest study. This study investigated the effects of
VaKE compared to a traditional case-analysis approach with regard to the pre-service
teachersapplication of discourse-oriented actions for conflict resolution. In the third phase,
a case study method was used comprising a random sample of seven pre-service teachers
chosen from each class to investigate the perceived learning climate during the interven-
tion. The results indicate that VaKE provides the possibility to combine the moral and
epistemic goals of the professional education of teachers.
Vocations and Learning (2016) 9:6384
DOI 10.1007/s12186-015-9141-4
*Alfred Weinberger
Jean-Luc Patry
Sieglinde Weyringer
Private University College of Teacher Education of the Diocese of Linz, Linz, Austria
University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Improving Professional Practice
through Practice-Based Research: VaKE (Values
and Knowledge Education) in University-Based
Teacher Education
Alfred Weinberger
&Jean-Luc Patry
Sieglinde Weyringer
Evidence suggests that in the professional education of teachers the moral goals
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Keywords VaKE .Practice-based research .Moral conflicts in teaching .Teache r
education .Professional education .Moral development
In the education for the teaching professions two types of general goals can be distin-
guished which have been called Bmoral and epistemic purposes^by Sockett (2008)or
double assignment in teacher education by Tapola and Fritzen (2010). While the epistemic
goals, for example the acquisition of research based scholarly knowledge, are considered as
the core of teacher professionalism (Darling-Hammond and Bransford 2005), the moral
goals, as for instance the development of pre-service teachersmoral judgment competence
and their preparation to foster the moral development of their students, are not always taken
for granted (e.g., Willemse et al. 2008). The moral goals can be justified by referring to
teaching being a moral practice which is heavily value-laden (Bullough 2011).
However, although teacher educators and teachers state that they would like to
achieve the moral goals, they rarely implement them into their practice (e.g., Ryan
and Bohlin 1999). The main obstacle lies in the crowded curriculum which emphasizes
epistemic goals and as a consequence does not give enough room for the moral aspects
of education. As a corollary teachers do not know how to address the moral goals in
school (Klaassen 2002). Particularly in situations of moral conflicts (conflicts between
different values or norms; Shapira-Lishchinsky 2011) teachers miss adequate strategies
to come up with a responsible and appropriate solution.
Valu e s and Knowledge Education (VaKE) is a constructivist instructional concept
developed at the University of Salzburg that provides a possible solution to this problem.
Constructivist-based learning methods have proved to be effective in fostering moral
judgment competence (e.g., Schlaefli et al. 1985) and the acquisition of applicable
knowledge (e.g., Collins et al. 1989). In a nutshell, in a VaKE process the learners are
confronted with a dilemma addressing moral issues which they discuss; if the dilemma is
conceived appropriately, it will trigger knowledge questions, which are then answered by
the learners through an information search in relevant sources available. In a VaKE process,
then, the learners perform a double research process: ethical justification (research with
respect to argumentation in favor or against moral values in the given dilemma situation),
and empirical (research with respect to looking at empirical evidence necessary for their
argumentation). We have shown that through VaKE the learners acquire at least as much
knowledge, and sometimes more, than in content-focused teaching (Patry et al. 2013). The
applicability of VaKE has already been shown in teacher education (Weinberger 2014;
Keast and Marangio 2015); the present paper adds new insights with respect to the
effectivity of VaKE to foster moral action and addresses the issue of practice-based research
of teaching with VaKE on different levels:
a. The teacher educator who is supported in doing a study practices VaKE as a
teaching tool in his classes and evaluates whether VaKE is effective in his teacher
b. The teaching relates to the studentspractical experiences by addressing specific
moral conflicts they encounter in their practicum. The research issue is, here, to
what degree it is possible to capitalize on the studentspractice in teaching.
64 A. Weinberger et al.
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c. The aim of this teaching process is to contribute to an improvement of their future
practice in two regards: first, in dealing adequately with moral conflicts in their
future classes, and second, in applying VaKE in their own teaching. The former is
assessed in the practicum following the teaching (immediate transfer to new
situation). The sustainability of this teacher education, however, cannot be
researched in the present study.
This corresponds to Borko et al. (2008) distinction according to which, teacher
educators engage in practitioner research on two levels: First, they want to improve
their own professional practice as a teacher educator. Second, they want to facilitate
pre-service teachersexperiences as researchers of their own practice. In the present
study both levels are addressed. (a) Since VaKE provides much freedom for both
teacher and learner it is important that the teacher educator using VaKE evaluates his or
her teaching to be able to adapt it to the particularities of his or her learners and the
context. (b) From a constructivist point of view, meaningful learning is best achieved
when issues of direct concern to the learners are addressed in teaching, namely their
own practice (e.g., Lave and Wenger 1991); this practice-based learning can easily be
combined with practitioner research in the sense of integrating teaching through
research and research through teaching with VaKE (Patry 2014). Through their own
research, the pre-service teachers get an even deeper understanding of VaKE than by
only applying it (see c above).
The main research question of this study is whether teacher educators can improve
their instructional practice with regard to the double assignment by using VaKE
addressing authentic problems of the students. It is of particular interest (i) which moral
conflicts pre-service teachers are faced with during their workplace learning, (ii)
whether these self-experienced moral conflicts can be used in VaKE to facilitate pre-
service teachersconflict resolution competence, and (iii) whether VaKE can contribute
to a moral climate. Practice-based research can be a valuable way of inquiry to answer
the main research question. With practice-based research there is emphasis on local
contexts which are recognized as inevitable mediators of change and shapers of practice
(Cochran-Smith and Lytle 2009, p. 57). We assume that the instructional tool VaKE has
the potential to change and shape practice if it is adapted to local contexts, such as to the
particularities of the learners.
Background and Theoretical Framework
Moral Conflicts in Teaching
Like almost all other areas of professions and occupations, teaching is an inherently
moral practice (e.g., Campbell 2010; Goodlad et al. 1990;Hansen2001). However,
according to Strike (1990), there are some moral issues that are particular for teaching:
First, teachers work for the most part in isolation and what goes on in the classroom is
largely unknown to other colleagues or the parents. Second, this isolation is accompa-
nied by the lack of a collectively agreed upon ethical codex for the practice of teaching.
Finally, teachers deal with children who are particularly vulnerable to harmful treatment
in two distinct ways: 1) they are relatively powerless and 2) due to their immaturity
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 65
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they lack the capacity to resist immoral treatment. In a similar vein, Fenstermacher
(1990,p.133)statesthatB(t)he teachers conduct, at all times and in all ways, is a moral
matter. For that reason alone, teaching is a profoundly moral activity^.Accordingto
Bullough (2011) the kind and quality of the relationship between the teacher and the
student influences what is learned and how it is learned by the student. In addition,
teachers experience contradictions and moral conflicts in their everyday practice
because the very nature of Bteaching^requires choices involving moral judgments
(Hostetler 1997; Joseph and Efron 1993;Maslovaty2000). Moral conflicts in teaching
are defined as problematic situations with no clear-cut answer for the involved teacher,
usually arising from a conflict between different values or norms including moral
values, which demand reflective judgments about responsible solutions (Shapira-
Lishchinsky 2011). Sometimes moral conflicts appear as moral dilemmas requiring a
decision between mutually exclusive options (Ehrich et al. 2011).
