10 SES 01 B, Programmes and Approaches: Time for becoming a teacher
Over the last two decades, there has been considerable progress in Europe towards the development of teaching as a masters level profession. This level raising has clear implications for deepening student teachers’ knowledge and developing the research skills needed to better solve real problems in their workplace setting (Campos, 2010; Gray, 2013). Although many higher education institutions increasingly give more attention in teacher education curricula to components that allow future teachers to adopt research-based approaches in their workplaces (Campos, 2010; Dobber et al., 2012; Linden et al., 2015; Lopes et al., 2014), little is known about student teachers' experiences of the final dissertation/thesis work, which is often a significant part of completing their degree.
In terms of the Bologna Process, there are three ways to acquire a master’s degree in teacher education: thesis/dissertation, report, and project. In this paper, we focus on those master’s programmes (aimed at initial or continuing professional development) that require the completion of a dissertation/thesis as the final assessment. There are a number of differences in the process of completing a final dissertation/thesis for master’s degree programmes in teacher education dependent on institutional requirements regarding length, structure, location in the curriculum or preceding courses (Råde, 2014; see also: Zgaga, 2013). However, commononalities in this process may be identified. These include: the specific focus in terms of the design and completion of an original, independent but supervised piece of research. However, in many cases this work is aimed not only at developing students’ research knowledge and skills, but also analyzing and reflecting on teaching practice (Ion and Iucu, 2016; Maaranen, 2010).
Despite the growing body of research that has investigated the value of master’s degree studies to teachers’ professional practice (e.g. Burton and Goodman, 2011; Dixon and Ward, 2015; Franckham and Hiett, 2011), there is still little evidence on student teachers’ experiences of the final dissertation/thesis work as part of a master’s programme and its contribution to their future professional practice. Råde (2014), based on existing research in this field, identified a number of useful skills that were perceived by student teachers as resulting from their work on a dissertation/thesis, including: problem-solving skills, analytical and reflective thinking, enhancing professional development, increased ability to undertake research as part of their future practice. Although writing a dissertation/thesis is mainly academically-oriented activity, some researchers argue that this model should also have a “favourable impact on teaching practice and reflection on school activities in teacher teams in schools” (Ahlstrand and Bergqvist, 2005, 1; Råde, 2014). It is from this perspective that the study presented in this paper was carried out in order to gain deeper insight into student teachers’ perceptions of the contribution of their master’s dissertation/thesis work to their (future) professional practice.
This paper draws upon a broader study into master’s students in the field of education carried out in five European countries (Poland, Portugal, Latvia, the UK, and Romania) that examined their (1) motivations for choosing master’s studies in Education; (2) perceptions of the contribution of master’s studies to their (future) professional practice; (3) experiences of the process of preparing their final dissertation/thesis; (4) perceptions of the usefulness of their final dissertation/thesis work for their (future) professional practice; and (5) differences/similarities across national contexts, students’ age, gender, field of study programme, type of master’s studies, and professional work experience.
The main goal of this paper is to present and discuss the findings of a study on student teachers’ perspectives of the usefulness of a final dissertation/thesis work for their (future) practice of teaching.
Ahlstrand, E., and K. Bergqvist. 2005. Thesis in Teacher Education - Research Orientation, Professional Relevance and Student Involvement. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/18147/1/gupea_2077_18147_1.pdf. Burton, D., and R. Goodman. 2011. The Masters in Teaching and Learning: a Revolution in Teacher Education or a Bright Light Quickly Extinguished? Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 37 (1), 51-61. Campos, B. 2010. Bologna and Initial Teacher Education in Portugal. In: B. Hudson, P. Zgaga, B. Åstrand (Eds.), Advancing Qquality Cultures for Teacher Education in Europe – Tensions and Opportunities, Umeå School of Education, Umeå University, Sweden, pp. 13-32. Dixon, H., and G. Ward. 2015. The Value of Masters Study to Teachers’ Professional Practice: Contradictory Discourses within the Workplace, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40(2), 52-65. Dobber, M., Akkerman, S., Verloop, N., and J. D. Vermut. 2012. Student Teachers’ Collaborative Research: Small-scale Research Projects during Teacher Education, Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(4), 609–617. Frankham, J., and S. Hiett. 2011. The Master’s in Teaching and Learning: Expanding Utilitarianism in the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers in England, Journal of Education Policy, 26(6), 803–818. Gray, C. 2013. Bridging the Teacher/Researcher Divide: Master’s-level Work in Initial Teacher Education, European Journal of Teacher Education, 36 (1), 24-38. Ion, G., and R. Iucu. 2016. The Impact of Postgraduate Studies on the Teachers’ Practice, European Journal of Teacher Education, 39 (5), 602-615. Linden, W., Bakx, A., Ros, A., Beijaard, D., and L. van den Bergh. 2015. The Development of Student Teachers’ Research Knowledge, Beliefs and Attitude, Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 41 (1), 4-18. Lopes, A., Boyd, P., Andrew, N., and F. Pereira. 2014. The Research-Teaching Nexus in Nurse and Teacher Education: Contributions of an Ecological Approach to Academic Identities in Professional Fields, Higher Education, 68 (2), 167-183. Maaranen, K. 2010. Teacher Students’ MA Theses—A Gateway to Analytic Thinking About Teaching? A Case Study of Finnish Primary School Teachers, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 54(5), 487-500 Råde, A. 2014. Final Thesis Models in European Teacher Education and their Orientation towards the Academy and the Teaching Profession, European Journal of Teacher Education, 37(2), 144-155. Zgaga, P. 2013. The Future of European Teacher Education in the Heavy Seas of Higher Education. Teacher Development, 17(3), 347-361.
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