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Developing designs for community development in four types of student teacher groups


It is becoming increasingly important for teachers to collaborate. Teacher community is found to be a fruitful notion when thinking about improving collaboration. Teachers can be prepared for working in such communities during teacher education. We examined how the practice of collaboration within different types of groups in teacher education can be optimised, aiming at an improvement in the shared domain, group identity and shared interactional repertoire of these groups. We included four types of groups: subject matter groups, research groups, mentor groups and reflection groups. Focus groups with teacher educators, student teachers and community experts were conducted to gather ideas for the improvement of the institutional design for community development. Combining these ideas with the research literature, we formulated a list of design principles for each of the types of groups. In conversations with teacher educators, the viability of these principles was reviewed, resulting in particular sets of design principles for each group. These sets consist of principles which are already used within the groups, as well as principles that are completely new to the groups. The design arrangement for the mentor group consists of the largest number of design principles, while the smallest number of principles are applicable to the research group. The procedure used in this study can serve as an example of how to create a design aimed at the development of student teacher groups as social and collaborative learning environments.

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This research was funded by the Dutch Programme Council for Educational Research (NWO-PROO): 411-05-353.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marjolein Dobber.

Additional information

The audit report written by the auditor about the specifics concerning the trustworthiness of this study can be requested from the first author.


Appendix 1

Case ‘mentor group’ for teacher educators

Jan is a teacher educator at a university teacher education institute, where he, among others, is the supervisor of a mentor group. He notices that the student teachers, apart from acquiring knowledge concerning pupils’ learning, also need knowledge on how to deal with colleagues and how they function in a group. That is why he wants to let the student teachers in his mentor group interact better with each other. He wants to let them experience what it is like to learn and work together. The student teachers are at the institute on Mondays and Jan sees them for 2 h. His idea is that he might also use ICT. The question is how he, both within the meetings at the institute and outside of these, can stimulate the student teachers in their collaboration.

Appendix 2

Case ‘mentor group’ for student teachers

The mentor group is your secure home base within the programme and has several goals, one of which is collaboration. An example of that collaboration is mutual classroom visits within groups of four student teachers. To do that, it is important that you start with thinking about what you want to learn from each other and what questions you have, which you can share using Blackboard. After the classroom visit, you discuss with each other whether everybody’s learning goals were attained and what is left to work on. A report of this meeting can be put on the Blackboard system.

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Dobber, M., Akkerman, S.F., Verloop, N. et al. Developing designs for community development in four types of student teacher groups. Learning Environ Res 15, 279–297 (2012).

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  • Design development
  • Design principles
  • Student teacher groups
  • Teacher communities
  • Teacher education