A few studies provide an insight into teachersmoral conflicts and dilemmas. Tirri
(1999) identified four main categories of moral conflicts in teaching, namely 1) matters
related to teachersor colleagueswork such as punishing a pupil who disturbs the
class, grading of an academically weak pupil, or treating situations in which a colleague
was found to act unprofessionally; 2) pupilsmoral behavior regarding school and work
as for instance pupilsnegative attitude towards learning, and tormenting behavior by
some pupils; 3) rights of minority groups such as dealing with different religious
values; and 4) common rules at school, for instance differing views of colleagues
regarding school rules. In a subsequent study Tirri and Husu (2002)showedthatall
moral conflicts deal with human relationships and their different views of perceiving
the best interest of the child. Based on these and other empirical findings Shapira-
Lishchinsky (2011) presents a systematic theoretical framework of five different types
of teachersmoral conflicts. The first type of moral conflicts is between the caring
climate and the formal climate. The caring climate refers to the attention of individual
and social needs, while the formal climate stresses compliance with different organi-
zational rules (e.g., school rules, educational standards). Typical moral conflicts of this
type include discipline problems (Tirri 1999). Distributive justice versus school stan-
dards is the second type of moral conflicts. Distributive justice relates to the fairness of
outcomes, such as when teachers use the principle of equity (outcomes allocated based
on inputs such as the students effort) or the principle of equality (outcomes allocated
based on equal input) to assess the fairness or unfairness of the outcome (e.g., rewards,
grades). School standards describe criteria which schools apply for reaching decisions.
This type of moral conflicts occurs when teachers perceive these criteria as unfair when
viewed against the outcome. The third type of moral conflicts is between confidentiality
and school rules. This type of moral conflicts arises when teachers have to decide
between sustaining the trust of a confiding pupil and adhering to the school rules which
require reporting the entrusted information to the administration, the parents, the school
psychologist or other institutions. Loyalty to colleagues versus school norms, the fourth
type of moral conflicts, arises when teachers witness the negligent or harmful behavior
of a colleague, or are informed of such behavior which is not in accordance with school
or educational norms, and find it difficult to confront the colleague (Campbell 2008).
The fifth type of moral conflicts appears when the educational agenda of the pupils
family is not consistent with the schoolseducational standards.Thistypeofmoral
conflict occurs when the teachers perception of the childs best interest differs from
66 A. Weinberger et al.
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that of the parents. Although existing research sheds light on the types of in-service
teachersmoral conflicts there is little published data on pre-service teachersmoral
problems (Millwater et al. 2004). Studies of pre-service teachersclassroom manage-
ment strategies in their practicum reveal that discipline problems are one of their
greatest challenges because they struggle with competing discourses concerning insti-
tutional needs for order and the individual needs of children (McNally et al. 2005;
Stoughton 2007). It is expected that pre-service teachersmoral conflicts focus partic-
ularly on issues of discipline.
In light of the preceding discussion the question arises how teachers deal with the
different moral conflicts. Evidence suggests that teachers lack competencies to solve
moral conflicts in a professional way (Campbell 2008; Shapira-Lishchinsky 2011).
Although teachers see the moral goals as important part of their professional practice
they miss adequate strategies to come up with a responsible and adequate solution. For
example, Klaassen (2002) describes teachers who react quite emotionally in case of a
moral conflict with pupils and tend to adopt an authoritarian approach to the situation.
They do not initiate a moral discussion in a systematic manner. And Campbell (2008)
reports about pre-service teachersexperience in their practicum, witnessing unprofes-
sional and sometimes harmful conduct of their supervising teachers. These findings do
not imply that teachers act immorally most of the time but that they miss adequate
strategies to solve morally laden situations in a professional way. Such strategies are
presented in the theory of professional discourse morality (Oser and Althof 1993).
According to this framework of teacher ethos five distinct basic forms of decision
making in situations of interpersonal conflicts can be distinguished. The first conflict
solution strategy is avoiding. It is characterized by the teachers avoidance to manage
the conflict and to take responsibility. Delegating, the second conflict solution strategy,
is characterized by an attempt to shift the responsibility to another hierarchical level of
decision-making, such as to the principal, the school administration, a professional
counsellor, the parents or colleagues. Unilateral (Bsingle-handed^) decision-making is
the third conflict solution strategy. Teachers with this predominant orientation solve
problems on their own and avoid negotiating distinct interests. The fourth conflict
solution strategy is named incomplete discourse. Teachers who employ this strategy try
to listen to all people who are involved in the conflict. However, the final decision to
solve the conflict is made by the teacher. Complete discourse, the fifth conflict solution
strategy, is characterized by an attempt to involve the pupils in all parts of the process of
decision-making. Teachers employing this strategy Bpresuppose^that students are able
to take responsibility and to find a good solution. According to this theory of teacher
ethos discursive conflict solution strategies (incomplete and complete discourse) are the
bases of a comprehensive professional morality because they involve the articulation of
personal values, beliefs, interests, and needs and the integration of all concerned parties
into the process of finding solutions. A discursive procedure can be learned and
includes (i) creating a Broundtable^situation in which all persons are able to freely
express their view, (ii) giving occasion for validating claims, (iii) presupposing that
every participant is rational and honest, and (iv) having faith that this procedure will
result in the morally best solution (Oser and Althof 1993). Empirical studies of
teachersdiscourse-orientations indicate that they rarely use discursive strategies.
Instead, they mostly adopt single-handed decision strategies to solve moral conflicts
in their classroom (Oser and Althof 1993; Tirri 1999).
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 67
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According to the reported empirical findings teachers seem to be insufficiently
equipped to make professional moral judgments. Studies from many countries docu-
ment that there is a lack of explicit attention to moral goals within programs of
professional education of teachers (Campbell 2008; Revell and Arthur 2007; Ryan
and Bohlin 1999; Willemse et al. 2008). According to these studies the main obstacle
for implementing moral goals in teacher education arises from the fact that this issue is
neglected in the curriculum and practice in favor of the subject matter. Drawing on this
unsatisfactory situation Sockett and LePage (2002, p. 171) conclude that B[m]oral
language is missing in the classrooms; but it is also missing in the seminar rooms
and lecture halls of teacher education.^A possible solution to this problem is addressed
by the instructional approach VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education; Patry et al.
VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education)
VaKE is based on the constructivist teaching and learning paradigm for the develop-
ment of moral judgment competence (Kohlberg 1984; this will be described below)
through the discussion of moral dilemmas (e.g., Schlaefli et al. 1985), as well as for the
acquisition of factual knowledge (e.g., Piaget 1985; Tobias and Duffy 2009)through
inquiry-based learning (e.g., Bell et al. 2010). The starting point of the learning process
is a moral dilemma which raises questions about what should be done; the dilemma
discussion then triggers questions about what is important to know. While the first
questions address moral judgment, the second ones refer to factual knowledge of a
specific subject or across subjects. The integration of moral judgment and knowledge
acquisition provides the possibility to address the moral goals without neglecting the
epistemic goals in different subjects. VaKE can be used in different settings including
vocational learning and education. In this study we describe the application of VaKE as
a moral decision making framework in the context of the professional education of
The underlying theory of moral judgment competence is Rest et al. (1999)further
development of Kohlbergs lifespan developmental theory which they applied to
adulthood and the professions. When faced with a moral dilemma a person resolves
the values conflict according to one of the following developmental perspectives each
representing a progressively more mature way of moral reasoning: First, the personal
interest schema describes individuals who lack a sociocentric perspective. The justifi-
cation for a conflict solution as morally right is based on the personal stake of the actor,
stressing notions such as survival or personal advantages. Second, the maintaining
norms schema indicates an increased sociocentric perspective. The justification for a
conflict solution as morally right refers then to the maintenance of rules which are clear,
consistent and apply to everyone. Third, the postconventional schema or the principled
level of moral reasoning is based on a sociocentric perspective. Moral dilemmas are
resolved on the basis of procedures aiming at producing consensus through appealing
to moral principles and logical coherence. Empirical studies testing hypotheses deduced
from this theoretical framework of cognition for teacher development show that
teachers at more principled levels of moral reasoning (i) hold a more humanistic-
democratic view of student discipline, (ii) consider different viewpoints, (iii) show
more tolerance for student disturbances, and (iv) stress student understanding of the
68 A. Weinberger et al.
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purpose of the rules (Chang 1994). A strong congruence exists between judgments and
actions (Johnson and Reiman 2007). Teachers at more principled levels of moral
reasoning let students more often participate in rule making and promote understanding
for the reason for the rules (Johnston and Lubomudrov 1987), show more listening
behavior (Reiman and Peace 2002), are more able to empathize with students and more
tolerant of diverse viewpoints (OKeefe and Johnston 1989). The most effective
interventions for stimulating moral growth with dilemma discussions involve real-life
dilemmas (Snarey and Samuelson 2008).
