01 SES 09 B, Reflection: An intergral part of professional learning?
Teachers 'learning and teachers' professional development has gained much attention from researchers in recent years, and there are many research projects and studies describing the effect of different methods and approaches to teacher learning and professional development. In Norway there is also increasing awareness of teachers' learning and development, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education (2017), emphasized in its recommendations that researchers and teachers should cooperate more closely on research and development work on the improvement of schools and teaching. While there is a desire for greater collaboration between researchers and teachers, the Ministry of Education also noted that there is a lack of researchers with sufficient research expertise. This is supported by Nilsson and Postholm (2017) and Tan (2014) who found that there are too few researchers with necessary competence to carry out research based on development processes, and that the researcher`s role is often taken for granted.
The main object of this study was to investigate the researcher`s role in research and development work, where Lesson Study was the method used to structure and organize the development work. The purpose of the study was to elucidate the role of the researcher and to highlight challenges and opportunities for researchers working on similar projects. My research question was as follow: How can the researcher act and react to the challenges that emerge when enhancing the development of practice and still allow teachers to own and manage the project?
Cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) is used as the theoretical foundation and method for the study. In intervention studies based on CHAT, the aim is to promote changes in practice by means of interventions that create new content in the various parts of the activity system (Engeström & Sannino, 2010) and (Postholm & Smith, 2017). The researcher`s role is therefore to promote and maintain an expansive learning process led and own by the teachers (Engeström & Sannino, 2010). Research within a CHAT approach examines participants interactions and social constructions, and the aims is to improve practice while the research is being conducted (Postholm & Madsen, 2006; Wardekker, 2000). According to Engeström (2008), natural expansive learning cycles occur relative rarely, and he points out that if expansive learning cycles are to be studied, there is a need to implement formative interventions to study them. Lesson Study is representing a mediating artefact in the expansive learning cycle, and it is introduced as a tool in the new model of teachers` learning, as I as a researcher want to study with a particular focus on the researcher role. In formative interventions, both the teachers and the researcher will have a completely different role than in linear interventions. In formative interventions, the researcher proposes to stimulate and maintain an expansive transformation process that is largely led and owned by the teachers. In linear interventions, the researcher wants to control all variables, and the teachers are introduced to methods and techniques for addressing challenges and problems, thus depriving them the ability to analyze, reflect and think themselves as they can do in formative interventions (Engeström & Sannino, 2010, p. 15).
My role as a researcher was to be a support and a driving force in the development processes. As a researcher, being a participant observer in the various LS processes gave me opportunities to gain a broader insight into the teachers thoughts about teaching, challenges they experienced in their practice, and through critical thinking and by challenging the teachers “commonsense” beliefs about teaching (Steen-Olsen, 2010), I was able to seek to promote and maintain an expansive transformation process (Engeström & Sannino, 2010).
The study is based on a qualitative study that focuses on the researcher`s role during development work in cooperation with teachers. Overall, this is an ethnographic study that deals with understanding the teachers learning culture and the ways in which it can be developed. Considering my role as a case study within the ethnographic framework, I determined that the situation matched what was described by Stake (1995) as an intrinsic case study. In other words, the case itself was of primary interest, and I needed to learn more about the particular case in point, namely the researcher`s role. Data collection in case studies is often extensive and draws on multiple sources of information to get a comprehensive picture of what is being studied (Creswell, 2013). The data sources for this study was from participating in planning meetings and reflection talks with the participants, teachers individual reflection notes after each Lesson Study cycle, group interviews with the teachers, several informal conversations and I wrote a research log throughout the study. The study generated large amounts of data, but in order to get as much information as possible about the researcher`s role, it was necessary for me to use all these different data sources. In order to develop a structure for the material, I used the open coding phase described by Strauss & Corbin (1998) in the constant comparative method of analysis. Lesson Study (LS) was used in the study as a formative intervention / mediating artifact to structure and operationalize the development of teachers' learning and professional development. Lesson Study is a teaching-enhancing and knowledge-building process that originates from Japan. LS implies that a group of teachers regularly meets over a period of time to work with design, implementation, testing, data retrieval, reflections and improvements in teaching (Lewis, 2002; Stiegler & Hiebert, 1999). LS is a teacher-driven method that involves the teacher group exploring the challenges or problems they encounter in their teaching in the face of the students. An LS cycle consists of conducting thorough analyzes of the challenge, careful planning of an hour, implementation and observation of the hour, thorough reflections based on student observations and sharing knowledge / findings with the rest of the school's teachers.
Although LS is a method that is largely teacher-led, findings in the study show that there is a need for researchers to support and strengthen the development work in a learning direction. The findings in the study are corroborated here concerning the importance of the researcher`s abilities to communicate, to redefine his or her own role, to collaborate with the participants in ways that facilitate learning for all parties, and to encourage new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. I also think that the study shows that it is unrealistic to just implement Lesson Study or other approaches for teachers learning and development, expecting expansive learning to take place as an automatic result. The study also clarifies that the researcher`s role in practically oriented research is a challenging one that requires competence in several areas. The study assumes that the researcher`s role and approach are of crucial importance for development and change, and it is therefore a need for further research on the researcher`s role in LS and in similar research and development projects.
Creswell, J. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: choosing among five approaches (3.ed.). Sage: Los Angeles Engeström, Y. (2008). From teams to knots. Activity-theoretical studies of collaboration and learningat work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Engström, Y., & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expancive learning: Foundations, findings and future Challenges. Educational Resaerch Review 5, 1-24. Lewis, C. (2002). Does Lesson Study have a future in the United States? Nagoya Journal of Education and Human Development, no. 1, 2002 Ministry of Education (2017). Lærerutdanning 2025. Nasjonal strategi for kvalitet og samarbeid ilærerutdanningene. Oslo; Ministry of Education Nilsson, V. & Postholm, M. B. (2017) Ti år med tidsskriftet FoU i praksis: Fokus, funn og forskning. Tidsskriftet FoU i Praksis, 11(1), 7-40. Postholm, M.B. & Madsen, J. (2006). The researcher`s role: An ethical dimension. Outlines, 1: 49-60. Postholm, M.B. & Smith, K. (2017) Praksisrettet forskning og formativ intervensjonsforskning: forskning for utvikling av praksisfeltet og vitenskapelig kunnskap. In S. Gjøtterud, H. Hiim, D. Husebø. L.H. Jensen, T.S. Olsen & E. Stjernestrøm (EDS.), Aksjonsforskning i Norge. Teoretisk og empirisk mangfold. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Newsbury Park, CA: Sage. Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Sage. Steen-Olsen, T. (2010). Refleksiv forskningsetikk – den kritiske ettertanken. I T. Lund, M.B.Postholm & G.Skeie (red.). Forskeren i møte med praksis. Refleksivitet, etikk ogkunnskapsutvikling (s. 97-113). Trondheim: Tapir akademisk forlag. Stiegler, J.W., & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the world`s teachers for improving education in the classroom. NY: Free Press Tan, M. Y. S. (2014). A researcher-facilitator`s reflection: Implementing a Singapore case og learning study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 37, 44-54 Wardekker, W. (2000). Criteria for the Quality of Inquiry. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 7(4), 259-272.
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