10 SES 12 A, Research and Teacher Education
There is a strong European agenda for improving the quality of teacher education (European Commission, 2010, 2015). It is well established that if teaching and teacher education are to be taken seriously, they need to be research-based and perceived as ‘public intellectuals’ (Cochran-Smith, 2005). More recently there has been a re-positioning of teacher education and associated programmes to be ‘research driven’ (Tack and Vanderlinde, 2014), with pressure from universities for teacher educators to focus on securing research funding and increase publication output (Stern, 2016). This paper sets out to provide critical reflection on the enhancement of conditions for improving the quality of teacher education, with a particular focus on the teacher-research nexus.
This paper will explore the current teacher educator-researcher positioning in the Irish context through in-depth interviews with ten experienced teacher educators, probing the extent to which they (i) use research, (ii) actively conduct research, and (iii) value their role as a teacher educator researcher. The Irish institutional and policy maker perspective on the dual responsibility teacher educators carry will also be discussed, particularly in the context of an International Review Panel (Sahlberg, Furlong & Munn, 2012) who suggested that to enhance teacher professionalism and practice in Ireland it was necessary to increase the research capacity of providers of initial teacher education. An associated consideration was the development of a critical mass of (research) teacher educators through the reduction in number of teacher education institutions to form ‘centres of excellence of education’.
The recent Irish policy context has re-framed the role of teacher education and research. Significantly, the joint influence of the more complete universitisation of teacher education recommended in the recent Sahlberg et al. report (2012), along with increased rankings pressure on universities, has meant that there is more pressure on teacher education academics as they work in higher educational institutions to acquire a PhD and publish in peer-reviewed research outlets. Contextualising this recent policy reframing is important in terms of patterns of research practice in teacher education. While there have been no studies or reviews as such, a number of trends can be identified. First, the recent growth of research outputs on teacher education in Ireland over the last decade with publication of peer reviewed journal articles, reports and small-scale collaborations providing evidence in terms of associated outputs. Second, while the nature of much of the research on teacher education has comprised small-scale studies within individual programmes or sometimes small-scale studies between programmes in different institutions (e.g. SCoTENS), there have been a small number of larger scale studies as well as commissioned reports on teacher education which have provided more system level insights on teacher education. Third, the focus of research has been mainly on initial teacher education with some focus on continuing professional development and very little, until recently, on induction (Conway et al, 2009). Taking the above observations together, the opportunities to learn and experience research as a teacher educator are typically studies within one’s own institution. We do not know the proportion of staff involved, the duration of involvement, the types and foci of studies nor the extent to which such research is seen as central or not to teacher educators’ professional institutional profiles. Anecdotal evidence would suggest significant differences between institutions in the standing and profile of research on teacher education.
Participants: Ten teacher educators in Ireland who had previously completed an international survey exploring the professional learning needs of teacher educators (Czerniawski, Guberman & MacPhail, 2016) and noted their interest in being involved further with the study were interviewed. Seven female and three male teacher educators made up the interview sample and, although nine of the ten had PhDs, constituted a number of different trajectories into teacher education. Five of the sample had undertaken teacher education qualifications, taught in school for a number of years before returning to university to complete a Masters’ and / or PhD before entering teacher education. Two of the sample had undertaken a subject-specific undergraduate programme (not in teacher education), had completed a PhD and Post-Doc. before undertaking the role of a teacher educator. Two of the sample had entered teacher education directly from teaching, with one going on to complete their PhD while working as a teacher educator. The final member of the sample had taught in schools before completing a Master’s and then entering teacher education, and had since completed a PhD. A significant proportion of the interviewees held senior posts within their institutions and included being heads of departments and dean of a school of education. Semi-structured interviews: A semi-structured interview protocol was piloted with teacher educators who were not part of the study sample to ensure the wording and spirit of the questions encouraged engaging responses. Those who were responsible for conducting the pilot studies were the same individuals who conducted the main study semi-structured interviews. The interview questions constituted questions on (i) background and demographics, (ii) professional learning opportunities and (iii) teacher education and research. The interviews took place at each teacher educator’ place of work, either face-to-face or by Skype. Each interview lasted between 40 minutes and 70 minutes. Data analysis: Thematic analysis was used to analyze and triangulate the interview data, identifying themes arising from the interviews. A coding process, used in identifying similar text units, followed by linking and retrieval of similarly coded segments (Mason, 1996), was compiled. These were arranged under particular themes that complemented the interview questions. Additional themes that emerged necessitated further consideration and analysis of previously coded data.
The interviewed teacher educators enforced the relatively high engagement in using research. The most frequent comments conveyed the belief that research is inextricably linked to teaching and that they have an obligation as teacher educators to not only remain current in their thinking and practices; “I suppose I use evidence and research hugely to inform my practice. I also obviously use research to actually assess my own practice in terms of how I as a teacher perform so research is very much built into my teaching.” (Interviewee D) It was also evident from the interviewees that teacher educators worked in institutions where research was formally accounted for in their workload. In such instances a budget to support their development of research skills (but little flexibility in time away from administrative duties to purse research) as well as continual reminders of expected institutional research metrics and outputs provided motivation to engage with, and be accountable for, research activities. In the minority of institutions (those who were / had previously been colleges of education residing outside formal university structures), there was not such a strong rhetoric around active researchers, particularly for those in teacher education. In the same type of institutions, a relatively new directive to all university staff on increasing their research presence and outputs was difficult for some teacher educators to digest; “We work for very long hours, and I do feel under pressure, I do (…) People say things to you like, "We need to raise our profile." That kind of thing. Like, to be told, when you've been working in an area for 18 years, where everybody knows you, where something like that you've done has been so positively received, to be told to raise your profile I find quite insulting, to be honest.” (Interviewee J)
Cochran-Smith, M. 2006. Teacher Education and the Need for Public Intellectuals. The New Educator 2 (3): 181-206. Conway, P. F., Murphy R., Rath, A. & Hall, K. (2009). Learning to Teach and its Implications for the Continuum of Teacher Education: A Nine-Country Cross-National Study. Cork: University College Cork Czerniawski, G., Guberman, A. & MacPhail, A. (2017) The professional developmental needs of higher education-based teacher educators: an international comparative needs analysis. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(1), 127-140. European Commission. 2013. Supporting Teacher Educators for better learning outcomes.(http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/policy/school/doc/support-teacher-educators_en.pdf) European Commission and OECD. 2010. Teachers’ Professional Development, Europe in International Comparison. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Union European Union (2009). Summary of the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Education which took place on 24 September as part of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union. (http://www.se2009.eu/polopoly_fs/1.16329!menu/standard/file/Conclusions%20med%20logg%20e ng.pdf) Mason, J. (1996) Qualitative Researching. London: Sage. Sahlberg, P., Furlong, J., & Munn, P. 2012. Report of the international review panel on the structure of initial teacher education provision in Ireland: Review conducted on behalf of the department of education and skills. Dublin: Higher Education Authority of Ireland. Stern, A. 2016. Building on Success and Learning from Experience – An Independent Review of the Research Excellence Framework. Crown copyright: ref: IND/16/9.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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