01 SES 04 B, Research Engagement as Professional Development
Over time, states undertake various education policy reforms to govern the development of education. Like an epidemic, education reforms are spread to different educational systems in the world, affecting, and to some extent reorienting, teaching and learning in a local context (Ball, 2003). The issue of integrating practice-based research in teachers’ work and school practice in Sweden may be seen as an example of an education reform that follows trends in other European countries (Caena, 2014; Cain, 2015). The Swedish Education Act states, that the education should be based on scientific ground and proven experience (Swedish Government, 2010, §5). Based on the policy statement, there could be different ways to achieve an education that rests on scientific ground and proven experience: from implementing research results in teaching and to teachers being co-researchers in the systematic knowledge creation (Biesta, 2010; Brown, 2017; Englund, Forsberg & Sundberg, 2012). The change to a research-based way of working imposes great challenges on both teachers, school leaders and on non-academic organizations like municipalities to handle (Hansson, 2014).
The aim of this study is to explore Swedish teachers’ understanding of central notions related to the reform of integrating practice-based research into the school, their experiences of working with the reform, perceived challenges and opportunities as well as the support and the professional development they need in order to fulfill their mission. The research questions are: How do teachers understand and interpret the reform of integrating practice-based research in their work? How do individual, social and structural factors affect teachers’ reform implementation of practice-based research in schools?
Since the reform of integrating practice-based research in schools is a rather new initiative in Sweden, there are only a few studies that explored the reform and its enactment. Previous research points to, for example, benefits of the reform: higher student achievements and a higher level of teacher professionalism (Ryve, Hemmi & Kornhall, 2016). The importance of school leaders’ support when implementing the reform and the need for involving students in the processes are also emphasized (Bergmark & Kostenius, 2009, Håkansson & Sundberg, 2016). Previous research does not explicitly focus on teachers’ understanding of central notions relating to the reform. It is especially relevant to explore teachers’ understanding and experience since they are the ones who are expected to implement the reform. Their understanding will further affect how they implement the reform and what support and areas of professional development they perceive they need.
The theoretical framework is based on literature on reform implementation, emphasizing different factors affecting the enactment of a reform: individual, social and structural. Thus, reform implementation relates to teachers’ professional development. Individual factors involve teachers’ sense-making of an initiative. How teachers learn about, understand and implement a reform relates to their prior beliefs, knowledge, and experiences (Coburn, 2005; Spillane, 2002). Social factors relate to social interaction and the context of the organization, effecting teachers’ learning and implementing of a new reform initiative (Spillane, 1999). Teachers exchange interpretations of policies in connection to their teaching goals and practice through interactions with colleagues and school leaders in, for example, professional learning communities (Stoll et. al 2006). Structural factors involve what support teachers are offered and the degree of teacher participation in decision-making (Spillane, Reiser & Reimer, 2002). When implementing reforms, school leaders play a pivotal role in understanding teachers’ views, knowledge and beliefs, supporting the building of social networks and constructing the setting of the organization supporting the reform implementation (Brezicha, Bergmark & Mitra, 2014).
The study was performed at a municipality in Sweden, that enacted initiatives to promote the integration of practice-based research into schools. Participants of the study were teachers from pre-school, compulsory and non-compulsory school. A questionnaire with closed-ended and open-ended questions was used to grasp the participants' understanding and work with the mission of integrating practice-based research into the school. In the questionnaire, the teachers were asked to define central notions relating to integration of practice-based research in schools, such as: 'scientific ground', 'proven experience' and 'scientific approach' and then, give examples from their teaching of practical applications of the notions. In addition, the teachers gave examples of challenges and dilemmas relating to implementing the new reform and what support and professional development they perceive they need. In total, 272 teachers responded to the questionnaire. The choice to use both closed-ended and open-ended questions is based on the reason that responses to closed-ended questions are easy to categorize based on the options the participants have selected and open-ended questions may allow for new aspects to appear not expected by the researcher (cf. Bailey, 1994). To understand teacher responses, content analysis was used in this study (cf. Graneheim & Lundman, 2004). Such analysis moves through certain phases of defining the unit of analysis (teachers' understanding and experiences of the implementation of a new reform) and the units of meaning (defining central notions, application in teaching practice, challenges and dilemmas as well as well as support and areas of professional development). These phases help the researcher to condense the data. In the abstraction phase, emerging themes were formulated, based on the research questions, and accordingly related to the theoretical framework of the study. In the attempt to understand teachers' understanding and experiences of reform implementation, it was crucial to go beyond individual experiences and focus on the collective understanding of the research topic.
