Wolff-Michael Roth
Lansdowne Professor (applied cognitive science)



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co/editor of

.FQS: Forum Qualitative Social Research

2 book series: .SENSE: science & math
.SENSE: culture & history

contact address


Wolff-Michael Roth
MacLaurin Building A567
University of Victoria
Victoria, BC
V8P 5C2


favorite sites

  .Jay Lemke
  .Jean_François Maheux

  .Damien Vervust










This book received the CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Title 2002: "Selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important--often the first--treatment of their subject." Choice Maganzine, January 2003.

Wolff-Michael Roth,Kenneth Tobin, At the Elbows of Another: Learning to Teach by Coteaching (New York: Peter Lang, 2002). (ISBN: 0-8204-5567-9 pbk)

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Overview of the Chapters in the Book

In the first chapter, we articulate our epistemology of teaching that is grounded in practice (rather than focusing on 'knowledge, 'beliefs' and 'values' that are often considered to reside between the ears). Our epistemology highlights elements in the experience of teaching such as the fact that we always and already find ourselves in a world and with other people, who sometimes are the recipients of our actions, and that we are unreflective about a lot of the things we do in our daily work as teachers. From past experiences arise patterned dispositions that allow experienced practitioners to perceive and act in particular ways. We show how coteaching--accomplishing the task of teaching in a collective manner and, in this case, also learning to teach--provides a context in which teachers can develop and new teachers can learn to teach.

Chapter 2 is based on Ken's autobiographical account of having to learn again to teach when he moved to Philadelphia, where he eventually taught science on a daily basis in the lowest stream of an urban high school. Ken taught in Mario's class and, although they had talked about teaching the class together, Ken found himself often teaching on his own with an expectation that he would expertly deal with difficult situations. Ken's account allows us to understand that past experience may lead to forms of teaching that are not appropriate under all circumstances, especially when the teacher and students have markedly differing social and cultural histories. Ken's autobiographical account does not conclude on a happy note. In our conversation about the experience of (re-) learning to teach we address some of the particular difficulties that arise from teaching and learning to teach when there is a considerable gap between the social and cultural backgrounds of the teacher and students.

Chapter 3 deals with Mario's experiences of teaching and learning to teach during his first three years in the same inner city school. As a recently certified teacher Mario has not had the equivalent teaching experiences as Ken but he has more in common with the students in terms of age and interests and he understands more about the social and cultural dimensions of their lives. As a youth Mario had extensive experience of what Eli Anderson described as the 'code of the street'. Consequently he is in a position to make sense of the ways of being that students bring with them from the street to the classroom.In the chapter we use an autobiographical narrative of Mario's 'becoming-in-the-classroom' as the starting point for our conversation about important issues that arise from teaching and learning to teach. In particular, we focus on the dialectical tension that arises from teaching as a means to enhance students' opportunities in a world very different from the teacher's and the reproduction of inequities that arise from cultural differences.

Changing one's approach to teaching and teacher education does not come easy. Both personal and institutional contexts provide starting points for and constraints to how coteaching will evolve in a particular setting. In the first half of Chapter 4, we provide autobiographical narratives that describe the development of our own teaching and theories of teaching in the course of our careers and that ultimately led us to our coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing model. In the second part of Chapter 4, we describe how coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing was implemented in the contexts of teacher education at the University of Pennsylvania and City High School. We describe how coteaching evolved in different ways for particular individuals and classroom settings. The background information in this chapter is of particular importance, as it sets up the context in which the stories of teaching featured in Chapters 5-8 occurred.

Urban schools with large proportions of students from an 'underclass' and largely of African American origin provide particular challenges for new and resident teachers and the students they teach. In Chapter 5, we articulate some of the issues faced in an urban school and subsequently show the potential of our coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing paradigm to assist the work of teachers. In this chapter, we particularly focus on how Stephanie, concurrently enrolled in a teacher education program and coteaching with Bert, learned to teach in an urban school in which coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing were used.