As shown repeatedly (e.g., in teacher education see Cummings et al. 2007)the
discussion of moral dilemmas in the tradition of Kohlberg is one of the most effective
ways to nurture this kind of ability of moral judgment. Such dilemma discussions are
used in VaKE; however, in these dilemmas the scope is expanded in that content related
issues are addressed as well, thus fostering the acquisition of factual knowledge.
Knowledge plays a crucial role during the dilemma discussion. New facts can spread
the effects of this discussion in three directions: to strengthen the favored argumentation
of the defended standpoint, to follow the opposing arguments and hence to change the
standpoint, or to develop a new perspective on a better problem solution. The aspect of
knowledge acquisition follows the constructivist developmental and learning theory of
Piaget (1985). According to this view, first, meaningful learning is not a passive process
of absorbing new information but an active one of building knowledge structures; this
applies also to teacher learning (Feiman-Nemser 2008). A dilemma discussion that
leaves open questions about factual information is such an opportunity as shown within
the theoretical framework of inquiry-based learning (e.g., Bell et al. 2010;Kuhnetal.
2000) because the students will attempt to answer these questions. Second, learning is
defined as an active process of altering mental structures in function of the interactions
with the social context. These interactions can result in so-called perturbations if new
concepts turn out to be contradictory to existing concepts. Such perturbations occur
predominantly in cases of dissent with one or several otherspoints of view. Two
possibilities allow the integration of a new concept: either by assimilation or by
accommodation. Assimilation means that the new concept can be integrated into the
existing structure in the sense of Bmore of the same^. Accommodation means a change
or partial reorganization of the mental structures as a precondition to integrate the new
concept. With regard to moral judgement accommodation nurtures the ability to find
arguments in favor or against certain values on a more principled level. Third, active
learning facilitates transfer of learning which is defined as Bthe ability to extend what
has been learned in one context to new contexts^(Bransford and Cocking 2000,p.51)
because the learners strive for understanding based on their personal experience
(Macaulay 2000). Different authentic problems in this study moral conflicts emanat-
ing from the studentspersonal experience are particularly powerful to trigger
learning through situated cognitions and thus to foster the transfer to future practical
application situations (Brown et al. 1989; Lave and Wenger 1991).
In its main tenets the prototypical course of a VaKE-lesson is constructed with
respect to these theoretical aspects. It comprises 11 steps which are summarized in
Fig. 1(Patry et al. 2013).
The learning process starts with the introduction of a content related moral dilemma
story, raising the question what the protagonist should do. The key facts of the story and
the competing values at stake are analyzed (step 1). The learners write down their
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 69
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argument and announce their decision. They recognize the different justifications for a
decision (step 2). This decision is followed by the discussion of the arguments within
small groups of learners. The discussion is guided by questions like (i) which conse-
quences are likely to follow the protagonists action?; (ii) would it be okay if every
person solved the conflict in this way?; (iii) how would you like to be treated as a
person who is concerned in such a situation?; (iv) what do you think the person feels in
this particular situation?; (v) are any moral rules or laws relevant? (step 3).
Subsequently, the groupsexperiences concerning the results of the argumentation
are exchanged although the dilemma discussion is usually not finished yet. More
importantly, at this stage of learning, open questions regarding necessary knowledge
are collected (step 4). The learners organize themselves in groups which search for the
necessary information in a systematic way using different sources of knowledge, while
the teacher acts as a manager and counsellor of the whole endeavor. The teacher may
also provide relevant information and take the role of an expert (step 5). The learners
exchange their new information so that all persons have the same level of knowledge
(step 6). Based on this, the discussion in the group will be continued (step 7) using the
new knowledge to strengthen or weaken the previous arguments. In a general discus-
sion the groups present the results of the dilemma discussion (current state of negoti-
ation) and all learners discuss their favored arguments (step 8). If the knowledge base is
not yet sufficient, the steps 4 to 8 are repeated once again. The learners can use
additional sources of knowledge and maybe set another focus (e.g., to satisfy curricular
needs) (step 9). In the final synthesis the learners present the solved problem or the
current state of the solution of the whole group. This can be done in didactically
sophisticated ways such as through a role-play (step 10). In the generalization the
learners deal with similar issues to broaden the perspective. They apply their solutions
to similar moral conflicts from their field of experience (step 11).
The effectivity of VaKE depends on several conditions (Weyringer et al. 2012).
First, in a constructivist learning setting the teacher gives priority to the learning goals
of the students, challenges their experiences, thinking and judgment, and gives guid-
ance only if it is necessary. She or he takes the role of a facilitator rather than a master
or moralizer. Second, the effectivity of a dilemma discussion depends on the establish-
ment of a learning climate which is characterized by mutual respect and trust (Lind
2005). Each participant has one vote and one voice regardless of her or his status and
power. It is important that the learners are able to discuss their own arguments and feel
VaKE (Values and Knowledge Education)
(1) Introducing the dilemma: Which values are at stake?
(2) First decision: Who is in favor, who against?
(3) First arguments (dilemma discussion): Why are you in favor, why against? Do we agree with
each other?
(4) Exchange experience and missing information: Exchange of arguments; what more do I need
to know to be able to argue further?
(5) Looking for evidence: Get the information, using any source available!
(6) Exchange of information: Present the information! Is the information sufficient?
(7) Second arguments (dilemma discussion): Why are you in favor, why against?
(8) Synthesis of information: Present your conclusions!
(9) Repeat 4 through 8 if necessary
(10) General synthesis: Closing the sequence capitalizing on the whole process!
(11) Generalization: Discussion about other related topics
Fig. 1 Steps in a prototypical VaKE-lesson (adapted from Patry et al. 2013,p.567)
70 A. Weinberger et al.
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absolutely safe to express their own opinion even if, for instance, this opinion is
contradictory to the teachers opinion. Third, the teacher has to change her or his role
according to the activities within the different steps of VaKE. During the dilemma
discussion, for example, she or he facilitates the moral reasoning of the learners through
challenging questions whereas during the information search he or she can take the role
of an expert.
Several empirical studies in school settings support the effects of VaKE on knowl-
edge construction (e.g., Weinberger 2006), as well as on the ability to moral argumen-
tation (Nussbaumer 2009), and on the development of identity and personality
(Weyringer 2008). We have made positive experiences with VaKE in several settings
of vocational learning and education in the social and healthcare professions
(Weyringer et al. 2013). A number of studies emphasize the applicability and
effectivity of VaKE in the professional education of teachers. For example, Keast
and Marangio (2015) showed that through VaKE pre-service teachers realized the
value-ladenness of science. In a study by Weinberger et al. (2013)VaKE was effective
to foster the quality of moral arguments. Weinberger et al. (2011)showedthatknowl-
edge functions as an important means for changing moral decisions in VaKE. And
Pnevmatikos and Patry (2012) investigated perspective-taking in VaKE-related activ-
ities. The present study adds the existing literature by addressing the question of
promoting moral action through VaKE by using authentic moral conflicts.
According to theoretical underpinnings (Shapira-Lishchinsky 2011) and the results of
empirical studies mentioned above (e.g., Tirri 1999)teachersmoral conflicts are based
on interpersonal relationships. Conflicts are always about values, and interpersonal
conflicts are about different (groups of) people defending different, incompatible
values. Since teaching and education is always social (interpersonal), and as far as
teaching and education are concerned, teachersand pre-service teachersmoral con-
flicts are about interpersonal relationships. This holds for the choice of the content to be
taught since it is for the students that the teachers choose their topics and how to teach
them. This is even more so the case for explicitly interpersonal conflicts between
teachers and students like discipline problems which are one of the greatest challenges
for pre-service teachers (Stoughton 2007). Based on this reflection, the first hypothesis
is that most interpersonal conflicts reported by pre-service teachers are different types
of discipline problems.