The preliminary results are that the participants experienced the mission to integrate practice-based research as a somewhat complex and ambiguous task, difficult to master and enact in their practice. Teachers' understanding of 'scientific ground' relates to knowledge coming from the outside, i.e. results produced by university researchers. 'Proven practice' involves knowledge coming from the inside, created by individual teachers or by groups of teachers, school leaders and students. Teachers regard 'scientific approach' as a combination of research-based methods and their proven practice, applied in their teaching. On the individual level, teachers struggle to make sense of the intentions behind the reform. Since the reform emphasizes scientific knowledge, which can be seen as a new aspect added to teachers work, the reform does not explicitly connect to prior teaching experiences. Teachers underlined the importance of the social context. They are supported by being part of a professional learning community where the meaning and the application of the reform is negotiated and enacted. Structural factors affecting teachers' implementation of the reform negatively, were lack of time and financial resources, and the dealing of many and sometimes competing contemporary reforms. The teachers also highlighted the importance of support in carrying out the reform. The support related to, for example, their need for developing their knowledge and competence about how to carry out practice-based research, which can be done in professional development initiatives including, for example, courses and supervision in their practical work with practice-based research. However, teachers also perceived that when these conditions were met, they acknowledged opportunities connected to the mission, which relate to both professional development and school development. To integrate practice-based research in school can be a bridge between theoretical and practical knowledge - to explicit tacit knowledge. In addition, it can contribute positively to teachers' professionalism and teacher status.
Bailey, K. D. (1994). Methods of social research (fourth edition). New York: The Free Press. Ball, S.J. (2003): The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228. Bergmark, U., & Kostenius, C. (2009). 'Listen to me when I have something to say' - Students' participation in educational research for sustainable school improvement. Improving Schools, 12(3), 249-260. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Why 'What Works' still Won't work: From Evidence-Based Education to Value-based Education. Stud Filos Educ 29, 491-503. Brezicha, K., Bergmark, U., & Mitra, D. (2015). One size does not fit all: Differentiating leadership to support teachers in school reform. Education Administration Quarterly. 51(1), 96-132. Brown, C. (2017). Further exploring the rationality of evidence informed practice: A semiotic analysis of the perspectives of a school federation. International Journal of Educational Research 82: 28-39. Cain, T. (2015). Teachers' Engagement with Published Research: Addressing the Knowledge Problem. Curriculum Journal, 26(3), 488-509. Caena, F. (2014). Teacher Competence Frameworks in Europe: Policy-as-Discourse and Policy-as-Practice. European Journal of Education 49(3): 311-331. Coburn, C. E. (2005). Shaping teacher sensemaking: School leaders and the enactment of reading policy. Educational Policy, 19, 476-509. Englund, T., Forsberg, E. & Sundberg, D. (Eds.). (2012). Vad räknas som kunskap? Läroplansteoretiska utsikter och inblickar i lärarutbildning och skola. Stockholm: Liber AB. Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004). Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness. Nurse Education Today, 24(2), 105-112. Hansson, K. (2014). Skola och medier: Aktiviteter och styrning i en kommuns utvecklingssträvanden. Umeå: Umeå universitet. Håkansson, J., & Sundberg, D. (2016). Utmärkt skolutveckling. Forskning om skolförbättring och måluppfyllelse. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. Ryve, A., Hemmi, K., & Kornhall, K. (2016). Skola på vetenskaplig grund. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. Spillane, J.P. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers' efforts to reconstruct their practice: The mediating role of teachers' zones of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(2), 143-175. Spillane, J. P. (2002). Local theories of teacher change: The pedagogy of district policies and program. Teachers College Record, 104, 377-420. Spillane, J.P., Reiser, B. J., & Reimer, T. (2002). Policy implementation and cognition: Reframing and refocusing implementation research. Review of Educational Research, 72(3), 387. Stoll, L., Bolam, R. McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities. A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258. Swedish Government (2010). Swedish Education Act, SFS 2010:800.
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