It is well known that in the course of their careers and with increasing experience, teachers deepen their understandings of subject matter and subject matter pedagogy. This is often a rather long and protracted process. In Chapter 6, we provide a case study in which a group of coteachers (Michael, Ken, Stephanie and Bert) deepened their understandings of an aspect of genetics (from a grade-10 science course) and the pedagogy associated with it. Specifically, we focus on our own learning of genetics in the process of being researcher-teachers, an aspect seldom made thematic in educational research. Coteaching and cogenerative dialoguing turn out to be ideal contexts for learning to teach in implicit and explicit ways.

In their studies of teaching and learning researchers traditionally look, as if through windows, from the outside into classrooms, to observe teachers and learners participate in an enacted curriculum. The outside view is frequently regarded as objective and too often is highly jaundiced and critical of teachers and students.Alternatively, teacher-researchers generally rely on their own experience to characterize a world they experience through rose-colored glasses, easily falling prey to the dangers of immediate understanding (since they are too close to the events). Our paradigm of coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing provides for a different way of doing research, because 'researchers' and 'teachers' engage in both activities. Soon after a shared coteaching experience the participants, or representatives from the key stakeholders involved in coteaching, meet to discuss what happened, why it happened, and how learning might be afforded in the future. Differences in individuals' understandings of 'shared' events provide the starting points for critical hermeneutic analysis and a foundation for the development of a local theory or praxeology. In Chapter 7, we theorize coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing at a meta-level, using activity theory, and thereby articulate new roles for researchers with respect to classroom events. In this chapter, we also examine learning environments from the perspective of activity theory and thereby lay out a fresh approach to research in one of the rapidly growing areas of science education.

An important part of becoming a teacher resides in the evaluation of teaching performance. New teachers in the field usually are evaluated by their cooperating teachers and university supervisors. Similarly, during their first two years in a particular school system and before receiving a permanent contract, beginning teachers are evaluated by department heads, principals, or other evaluators appointed by the school board. In each of these instances the manner of performing evaluation has been to use people external to the process of teaching a particular class. In Chapter 8, we propose coteaching/ cogenerative dialoguing as an alternative for supervision and evaluation. We argue that our proposed evaluation process retains the focus on teaching students, while making evaluation of teaching more equitable.

In our epilogue, we look backward at what we have written while looking forward to a thorny future of enacting what is a rosy vision for reform of teaching and learning. In so doing we balance the optimism of our vision with the pessimism of social and cultural reproduction cycles that are all too common in social institutions such as schooling. In considering the plausibility of revolution or evolution as bases for change we face the necessity of the reform touching schools and universities in ways that alter traditional practices and ways of being. We acknowledge that unless institutional changes occur to remove many contradictions in the salient activities of key stakeholders it is unlikely that their efforts will receive the support that is essential for enduring improvements.

update: 09-AUG-17


new work (2012-15)

- "symmetrical ZPD"
- "Becoming and belonging"
- "Limits to generalizing"
- Limits to general expertise
- Experiencing (pereživanie) as developmental category
- On variability in data
- The Emerging Presence
- Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Vološinov
- Theory-practice at work
- Fuzzy Logic
- Theory of Experience
- Online media learning
- Birth of intentions
- Event-in-the-making*
- Post-constructivist ethics
- Pregnance of bodily movement
- Health—personalized science
- Sociocultural perspectives
- Lectures then and now
- Situated cognition
- "I am a Pibidiana"
- Translation—the possible impossible
- Societal mediation of mathematical cognition
- Origin of signs
- Development of concepts
- ZPD symmetrically

making trouble

- "Meaning means nothing"
- What more?
- More reflexivity
- «Mosh»
- Science hegemony
- On editing . . .
- Ethics as social practice
- Political ethics, unethical politics
- Vagaries and politics of funding 1
- Vagaries and politics of funding 2
- Editorial power/authorial suffering


- Radical passivity
- On responsibility . . .
- Identity & Community
- Mêlée & literacy
- Dynamic of life
- Solidarity
- Education and diversity of life
- Living/Lived Math
- Representing mathematical performance
- Indeterminate evolutionary change of language
- Psychology from 1st principles

Science studies
- Struggle over water 2
- Struggle over water 1
- Science and the good citizen
Scientific literacy
- Allgemeinbildung: Readiness for living in risk society
- Citizenship and science education
Gesture studies
- Gestures: The leading edge of literacy...
Workplace math
- The meaning of meaning...
- The emergence of graphing...