Phd projects

Oded Ben-Horin

Oded Ben-Horin

Improvising the Bridge: A Study of Improvisational Teaching Skills and Educational Design in an Arts-Infused Inquiry-Based Science Teaching Context

The immediate background for this PHD project is the research project “Improvisation in Teacher Education” (IMTE) at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

The project employs Educational Design Research (EDR) to explore iterations of a cross-disciplinary science and art school interventions with the double aim of studying 1) student teachers’ handling of improvisation within the pedagogical context (as research through interventions), thus exploring the development of improvisational performance within a complex educational reality, and 2)  the educational setting’s design (as research on interventions).

The educational intervention Write a Science Opera (WASO) is an inherently improvisational practice, which provides a bridge between music and inquiry-based science education settings. At its heart lies the real-time design of the classroom and lesson’s structure by the pupils according to their cultural perspectives, tastes, and unique social interaction. As such, teachers and pupils must keep inventing these as the project progresses, and no two WASO projects will produce the same results. An improvisational understanding and practice is required in order to imagine, and thereafter simultaneously plan and realize the creative output.

Improvisation in the classroom is explored through student teachers’ Rehearsing Pedagogical Improvisation (RPI) in educational settings, as well as their practicing of specific improvisation training exercises modeled after jazz music pedagogy practices, and which will be developed during the study based on outcomes of its research.

The PhD study is based on the production of three academic articles:

Ben-Horin, O. (2015) The making of a Neuroscience Opera. In A. B. Reinertsen and A. M. Otterstad, (eds.) Metodefestival og Øyeblikksrealisme. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget. 241-252

Ben-Horin, O. (2016). Towards a professionalization of pedagogical improvisation in teacher education. Cogent Education3(1), 1248186. Available at:

Ben-Horin, O., Chappell, K., Halstead, J. & Espeland, M. (2017). Designing Creative Inter-Disciplinary Science and Art Interventions in Schools: The Case of Write a Science Opera (WASO). Submitted

Oded Ben-Horin

Åsmund Espeland

Exploring Pedagogical Improvisation in Music Teaching: A Study of Practices in Pop Band and Piano Teaching.

Improvisation as a phenomenon is historically rooted in disciplines like music and drama, but has for the last thirty-five years or so also interested researchers in education and teaching, using improvisation as a lens to understand practices in their fields of research. In this PhD project the aim is to identify and describe characteristics of pedagogical improvisation in music teacher practices. The informants in the study are music teachers and student teachers, teaching in a Norwegian community culture school of music and arts, as well as a lower secondary school. The study offers an in-depth approach, using video and stimulated recall interviews as key methods. In the study interaction and teaching repertoire are emphasized as part of improvisational processes.

The study is part of the research project IMTE (Improvisation in teacher education: Curricula and practice in dynamic interplay), taking place at Rommetveit campus, Western Norway University for Applied Sciences.

The following articles are included in the study:

Espeland, Å., & Stige, B. (2017). The Teacher as Co-Musician: Exploring Practices in Music Teaching. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 18(22). Available at   

Espeland, Å., Kvile, S. & Holdhus, K. (2017). Teacher agency and teacher improvisation:

A study of experienced teachers and student teachers in music classrooms. Submitted

Espeland, Å. & Stige, B. Teaching repertoires and pedagogical improvisation in music teacher            practices. In progress

Kari Holdhus

Øystein Røsseland Kvinge

Performing the pre-formed: A multimodal take on presentation in teacher education

This PhD project is part of the IMTE project and is motivated by the common goal of conceptualising improvisation in different educational contexts.  Presentation, supported by PowerPoint, is the preferred mode of teaching in higher education, and it is prevalent in teacher education as well.    The study observes student-teacher’s presentations of various topics for their peer students. The aim is to analyse and understand this practice by approaching it from three different perspectives.

The first study applies a multimodal social semiotic framework and defines students’ actions when presenting as sign-making. Transcriptions of students’ presentations are analysed, and attention is paid to the pre-formed slides, their performance and to the inter-semiotic relations which can be identified between the slides and the performer during presentation. The outcome of the study is a model which maps the meaning making activities that such practice encompasses. The model is an amendment of the Learning Design Sequence, originally conceived of by Staffan Selander and Günther Kress (2008, 2010).

Having established that presentation is an activity which encompasses pre-formed elements which are performed, the subsequent study addresses the performative aspect in more detail. By adopting the jazz metaphor as a lens, theoretical devices from jazz theory are used for analysing the relationship between the constituent elements of slides and their performance. Slides are ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ in their constitutive properties and differ in terms of how much slack is left for the performer’s interpretation. The concepts of horizontal and vertical playing are adopted to study the very performance of slides. The outcome of the study is a model in terms of a double matrix which supports a reflection on what qualities of a presentation are aspects of the performer’s interpretation and what are aspects of the slides as such.

Acknowledging the gap between theory and practice in teacher education, the third study investigates what this gap might mean in terms of how student-teachers represent professional knowledge. The study maps students’ representations of knowledge in a double dichotomy that spans between the universal and local and the theoretical and procedural. The mapped knowledge landscape calls into question what epistemologies students encounter in and outside of campus during their education. A discussion follows on how the traditional gap between theory and practice can be understood when the representations of professional knowledge are made by teacher-students themselves.

The preliminary outcome of the study, are the following articles:

Performing the pre-formed: Towards a conceptual framework for understanding presentation as curricular transformation ­– (submitted for review, 2017)

Playin’ the changes’:A jazz approach to researching student teachers’ PowerPoint presentations (under revision)

Teaching represented: A study of student-teachers’ representations of the professional practice of teaching­(submitted for second review, 2017)