Such conflicts can be addressed in VaKE in the professional education of teachers
(see above) as an approach to address authentic moral conflicts through moral dilemma
discussion in combination with the inquiry-based acquisition of knowledge that might
be helpful in such situations like problem solving strategies. Such discussions empha-
size discursive conflict resolution strategies which are considered to be justifiable ways
to address the moral issues of interpersonal conflicts (Oser and Althof 1993). Through
active learning and the use of different authentic moral problems transfer of learning
can be enhanced (e.g., Bransford and Cocking 2000; Brown et al. 1989). The second
hypothesis claims that learning with VaKE increases the application of pre-service
teachersdiscourse-oriented actions to resolve interpersonal conflicts in their practicum.
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 71
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Moral dilemma discussions include activities which are conducive to a moral climate
like mutual trust, opportunities to discuss, and respect for each others view. The third
hypothesis is that this applies also to VaKE, namely that VaKE fosters a moral learning
Context and Participants
This practice-based study was conducted in a private College of Teacher Education in
Austria. Colleges of Teacher Education in Austria educate teachers for primary schools
and general secondary schools. Both school types cover the compulsory school edu-
cation of pupils between the ages of 6 and 14 years. The academic program of
prospective teachers for compulsory schools is complemented with weekly workplace
learning in associated primary or secondary schools. This practicum comprises the
preparation and performance of one school-lesson by the pre-service teacher.
Fifty-eight pre-service teachers (13 males; mean age: 22.7; range: 19.6 to 40.1 years)
participated in the study. The participants formed two classes (N
=32; N
=26); they
were in the second year of their professional education for becoming a teacher in
general secondary schools. Both classes were taught by the same teacher educator who
was also the primary researcher of this study. All participants gave informed consent to
take part in the study. They were assured that the data would be treated confidentially.
The study was embedded in a 1 ECTS credit course called BConflict management in the
context of social learning^which both classes attended consecutively. This course
lasted 8 units (each lasting 90 min) and was scheduled once every second week in the
summer semester of 2013. The course contents focused on types and emergence of
conflicts in school, conflict solution strategies, and classroom management methods.
Research Design and Procedure
The study consisted of three research phases, each of which addressed one hypothesis.
In the first phase, which addressed the first hypothesis, the teacher educator examined
the types of moral conflicts the pre-service teachers are faced with during their practical
school training. In the second phase addressing the second hypothesis, the teacher
educator chose four most frequently occurring types of moral conflicts and used them
as basis for an explorative quasi-experimental pre- and posttest study to investigate the
effects of VaKE with regard to the pre-service teachersapplication of discourse-
oriented actions for conflict resolution. The two classes were assigned randomly to
the VaKE or a traditional case-analysis condition. The standardized case-analysis
approach was based on the principles of Merseth (1996) which include (i) studying
the case individually, reviewing important data and answering study questions provided
with the case by the teacher educator, (ii) studying the case in small groups, sharing
insights and opinions, and (iii) discussing the case in the larger seminar group under the
guidance of the teacher educator. In the comparison group the focus was on content-
centered learning; moral discussions were not included. The participants of the com-
parison group received VaKE-lessons after the completion of the study. The
72 A. Weinberger et al.
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interventions in both groups lasted 4 units of 90 min and in each of these units the
teacher educator used one of the four chosen practical moral conflicts. In both groups
the same moral conflicts were used and the same contents were addressed, namely
strategies of classroom management and behavioral modification, legal issues of
pupilstreatment and the discourse approach. In the third phase, which was related to
the third hypothesis, the teacher educator used a case study method comprising of a
random sample of seven pre-service teachers chosen from each class to investigate the
perceived learning climate during the intervention. This research phase started after the
completion of the intervention.
The data were collected using two instruments. First, it was part of the homework
assignment to write reflections upon ten school-lessons of the practicum with a
particular focus on interpersonal conflict situations (it was not possible to ask for more
reflections due to the ECTS workload allotted to this course). The instruction was as
follows: BWrite down an interpersonal conflict situation in which you had difficulty to
decide the right way to act^. Two specifications were given: 1. Describe the conflict
situation as detailed as possible, and 2. describe the solution strategy used as detailed as
possible. In the first phase five reflections of each pre-service teacher were content-
analyzed with regard to the type of moral conflict (hypothesis 1). Since the reflections
were not declared as research investigations but were homework assignments used in
teaching, the assessment can be considered as non-reactive (Webb et al. 1981).
Permission was obtained from each student to use the data. In the second phase the
ten reflections of each pre-service teacher (five for pretest and five for posttest) were
content-analyzed with regard to discourse-oriented actions (hypothesis 2).
The second instrument was a semi-structured interview (Bogdan and Biklen 1992,
pp. 104ff). The main question for the interview was as follows: BHow did you perceive
the learning climate during the intervention?^All interviews were digitally audio-
recorded, transcribed in smooth verbatim style and crosschecked for accuracy. The
interviews were used in the third research phase to examine the perceived learning
climate during the intervention with VaKE (hypothesis 3).
The text material of the reflections and the transcribed interviews were analyzed
following the procedure for qualitative content analysis outlined by Mayring (2014,
p. 10) who defines qualitative content analysis as a mixed methods approach which
includes the Bassignment of categories to text as qualitative step, [and] working through
many text passages and analysis of frequencies of categories as quantitative step.^The
structuring technique within the qualitative step was used, which is characterized by the
assignment of the text units to deductively conceived categories based on prior
theoretical concepts. After a first pilot coding, the categories were revised, partially
reformulated, and some new categories were added. In order to ensure the quality of the
content analysis, intercoder-reliability was checked (Krippendorff 2013, pp. 267ff). A
second person who was instructed and trained to apply the category system coded
independently 50 % randomly chosen written reflections and all the transcribed
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 73
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interviews. Coding disagreements were discussed and resolved through consensus
about the proper coding.
In the first research phase, the category system for analyzing the type of interper-
sonal conflict was derived from empirical studies about the types of moral conflicts and
dilemmas of teachers (e.g., Stoughton 2007; Tirri 1999). The coding unit was deter-
mined as the whole paragraph of the description of the conflict situation. Five reflec-
tions for each person were analyzed. The intercoder-reliability prior to achieving
consensus in cases of disagreement proved to be very high (KrippendorffsAlpha:
.87). Differences in the frequencies of the types of interpersonal conflicts were analyzed
using a chi-squared test. In the second research phase, the category system for
analyzing types of discourse-oriented teacher actions were based on the theoretical
framework and practical background of VaKE (Patry et al. 2013) and the discursive
morality (Oser and Althof 1993). Inductively conceived categories emanating from the
text were added. The recording unit was determined as the description of the solution
strategy; the coding unit was specified as phrases and sentences which refer to a
specific discourse-oriented action. Each category was coded once if it appeared several
times in one reflection. For each measuring time five reflections for each person were
analyzed. The intercoder-reliability for the content analysis prior to consensus proved
to be very high (Krippendorffs Alpha: .94). Differences between pre- and posttests
were analyzed using an analysis of variance with repeated measurement. In the third
research phase, the category system for analyzing the perceived learning climate was
derived from the theoretical and practical background of VaKE. The coding unit was
defined as phrases and sentences referring to a specific factor of the learning climate. 14
interviews (seven for each group) were analyzed. The intercoder-reliability prior to
consensus was satisfying (Krippendorffs Alpha: .79). Differences between the exper-
imental and comparison groups were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance.
