“The playground” in teacher training (2/2)

Article written by Marit Kulild, Høgskulen på Vestlandet, Bergen, Norway and Francine Behnen, NHL Stenden, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

In our previous blogpost we described how we found common ground in innovations and improvements that are currently taking place in teacher training at both our institutes through the metaphor of a ‘playground’. Metaphors bring with them certain well-defined expectations, the choice of a metaphor is a highly consequential decision and may lead to different ways of thinking and to different activities (Sfard, 1998). Despite the different countries, the similarities in the design of a sustainable pedagogy for our Teacher Students (TS) were striking. 

We found common ground in the desire to provide TS with the freedom to explore individually and collectively within a safe environment. A playground suggests there is a certain amount of space within which there is freedom to move about, and it offers the development of repertoire needed to succeed in the teaching profession. There are boundaries beyond which movement is advised under guidance.  Within the boundaries there is room to move about freely within circumstances that can be adapted to incite learning.  

When we discussed the metaphor of “The playground” a few aspects appeared

  • Safe authentic tasks or situations: The playground for TS might have a solid surface, or grass, or might be sandy. These different surfaces can influence the type of games that can be played. Changing the surface might result in different kinds of play.
  • Real first experience: In a playground for TS, the teacher educators can influence what can be learnt by the choice of the location and the choice of the objects available. The location the playground takes place does not have to be the teacher training institute or the practice school. It can be anywhere. 
  • Learning outcomes and criteria must be clear: In a playground there are of course different types of criteria and goals that are known by the players. There can be spots where players can withdraw and are able to reflect upon what they have noticed and experienced. There are spaces where they can safely try things out, discuss and learn from each other
  • Good role models in practicum supported by the institute: To support reflection and broaden the choices and repertoire of a student teacher it is very important to have good role models in both their practicum as well as at the institute. To set good examples, successful and experienced teachers closely connected to the institute are present at the playground frequently.

So far, the metaphor has helped us to think and converse about the surface, the boundary, the objects, the supervisors, in short all that is needed to design rich and roomy professional learning environments for future professionals.

With the current Covid-19 measures we have needed to increase the number of online activities on our playgrounds. We will post more about that in our next blog.


Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13.