Teachers’ learning and sense-making processes in the context of an innovation: a two year follow-up study

Saskia H.M. Stollman (Corresponding author), Jacobiene Meirink, P.M. Westenberg, Jan van Driel

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    To better align teacher learning with teachers’ learning needs, teachers’ sense-making of an innovation during which teachers experimented with differentiated instruction was studied during two school years. Using answers to a questionnaire, 15 teachers’ sense-making processes were characterised by three types of search for meaning: assimilation, adaptation, and toleration. We further specified the teachers’ sense-making through their experienced sources of ambiguity and uncertainty (limited resources and conflicting goals) and a detailed description of their personal frames of reference. We concluded that the teachers varied in their types of search for meaning during both school years, though most teachers were found to use assimilation in the second school year. Their experienced sources of ambiguity and uncertainty and their personal frames of reference, though becoming more similar to each other, still differed after two school years. A possible reason for the variety in teachers’ sense-making is the freedom they had in the implementation of differentiated instruction: several teachers were positive about this from the start, others needed more support and guidance. This study hereby provides additional insight into the advantages of freedom in the implementation of an innovation, but also show the importance of proper support and guidance to ensure effective implementation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)718-733
    Number of pages16
    JournalProfessional Development in Education
    Issue number5
    Early online date27 Mar 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


    • Sense-making
    • differentiated instruction
    • professional learning
    • search for meaning
    • secondary school teachers


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