Tab le 1summarizes the absolute and relative frequencies of types of moral conflicts the
pre-service teachers are faced with in their practicum. The first and most frequently
mentioned category in both classes is BDisturbance^which deals with situations such
as talking during class, tapping with feet or causing paper to rustle. The second
category is BProvocation^. Provocations are defined as actions of pupils that cause
the pre-service teacher to become angry. Pre-service teachers describe situations such as
calling them with a nickname, calling them Bstudent^, or mocking them. The third
category is BRefusal to learn^which is defined as saying or showing that a pupil is not
willing to do something the pre-service teacher wants the pupil to do. Pre-service
teachers mention situations as ignoring assignments, not participating in teamwork
activities, or throwing down pencils and notebooks. The fourth category is BAggressive
behavior^which refers to some pupils tormenting behavior against another pupil.
Aggressive behavior is defined as behavior that causes physical or emotional harm to
others. Classroom situations of this category include scuffles, teasing, or bullying.
BConventional rule transgression^appeared to be a further category. Conventional
74 A. Weinberger et al.
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rules are determined as rules which are contingent, local, and facilitate social coordi-
nation through shared understandings of etiquette (Huebner et al. 2010). They also
include school rules. Typical classroom situations of conventional rule transgressions
imply leaving the classroom without permission, or remaining seated when the pre-
service teacher enters the class. The category BMoral rule transgression^includes for
example lying or cheating. And the category BLoyalty conflict^which was mentioned
least frequently points to competing values between the pre-service teacher and the
class teacher. Most of the reported interpersonal conflicts deal with matters of discipline
and student behavior. The result of a chi-squared test indicates significant differences
between the frequencies of types of moral conflicts (χ
(6)= 107.10; p<.001; ϕ=.62).
The frequencies between the two classes do not differ significantly (χ
(6)= 3.38; ns;
ϕ=.21). These findings support hypothesis 1.
Application of Different Discourse-Oriented Actions
Tab le 2indicates the mean scores of the discourse-oriented actions for the experimental
and comparison groups. The first row lists the types of interpersonal actions which
were mentioned by the pre-service teachers. The category BListen to the pupil^refers to
paying attention to the pupil in order to hear what she or he says. The category BAsking
questions for clarification^refers to the teachers questions in order to make the conflict
easier to understand (e.g., BCould you explain what happened?^). The category
BGetting close to the pupil^is defined as approaching the pupil to initiate a private
conversation. Asking questions about reasons for a specific behavior refers to the
category BAsking questions for justification^(e.g., BWhy are you crying?^BWhy
arent you writing?^). The category BProposing a resolution^includes suggestions
for conflict resolutions to be considered by the pupil (e.g., BWhat do you think about
this suggestion?^). Assertions of feelings belong to the category BI-statements^(e.g., BI
am angry about the noise!^). The category BSitting next to the pupil^specifies the
intention of the teacher to get at eye-level with the pupil. Questions to view the situation
from an alternate point-of-view relate to the category BAsking questions for perspec-
tive-taking^(e.g., BWhat do you think he feels about this?^). And the category BAsking
questions for resolution^refers to the teachers questions to think about a possible
solution to the conflict (e.g., BWhat do you suggest to resolve this problem?^).
Tab le 1 Absolute and relative frequencies of types of moral conflicts in two classes
Types of moral conflicts Class 1 Class 2
1. Disturbance 43 .27 31 .24
2. Provocation 32 .20 33 .25
3. Refusal to learn 32 .20 28 .21
4. Aggressive behavior 24 .15 18 .14
5. Conventional rule transgression 21 .13 15 .11
6. Moral rule transgression 4 .03 3 .02
7. Loyalty conflict 4 .03 2 .02
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 75
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A descriptive analysis of Table 2shows that discourse-oriented actions such as
listen to the pupil or asking questions for clarification are more frequently
mentioned by the pre-service teachers than asking questions for perspective
taking or asking questions for resolution. In the comparison group pre-service
teachers do not express I-statements or ask for resolution in case of a moral
conflict. Given the naturalistic context of the study, it was not possible to control
for all potential differences between the participants in the experimental and
comparison groups. However, an analysis of variance showed that the pretest
scores of each discourse-oriented action did not differ between the participants of
both groups (pranges from .079 for BGetting close to the pupil^to .839 for
BAsking questions for justification^).
In order to determine differences between the experimental and comparison
groups a repeated measures analysis of variance was performed. The dependent
variable was a composite discourse-oriented action score built from the nine
items in order to enhance reliability. Time (pretest vs. posttest) was the within
subject factor and group (experimental group vs. comparison group) the between
subject factor. The interaction of time by group was found to be significant
(F(1,56)=16.67, p<.001, partial η
=.23). Further analysis of this effect using
paired samples t-tests with Bonferroni corrected alpha-level reveal a significant
increase of the discourse-oriented action score of the experimental group (t(31)=
6.71, p<.001, d=1.02) from M=.23 (SD= .28) in the pretest to M=.72 (SD=.52)
in the posttest, whereas in the comparison group no significant difference was
found (t(25)= .40, ns,d=.09; M
=.27, SD=.25; M
=.31, SD=.44). The
main effect time was significant (F(1,56)=22.08, p< .001, partial η
indicating a significant difference of the discourse-oriented action score summa-
rized across both groups. Furthermore, the main effect group was significant
(F(1,56)=4.32, p<.05, partial η
=.07), indicating a significant difference of the
discourse-oriented action score summarized across both measurement times.
These findings support hypothesis 2.
Tab le 2 Means and standard deviations (SD) of discourse-oriented actions in the experimental and compar-
