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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


The Meaning of Learning and the Meaning of Teaching: Implications for Teacher Development

Dr Thomas K. W. Tang.

Teachers are commonly considered to bring about learning. It is therefore important to understand how those with such an important responsibility make sense of learning and the process of bringing about learning commonly described as teaching.

The paper is based on a phenomenographic study of in-service teachers studying at the Open University of Hong Kong, using semi-structured interviews. The focus of the study is on (a) their conceptions of learning based on their own student experience, (b) their conceptions of teaching in relation to their daily professional practice and (c) the relationship between the two conceptions. The paper describes the outcome space of their conceptions of learning ranging from acquiring knowledge to personal development, and their conceptions of teaching ranging from transmitting knowledge to supporting learners' development. The expressed conceptions of teaching and of learning were found to be closely related. More importantly, evidence showed that the conception of learning of a teacher limited the highest level of the conception of teaching of the same teacher. This observation, discussed in the light of similar studies, has important implications on teacher development strategies.

To consider teacher development issues further, a follow-on longitudinal study of the conceptions of teaching and learning of these teachers over the period of studying a distance learning course in educational psychology is reported. The paper analyses the nature of such changes and attempts to explain why some teachers are unaware of the changes they have gone through. Based on the overall findings, the impact of the course of study on such conceptual changes is discussed.


Dr Thomas K. W. Tang  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Associate Professor
School of Education and Languages
Open University of Hong Kong

TANG Kwong Wai, Thomas, BSc(Hons), DipEd (London), DipEd (CUHK), MEd, PhD (HKU) is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and Languages, the Open University of Hong Kong. He is involved in teaching courses on developmental psychology and on curriculum. His areas of research interest include: teachers’ thinking and computer-mediated learning communities.

  • Meaning of Learning
  • Conceptions of learning
  • Meaning of Teaching
  • Conceptions of Teaching
  • Conceptual Change
  • Teacher Development
  • Phenomenography

(30 min Conference Paper, English)