10 SES 05 D, Learning to Teach: Literacy, Diversity, Enquiry
This presentation reports on a small-scale pilot study which explores the perceived benefits to student teacher learning when student teachers are engaged in a research project. The research was undertaken by a group of 12 Religious Studies student teachers on a one year teacher training course at a city university in England. The research seeks to explore the learning potential of integrating a research-based project into the first visits of a school-based teaching practice. The student teachers, after having received some research training at the university, undertook classroom research (each observing and interviewing three different teachers who taught the same class of students). The research focused on teachers’ differential behaviour and questioned how teachers understood and responded to diversity in their classrooms, which is suggested to be one of the most influential educational factors which affect pupil interest, motivation and academic achievement (Rosenthal, 2002). A concern for effectively meeting the needs of a diverse range of pupils has been identified in previous research projects across Europe (see Humphreys et al. 2006). Such research has cited an increase in immigration and special needs students attending mainstream schools as indications why in recent years schools in Europe have witnessed increasingly heterogeneous classrooms.
Undertaking research has been cited as an effective way for student teachers to increase their understanding of issues relating to educational practice (Eraut et al. 2000). An objective of this research study was to enable student teachers to compare the perspectives of classroom teachers on how they give meaning to diversity in order to facilitate their own development of theoretical and practical knowledge regarding responsive teaching and inclusive practices.
The research questions asked:
- Did the study enable student teachers to integrate their empirical findings into a theoretical background?
- Did student teachers view their development as researchers during the research process as significant to their learning about diversity?
The study explores how far the student teachers felt their own personally conducted research was a significant learning process (Maaranen and Krokfors 2007) and questions whether research should be considered an essential part of becoming a teacher (Toom et al. 2010). Student teachers in Australia have been seen to support the inclusion of research methods in their teacher education programme (Vialle et al. 1997) and another study has shown how reflective skills of student teachers are enhanced by participation in classroom-based qualitative research (Lambe 2011). However, research also suggests that more is needed than involving student teachers as researchers to overcome the gap between theory and practice (Korthagen 2010).
Previous studies looking at the learning opportunities for student teachers in school practice (Douglas 2014) highlight the value of all research participants jointly working on a shared motive (as in researching diversity in the classroom). A university researcher who did not teach the student teachers but supported them in the research process and a teacher educator (the principal lecturer for Religious Studies) worked with teacher participants and the student teachers. This went some way to building a collaborative approach.
The commitment to the pilot study was supported by a desire to integrate research with the teacher education course and to further develop staffing links in the university, counteracting a tendency to view Education staff as either academic or practitioner focused (see Deem and Lucas (2007) with regard to different research and teaching cultures in English and Scottish universities). A concern that higher education teacher educators in Europe are becoming solely trainers and mediators of government policy also provided impetus for challenging what has been termed the ‘training paradigm’ (examined in a recent study comparing English and Swedish teacher education policy (Beach and Bagley 2013)).
Beach, D. and Bagley, C. (2013) Changing Professional Discourses in Teacher Education Policy Back Towards a Training Paradigm, European Journal of Teacher Education, 36(4) 379-92. Deem, R. and Lucas, L. (2007) Research and Teaching Cultures in Two Contrasting UK Policy Contexts, Higher Education, 54 115-33. Douglas, A.S. (2014) Student Teachers in School Practice: An analysis of learning opportunities. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Eraut, M., Alderton, J., Cole, G. and Senker, P. (2000) Development of Knowledge and Skills at Work, In Differing Visions of a Learning Society (ed. F. Coffield) 231-62, Bristol: Policy Press. Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory. New York: Aldwin. Humphrey, N,. Bartolo, P., Ale, P., Calleja, C., Hofsaess, T., Janikova, V., Mol Lous, A., Vilkiene, V. and Wetso, G.M. (2006) Understanding and Responding to Diversity in the Primary Classroom: An International Study, European Journal of Teacher Education, 29(3) 305-18. Korthagen, F. (2010) How Teacher Education Can Make A Difference, Journal of Education for Teaching, 36(4) 407-23. Korthagen, F. and Lagerwerf, B. (1996) Reframing the Relationship Between Teacher Thinking and Teacher Behaviour, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 2(2) 161-90. Lambe, J. (2011) Developing Pre-service Teachers’ Reflective Capacity Through Engagement With Classroom-Based Research, Reflective Practice, 12(1) 87-100. Maaranen, K. and Krokfors, L. (2007) Time to Think? Primary School Teacher Students Reflecting on Their MA Thesis Research Processes, Reflective Practice, 8(3) 359-73. Rosenthal, R. (2002) Covert Communication in Classrooms, Clinics, Courtrooms and Cubicles, American Psychologist, 57 839-49. Toom, A., Kynaslahti, H., Krokfors, L., Jyrhama, R., Byman, R., Stenberg, K., Maaranen, K. and Kansanen, P. (2010) Experiences of a Research-Based Approach to Teacher Education, European Journal of Education, 45(2) 331-44. Vialle, W., Hall, N. and Booth, T. (1997) Teaching Research and Inquiry in Undergraduate Teacher Education Programmes, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 25(2) 129-42.
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