ison group for the pre- and posttest
Discourse-oriented action Experimental Group Comparison Group
Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest
1. Listen to the pupil .65 (.86) 1.84 (1.25) .85 (.97) .88 (1.11)
2. Asking questions for clarification .38 (.61) .88 (.88) .46 (.81) .54 (.90)
3. Getting close to the pupil .31 (.54) 1.03 (1.15) .61 (.75) .61 (1.02)
4. Asking questions for justification .22 (.55) .69 (.86) .19 (.41) .23 (.43)
5. Proposing a resolution .16 (.37) .75 (.98) .19 (.49) .08 (.27)
6. Expressing I-statements .13 (.42) .53 (.76) –– .04 (.31)
7. Sitting next to the pupil .09 (.30) .38 (.75) .08 (.27) .12 (.33)
8. Asking questions for perspective taking .09 (.30) .16 (.37) .04 (.20) .12 (.33)
9. Asking questions for resolution .03 (.18) .22 (.55) –– .15 (.46)
76 A. Weinberger et al.
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Perceived Moral Learning Climate
The results of the content analysis of the transcribed interviews with regard to the
perceived moral learning climate are presented in Table 3. The pre-service teachers
mentioned five categories. The category BOpenness^is defined as the free expression
of ones true view about the moral conflict. As an example, a pre-service teacher stated:
BEveryone was allowed to express her or his opinion. It was a real discussion which
was characterized by all students having the possibility to express contradictory
arguments.^The category BTrust^relates to the belief that the learning group and the
teacher educator are reliable. One pre-service teacher, for example, said: BIn a way trust
has increased. We had the feeling that our views are welcome and appreciated.^The
category BRespect^is defined as acting in a way which shows that the acting person is
aware of the human rights of the other person. A pre-service teacher stated: BIalsohad
the impression that we students expressed contradictory opinions to each other in a
more respectable way than usually.^The category BFreedom from anxiety^relates to
explicit statements about safety and a missing feeling of fear. One pre-service teacher
remarked: BI had no fear to express my argument because it was clear for us that each
argument was appreciated and that an argument cant be wrong. None of the students
was laughing about an uncommon argument.^The category BAuthenticity^is defined
as actions which are true to ones personality. One person stated: BIt is usually not very
common in our classes that we are allowed to express our real opinions. But during the
VaKE-classes it was possible.^
In order to determine whether there is a difference between the experimental and
comparison group a one-way analysis of variance with the total score of each partic-
ipant was performed. Levenes test indicated unequal variances (F=11.39, p<.05), so a
WelchsF-test was performed (Moder 2010). The results indicate a significant differ-
ence between the experimental and comparison group (F(1,7)=10.26, p<.05, partial
=.46). Participants in the experimental group mention significantly more often a
category than the participants in the comparison group. The descriptive analysis
indicates differences between the experimental and comparison groups primarily with
regard to BTrust^and BRespect^. Most of the interviewed pre-service teachers who
learned according to VaKE perceived mutual trust and respect, which are important
conditions for moral dilemma discussions, whereas participants who learned according
Tab le 3 Category frequencies of the perceived moral climate
Experimental Group Comparison Group
Category Nof Codings Nof Persons Nof Codings Nof Persons
Openness 29 6 17 7
Trust 11 6 ––
Respect 9 5 ––
Freedom from anxiety 6 3 3 1
Authenticity 3 1 2 1
Total 58 7 22 7
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 77
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to the content-centered case-analysis approach did not mention these factors. The
categories BOpenness^,BFreedomfromanxiety^and BAuthenticity^can be found in
both groups. A possible explanation is the discussion-based setting in both groups. In a
summary, the results support hypothesis 3.
Previous studies of VaKE in teacher education focused on the applicability of this
approach addressing questions related to pre-service teachersmoral values and moral
judgment. The present practice-based study went further and investigated the effectivity
of VaKE with a particular focus on promoting moral action. It was of particular interest
whether VaKE can help pre-service teachers to deal more appropriately with moral
conflicts they are faced with in their practicum, namely through discourse-oriented
actions, and whether VaKE enhances the moral climate.
First, the study showed the importance of using practice-based research in the
present context. Practice-based research is defined, in its most general form, as
Binvestigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice
and the outcomes of that practice^(Candy 2006, p. 1). More specifically, the systematic
inquiry of teachers into their own practice, labelled as practitioner research or practi-
tioner inquiry (Cochran-Smith and Lytle 2009; Groundwater-Smith and Mockler 2009;
Mockler and Sachs 2011), has a long tradition dating back to Deweys conception of
the teacher as a reflective practitioner (1904). Indeed, addressing moral problems in
class requires a high degree of reflexivity, and through capitalizing on the students
practical experiences when addressing these problems and using a constructivist
teaching approach (VaKE) it was hoped that this reflexivity can be enhanced towards
dealing more competently with future moral problems - whether the teacher education
was successful in this regard could not be investigated within this study.
Several major genres of practitioner research can be distinguished (Cochran-Smith
and Lytle 2009). The present study belongs to the genre the scholarship of teaching
(Hutchings et al. 2011; Perry and Smart 2007) which describes systematic research of
higher education faculty across disciplines who investigate their own teaching practices
(in the present study, the teacher educator using VaKE) and student learning Bwith an
eye not only to improving their own classroom but to advancing practice beyond it^
(Hutchings and Shulman 1999, p. 13); the latter issue refers to the studentsuse of their
practical experience and the presumable sustainability of their learning for future
practice. The common characteristics of all versions of practitioner research in educa-
tion according to Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2009) are all met in the study:
i. the teacher educator assumes the dual role as practitioner (by practizing VaKE with
a focus on studentspractical experiences) and researcher (by evaluating VaKE),
ii. the researchers workplace is the site of inquiry,
iii. the problems and issues within professional practice (on one hand, moral prob-
lems in class, on the other using VaKE as teaching tool) are the focus of
iv. knowledge generation as a means to improve practice through application of that
knowledge (by improving teacher education courses),
78 A. Weinberger et al.
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v. the boundaries between practice and inquiry are blurred insofar as the same issues,
namely moral problems, are the topic of the research as well as of the teaching,
further, the assessments were both homework assignments for the teaching process
as well as scientific investigation.
vi. both teaching and research are intentional, which relates to the planned and
deliberate nature of research, and
vii. they are systematic, which refers to organized methods of data collection and
While the results of the study seem fairly conclusive, it must be underlined that
several restrictions apply. First, VaKE was a new teaching and learning method for the
pre-service teachers which could have resulted in a particular motivation to work
harder. Second, only one instrument was used to assess the discourse-oriented actions
and the moral climate. Second instruments for both variables would have contributed to
enhancing the validity of the results. Third, the teacher educator as a researcher taught
in both groups and knew the hypotheses. He could have unconsciously influenced the
participants. Fourth, the sample of pre-service teachers was quite small (only two
classes), so that one can question the representativeness of the results. Fifth, the non-
random sample could have resulted in a biased sample, making it difficult to generalize
the collected data. And finally, there is no indication for the sustainability of the effects.
The findings can be explained by the short time distance between intervention and
measurement. These restrictions were due to the conditions, particularly to time
constraints of the learners. To strengthen the assertibility of the conclusions replication
studies are necessary, which are planned.
Overall, the study showed that VaKE can be an effective tool to improve
teacher education courses if the pre-service teachers apply it to their own practical
situations. This application can be supported by the teacher educators research
activities to adapt VaKE to the particularities of his or her learners (pre-service
teachers). The practical application of VaKE for practical problems is part of a
program which includes teaching about VaKE in different settings of vocational
learning as well; this can capitalize on the results of this study. It could be shown
that learning with VaKE fosters a positive learning climate based on mutual trust
and respect. A positive climate provides an important foundation for effective
teaching and supportive learning environments in school and in professional
education (Taylor 1997).ItcouldalsobeshownthatVaKE fosters meaningful
learning resulting in an immediate transfer of the acquired knowledge to real
moral conflicts in the classroom. Transfer is considered as the ultimate goal of
each professional and vocational education (Macaulay 2000).
Problematic teaching situations, such as classroom disturbances, refusal of learning,
aggressive behavior, rule transgression, and provocations as experienced by the pre-
service teachers, are important issues and need to be addressed in a professional
education of teachers (Stoughton 2007); according to constructivist views it is partic-
ularly important that the pre-service teachers perceive the respective problematic
situation as their own (Lave and Wenger 1991). So they do first a research on such
situations in their (restricted) practical experience; this is the first step of practitioner
research. The research on their own practice includes also their reactions, in this case
the discourse-oriented actions. These results will be important in the VaKE process.
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 79
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In the VaKE process itself dilemma situations are addressed. As recognized in a
previous study (Weinberger et al. 2013) self-determined dilemma situations are more
powerful in VaKE than dilemma situations that are imposed from the outside. Further,
the pre-service teachersown reactions discursive or not are addressed in the VaKE
process. The latter hence is a research process about the studentsown practice, which
turns into a learning process. And as it turns out, indeed, the students recognize the
appropriateness of discourse-oriented actions, which means that in the VaKE process
they question their own behavior and eventually adapt it to better fulfil the requirements
that they have formulated themselves during VaKE. This result, we assume, can also be
accounted for by the moral climate as perceived by the students, with particular
emphasis on mutual trust and respect which have been recognized by the majority of
the interviewed participants.
The practice-based study has shown that using VaKE as a means to integrate the
moral and epistemic goals in a professional education of teachers is possible and
effective. It extends previous findings by showing that it is possible to use authentic
moral conflicts drawn from personal experience, in the particular case dealing with
social interaction issues, and it has made it plausible that this practice-based approach
has an impact on the pre-service teachersbehavior, namely the application of
discourse-oriented actions in interpersonal conflicts. This experience corroborates
experiences in other contexts (Patry et al. 2013) and provides further insights into the
use of VaKE in teacher education (Keast and Marangio 2015; Pnevmatikos and Patry
2012; Weinberger et al. 2011; Weinberger 2014).
