Scaling up educational innovations: the role of conventional and technological tools in managing the uncertainties of teaching

The project is concerned with the currently critical issue of understanding how to apply innovative yet local social scientific knowledge to address important and widespread problems (e.g. ESRC 2008). In education, the current pressure for major improvement of student learning has created a need for understanding how to scale up educational innovations (Cohen & Ball 2007). Yet, the issue of scale is particularly problematic in education (Coburn 2003), in part due to the indeterminable nature of classroom interactions that has triggered characterisations of teaching as an “uncertain practice” (e.g. Helsing 2007). Thus, a key component in scaling up educational innovations is to support teachers in managing the uncertainties of their work.

The main goal of the  project is to understand the role of pedagogical tools teachers can use to manage the uncertainties of their work and promote—in a purposeful, reliable, and effective manner—their students’ learning of proof. By “pedagogical tools” I include both conventional tools (e.g. paper-and-pencil tasks) and technological tools (e.g. educational video clips).

Effective teaching cannot be based on the charisma of exemplary teachers if it is to be enacted at large scale. However, the field’s ability to scale up educational innovations is constrained by the limited understanding of how to help teachers manage the uncertainties of teaching. This project will not only support scaling up effective teaching of a critical mathematical concept, but will also inform similar efforts to scale up effective teaching of critical concepts in other disciplines.


Dr Andreas Stylianides (Education) is an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Lent 2011.


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