Wedonotclaim,however,thatVaKE should substitute all of the common
approaches in teacher education. Instead we suggest that there are important topics
that allow addressing the moral and epistemic goals simultaneously. We also do not
claim that VaKE is the only approach that fulfills the double assignment in teacher
education. There are certainly other methods, and maybe these are more effective. On
the other hand we also do not contend that VaKE itself cannot be improved with respect
to different educational settings here again further research is necessary.
Acknowledgements This research was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (TRP 56-G17) and
the Austrian Federal Ministery of Education an Women's Affairs (BMUKK 20.040/0014-I/7/2011).
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and repro-
duction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a
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Alfred Weinberger born January, 1969, is professor at the Private University College of Education of the
Diocese of Linz, Austria. He received his teachers degree for general secondary schools (grades 5 to 8) in
1990 and his PhD-degree for Education from the University of Salzburg in 2005. He worked as a teacher in
general secondary schools from 1991 until 2008 (subjects taught: German, Biology, Arts). Since 2008 he is
working as a teacher trainer (subjects taught: Educational Theory, Scientific Methodology, Research Methods,
Conflict Management, Mentoring). He is also a lecturer at the University of Salzburg, Department of
Education (course taught: Moral and Values Education) and at the University of Linz, Department of
Economic Education (course taught: pedagogics). His main research activities are focused on constructivist
teaching, moral education, professional education, practitioner research and evaluation.
Improving Professional Practice through Practice-Based Research 83
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Jean-Luc Patry born may 31, 1947, is professor of education and working at the department of education of
the University of Salzburg (Austria). He received his diploma in natural science (in 1972), his teacher
certificate (biology), and his doctoral degree (1976) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich,
and his habilitation at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, for Bresearch in education^, 1991. His main
research activities have focused on situation specificity of human actions, on methodological questions such as
evaluation theory, field research, critical multiplism, on the relationship between theory and practice, on meta-
theoretical questions of educational research, on questions of moral development and education, on profes-
sional responsibility, on constructivism in education, etc. 1972 through 1975, he worked at the Institute for
Behavioral Science at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich, Switzerland), 1975 through 1993 at
the Pedagogical Institute of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). 1982 through 1984, he was visiting
scholar at the universities of Stanford, Lehigh, and Salzburg. Back in Switzerland, he was vice president of the
Swiss Educational Research Association and editor of the journal BBildungsforschung und Bildungspraxis/
Education et Recherche^. Since 1993, he is Full Professor of Education at the Institute of Educational Science
(now Department of Education) at the University of Salzburg; from 1995 through 1997 and from 1999
through 2004 he has been Head of the Institute, 2003 through 2006 he was member of the University Senate.
Dr. Sieglinde Weyringer is Senior Lecturer at the Paris Lodron University Salzburg, Department of
Education; she received his PhD-degree from the University of Salzburg in 2008. She also holds an
international certificate for gifted education. She is Founder and President of ECHA-Austria (European
Council of High Ability). Her research interest lies in the special challenges of educating gifted persons,
especially on education for European citizenship, for responsibility and international teamwork.
84 A. Weinberger et al.
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... This approach exposes students to topics relevant to their profession, clarifies their value-related importance, and allows them to form an independent opinion while emphasizing practices of dialogue and argumentation. Despite the potential of VaKE for deepening students' domain-specific knowledge, research thus far has chiefly been focused on the social, moral, or epistemic aspects associated with this approach (Keast and Marangio, 2015), students' critical thinking regarding a moral dilemma (Pnevmatikos et al., 2019) and lifelong learning skills such as responsibility-taking (Pnevmatikos et al., 2016), or challenges associated with its implementation (Weyringer et al., 2012;Weinberger et al., 2016). Hence, whereas these studies show that argumentative skills can be honed through dialogic argumentation practices, they do not explore how this in turn may impact the learning of domain-specific knowledge. ...
Full-text available
While argumentation emerges as one of the major learning skills in the twenty-first century, a somewhat opaque landscape is revealed in terms of identifying its potential in enhancing higher-education students’ domain-specific knowledge. In this study, argumentation-for-learning activity with digital concept mapping (CM) was designed and compared with a traditional teacher-centered activity to determine the former’s effectiveness in promoting students’ domain-specific factual, conceptual, and procedural knowledge. This study also examines how the proposed activity may contribute to students’ academic efficacy and thus promote meaningful learning. A quasi-experimental design was employed by using convenience samples. Two identical courses were selected for this research: the first course with a total of 59 students (the research group), and the second course including a total of 63 students (the control group). Both groups’ domain-specific knowledge was assessed before and after the activity. The designed activity was found to be less effective in fostering factual knowledge and more effective in developing the conceptual and procedural knowledge domains. Another finding demonstrated the benefits of argumentation for learning with CM in facilitating students’ academic efficacy. It can be concluded that engaging students in a deep argumentation learning process may in turn deepen predominantly conceptual and procedural domain-specific knowledge. Limitations and implications are discussed.
... The VaKE approach used in this study, as a special constructivist approach in the context of values-oriented education and ethical thinking, considers self-regulation or internal control for learning as a core requirement. Moreover, the central methodology within VaKE is the discussion of a conflict of values that can, in turn, foster moral reasoning (Weinberger et al., 2016). The current study elaborates on previous studies by showing how VaKE session discussions centering on moral conflicts might be supported by using digital concept maps and encouraging the learners to exchange different arguments. ...
Full-text available
Concept mapping has received increasing attention and application in higher education as an effective instructional strategy. However, little is known about how higher-education students’ different motivations for learning might be related to the way they use digital concept mapping for effective learning. This study sought to design and assess an intervention program that employs digital concept mapping in problem-based learning and to evaluate the effectiveness of using this tool among students with different achievement-goal profiles on learning and deep versus surface approaches to learning. Data were collected from 129 undergraduate students from three higher-education institutions located in Israel and Austria and analyzed by using Partial Least Squares - Structural Equation Modeling. The findings indicated that digital concept mapping could benefit higher-education students, specifically at the cognitive level, in order to specify and identify the interrelationships among arguments and to learn about the topic. Another finding showed that deep learners and mastery-approach learners perceived concept mapping as an effective tool mainly for self-regulating their learning during the intervention. It is suggested to find ways to scaffold surface learners’ involvement in activities that enable them to solve complex problems by underlining the benefits of technology-enabled platforms for their learning and thus have them acknowledge concept mapping as a practice that fosters meaningful learning.
... From our viewpoints, research knowledge in EFL education should seek out advances in EFL teaching-learning processes and in understanding the teaching profession. In this regard, Viáfara-González (2008), Cárdenas-Ramos and Faustino (2003), and Weinberger et al. (2016) agreed that research knowledge in EFL education promotes reflection and skillful conceptualization about the profession. ...
Full-text available
This paper presents a study that explores the role of pair-work tasks to promote educational research in 20 pre-service English language teachers (eleven males and nine females) of a Colombian public university. The project was carried out to enhance educational research skills and knowledge by developing theoretical-practical pair-work research tasks. Data was collected through observation field notes, semi-structured interviews, and field journals. The results suggest that pair-work research tasks increased learners' opportunities to acquire theoretical and practical educational research knowledge and skills. Due to this exercise, the participants learned to define, formulate research objectives-questions, review the literature, and state research methodologies to finally write their research proposals. Additionally, pair-work research assignments offered an effective way to work together, negotiate, reach agreements, and gain experience by conducting theoretical and practical research exercises.
... One of its applications, the values and knowledge education (VaKE) approach, is an intensive training session, which can be employed as a violence prevention strategy. As a learning method, it combines constructivist learning and values education to develop moral judgment competencies [64]. ...
Full-text available
This article constructs a comprehensive theoretical model that outlines bystanders’ emotional and behavioral responses to the mistreatment of adolescent peers. The model captures bystanders’ risk and health risk behaviors, which have been overlooked in the context of their reactions; when addressed at all in connection with bystanders of bullying among adolescents, they have been treated separately. Here, we present bystanders’ emotional and cognitive reactions and their impact on bystanders’ responses including a set of responses that demonstrate risk and health risk behaviors that are directed to the bystander as a victim by proxy. The theoretical framework is the conservation of resources theory, which posits that personal resources (i.e., potency and moral disengagement) and social resources impact the process that leads to bystanders’ reactions. Previous models have overlooked the integrative viewpoint of bystanders, and comprehensive models that explain bystanders’ behavioral and emotional responses have received little attention especially with regards to adolescents. Two recent models overlooked core features embedded in the current model, including the risk and health risk behaviors that it integrates. The proposed model presents a novel and more comprehensive view of bystanders’ reactions and the process underlying these reactions. It integrates existing knowledge embedded in other existing models. At the same time, this perspective indicates the centricity of potency as a key resource that dictates the emotional response and behaviors of bystanders. This potentially allows for new applications in the mitigation of adverse impacts that follow the witnessing of mistreatment. The article discusses these applications, which are based on previous findings, their implications for practice, and directions for future empirical research necessary to validate the model.
... We therefore imagine considerable potential for using the dilemma as a teaching medium. Consistent with the well-established approaches of dilemma discussion (Lind 2019;Weinberger et al. 2016;Brady 2010:217-20;Patry et al. 2007) and children's philosophy/theology (Zimmermann 2015;Schweitzer 2014;Vansieleghem and Kennedy 2011), we assume that learning using the poplar dilemma or the four evaluation categories could stimulate deeper argumentation and reflection when dealing with environmental decisions. An appropriate way, for instance, could be to discuss polarising statements from the dilemma instrument, such as "The tree was there first". ...
Studies have repeatedly shown that the goals of environmental education are as indispensable as they are difficult to achieve. In particular, the discrepancy between environmental awareness and everyday actions seems to be particularly large and strongly dependent on personal factors. Against this background, the authors argue that the evaluation of everyday environmental situations should be considered and different personal orientations should be addressed. In a study among more than 1,100 secondary school students in Germany and Austria, an instrument was developed and tested that focuses on an everyday environmental dilemma and its evaluation. The use of this instrument identified five types of student orientations, each of which was accompanied by a typical evaluation pattern. The authors conclude that the instrument is applicable to educational practice as classroom tool, to identify students’ environmental orientations and develop teaching programmes that can deal with these personal predispositions in an appropriate and differentiating manner.
... It is a constructivist teaching method that emphasises active participation of the individual in the learning process, and the main aim is to combine values and knowledge education (Patry, Weyringer, and Weinberger 2007, 160). It has been used in diverse educational settings (Patry, Weyringer, and Weinberger 2007;Patry et al. 2013;Weinberger, Patry, and Weyringer 2016), including in Norway (Haara and Smith 2012). ...
The present article critically analyses the pedagogical efforts of two teachers to promote values education and intercultural reflection in their own educational practice. They teach in higher education in Norway and most of their students have majority backgrounds. Based on their teaching experiences with VaKE (Values and Knowledge education), the article discusses opportunities and challenges when working with values education in majority student groups. It concludes that discussing values is difficult but can be eye opening. It also raises the question of which dilemmas can prevent stereotyping and foster more complex intercultural thinking and shows that intercultural education requires a discussion of one’s own cultural position. The article highlights the teacher’s crucial role in the VaKE-process regarding the aims of intercultural values education.
The potential connections between teachers' personal SEL skills of self-management and self-awareness and the effective application of reflective practices were explored in this action research study. This focus area is supported by the work of John Dewey (who is thought to be the founder of reflection for personal learning) and Donald Schon (who is credited with linking reflection to professional development and professional practice.) This study found that teachers who frequently use a variety of reflective practices as a part of their routine have stronger personal SEL skills as evidenced by teachers who reported using three or more reflective activities on a regular basis. Additionally, the results showed that those who use reflection regularly have high expectations, the desire to grow, and modify their plans as they learn, but need assistance with goal-setting. Practical suggestions for school counselors and teacher collaboration to improve skills are also provided.
The article explores and discusses whether we as action researchers are undermining or subverting our own intuitions and intentions, or at least not doing justice to it, when mixing a) learning and exploration through individual and collective action and reflection, with b) elements from conventional research methods. The article’s basic question: Can the intentions and results from a) be reduced to and validated fully or partly through b) conventional methods? Can we save the scientific legitimacy of action research by ultimately resorting to conventional methods and theories? What does action research uniquely add in relation to conventional learning, knowledge generation, and change projects? We discuss some challenges raised by questions like these, and suggest ways of handling them. After exploring ways of being “seduced” by conventional methods, we conclude by recommending a gnoseology to replace a one-dimensional epistemology, and by explaining and recommending the procedure of immanent critique as a way of developing insights and competencies from the inside of practices; i. e. a genuinely Action research method.
Full-text available
Sammendrag: Norge har blitt et flerkulturelt samfunn. Det økende kulturelle mangfoldet preger både yrkeslivet og utdanningssystemet. I dag har læreren ansvar både for å se elevene i et helhetlig perspektiv og å bidra til deres integrering i samfunnet. I denne artikkelen belyser vi noen av utfordringene den norske skolen møter i dag, og drøfter dette på bakgrunn av anerkjennelsesteori og kunnskap om ulike læringstradisjoner. Vi ønsker å fremme refleksjon om fortsatt eksisterende fordommer sammen med bevissthet om likeverdighet og inkludering av minoriteter i klasserommet. Artikkelen baserer seg på data fra litteratursøk og egen forskning og erfaring fra skolen i både Norge og Afrika. Det gir innsikt i samspillet mellom språk, kultur og klassemiljø. Til sist peker vi på veier mot morgendagens skole. Nøkkelord: NLA Høgskolen, interkulturell kompetanse, anerkjennelse, likeverd, inkludering, profesjonsutdanning, afrikanske læringstradisjoner
Full-text available
Der vorliegende Beitrag stellt die theoretische Grundlage und die praktische Anwendung eines Lehr- und Lernmodells für den Erwerb professioneller Handlungsweisen von Lehrpersonen vor. Professionelles pädagogisches Handeln zeichnet sich durch die Einheit von Berufsethos und Professionswissen aus. In der Ausbildung herrscht ein Primat des Professionswissens oder epistemischer Ziele. Es stellt sich die Frage, ob eine Verbindung zwischen moralischen und epistemischen Zielen möglich ist. Als Antwort darauf schlägt der Autor ein Lehr- und Lernmodell für die Ausbildung von Lehrpersonen vor, das durch die Auseinandersetzung mit inhaltsbezogenen moralischen Fallgeschichten sowohl die moralische Urteilsfähigkeit als auch die Aneignung von professionellem Handlungswissen fördert.
Pivotal to the transformation of higher education in the 21st Century is the nature of pedagogy and its role in advancing the aims of various stakeholders. This book brings together pre-eminent scholars from Australia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and the USA to critically assess teaching and learning issues that cut across most disciplines. In addressing long-standing and newly emerging issues, the researchers examine the scientific evidence on what constitutes effective teaching in college classrooms, on the psychometric integrity of measures of teaching effectiveness, and on the use of such measures for tenure, promotion, and salary decisions. Systematically explored throughout the book is the avowed linkage between classroom teaching and motivation, learning, and performance outcomes in students. In so doing, the book deals with the nexus between knowledge production by researchers and knowledge utility for end-users made up of classroom instructors, department heads, deans, directors, and policymakers. The book will appeal to researchers interested in teaching and learning, faculty members developing evidence-based pedagogical practices, academic administrators and policymakers responsible for instituting teaching and learning protocols, and faculty development officers promoting the effective teaching practices.
This Introduction provides an overview of the book in terms of an historical framework underpinning the content of the book, the relevance of the content to stakeholders, and the structure of the chapters