10 SES 13 D, Research on Teacher Educators
Reforms to teacher education in the UK over the last 30 years have shifted control and content of pre-service teacher learning from the university to the school classroom (Furlong 2013). The process of increasingly centralised control of initial teacher education in England has only partially been mirrored elsewhere in the UK and Europe. From the 1990s, teacher education policy in England has become more school-focused while many European countries extended the process of placing teacher education under the auspices of universities. The findings of a national review on teacher training in England (DfE 2015) reflect the contested place of universities in teacher education and forward a view of the dominant constructions of knowledge for teaching being practical and focused around the immediate demands of contemporary practice in schools.
Influences from the Continental European policy of countries such as Finland and Portugal where all teacher education is at Master’s level, and Norway and the Netherlands which have made significant policy moves in this direction have not impacted on current teacher education policy in England. In England, the teacher educator role is moving into schools with school-based pre-service teacher learning set within a standards-based approach. The Department for Education encourages the expansion of school-led routes by reducing its allocation of pre-service teacher places to university-led routes (National Audit Office 2016: 15). Perhaps most attractive to schools is the possibility of training teachers ‘on the job’, as this helps to fill teaching positions in a climate of growing teacher shortage. However, little research has been undertaken on the new role of the school-based teacher educator and how their work is being enacted in schools (White et al. 2015). Research highlights how this can result in pre-service teachers being unable to interpret and elaborate their experience from a theoretical perspective, suggesting that school-based teacher educators need resources, time and training in the new role (Van Velzen and Volman 2009).
Arguments have been forwarded in the UK in relation to what teacher education contributes to teacher students (HEA 2013; BERA-RSA 2013) with reports highlighting the value of research in developing learning opportunities. Working with collaborative research approaches during teacher education meets the call ‘that it is the responsibility of teacher education to provide novice teachers with feasible tools to systematically examine their work as teachers and educators and to become researchers of their own teaching’ (Smith and Sela 2005: 306). This presentation reports on research which considers the value of a research-based agenda for teacher education for the professional development of teacher educators in schools and universities as well as for supporting the learning of pre-service teachers. The research questions ask:
- How does research feature in the work of teacher educators?
- How do pre-service teachers consider the value of research?
The analysis in the study uses a cultural historical and activity theory (CHAT) lens (Engeström 2008). An activity’s object is often described as the true motive of an activity (Leont’ev 1981). Understanding how the teacher educators see the object of teacher education activity is possible by analysing how they work and use tools within the teacher education activity system. Tools are understood as anything that mediates participants’ actions upon objects (Russell 2004). The research questions explore how research tools are used in teacher education activity and how they mediate the work of those involved. The value of these tools and how their appropriation impacts on teacher education activity is explored in the data analysis.
Interviews with ten university-based teacher educators were undertaken on how they saw practical and theoretical knowledge in their work and how they worked with school-based teacher educators. Particular focus was on their views of this in relation to research activity with them and pre-service teachers. All respondents were experienced teacher educators working on the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course (a one year university-based programme). Interviews were an effective way of exploring the position taken by them with regards to their experiences working with pre-service teachers and school-based teacher educators. In focusing on understandings rather than checking accuracy of accounts, interviews were also an appropriate way of exploring the conceptual position taken by teacher educators with regards to their work. The data presented also draws upon the analysis of data from two pre-service teacher focus group interviews with twelve pre-service teachers. The focus group discussions considered pre-service teachers undertaking research in teacher education preparation and the influence of this on their understanding of teaching and learning. The data generated examined understandings relating to social, cultural and historical circumstances, and therefore the information was contextually grounded. The one to one interviews and the focus groups each lasted approximately 60 minutes. Informed-consent procedures were intended to minimise negative personal and social consequences, and served the purpose of allowing subjects to assess the risks of their participation in the study. A reminder to those involved that everything was on record was evident owing to all interviews being recorded. To offer confidentiality was consistent with the aim of empowering respondents in the sense that they retained control over the circumstances under which their personal views entered into the discourse. Anonymity and confidentiality were promised as far as is possible. The data analysis explores the use of research ‘tools’ as offering learning opportunities for everyone as they introduce diversity of opinion to the teacher education process and encourage and guide participants in reflective and ongoing debate. The analysis considers how the research tools mediate the work in the teacher education activity. Working within a community and valuing the co-operative learning of both school and university-based teacher educators and pre-service teachers may make it more likely that ‘deep reflections and theoretical underpinning can become part and parcel of daily practice’ (Boei et al. 2015: 16).
Initial data analysis considers how the teacher educators recognised the professional development opportunities evident in teacher education activity when research tools were used. Collaborative working practices established by appropriating tools developed from scholarship activity around subject journals, research projects and school-based teacher educator collectives suggest ways forward for enhancing the teacher educator role. Alongside calls to implement research informed teacher preparation must be understandings of how to construct and support rich contexts that serve as transformative settings for teacher learning (Martin et al. 2011: 309). Working with teacher educators from a variety of contexts in order to facilitate developments using the kinds of research tools outlined in the study could be a promising start. Many of the pre-service teachers also found their experience with research transformational. The pre-service teachers felt that the knowledge gained from undertaking research changed their understanding and thinking about classroom practice and helped them be more reflective in their own teaching. The perceived value of the research process was that it helped develop the confidence to be critical and to see differently, especially when their research data was generated for specific research questions. Ideally, this could create a ‘powerful pathway for exploring challenging issues’ (Merino and Holmes 2006: 95) and provide a nonjudgmental basis for considering teaching strategies. This way of working could also pave the way for ongoing critical reflection as a way of understanding classroom practice in future practice. The initial findings highlight the value of research work playing an integral part of teacher education with collaborative research having the potential to create important influences on the ways in which all participants come to view links between practice and research. By adopting a ‘researcherly disposition’ (Tack and Vanderlinde 2016) communities of inquiry and critical alignment can be fostered (Kotsopoulos et al. 2012: 35).
BERA-RSA (2014) Research and the Teaching Profession – Building the capacity for a self-improving education system, BERA-RSA inquiry into the role of research in teacher education, London: BERA. Boei, F., Dengerink, J., Geursen, J., Kools, Q., Koster, B., Lunenberg, M. and Willemse, M. (2015) Supporting the professional development of teacher educators in a productive way, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41(4) 351-368. DfE (Department for Education) (2015) Carter review of Initial Teacher Training (ITT). London: Department for Education. Engeström, Y. (2008) From teams to knots: activity-theoretical studies of collaboration and learning at work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Furlong, J. (2013) Education – an anatomy of the discipline: rescuing the university project? Abingdon: Routledge. HEA (2013) Higher Education Academy (HEA) Learning to Teach Parts 1 and 2. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/hub [Accessed November 2018] Kotsopoulos, D., Mueller, J. and Buzza, D. (2012) Pre-service teacher research: an early acculturation into a research disposition, Journal of Education for Teaching, 38(1) 21-36. Leont'ev, A.N. (1981) The problem of activity in psychology. In: J.V. Wertsch, ed. The concept of activity in soviet psychology. New York: Armonk NY 37-71. Martin, S. D., Snow, J. L. and Franklin Torrez, C. A. (2011) Navigating the terrain of third space: tensions with/in relationships in school-university partnerships, Journal of Teacher Education, 62(3) 299-311. Merino, B. and Holmes, P. (2006) Student teacher inquiry as an ‘entry point’ for advocacy’, Teacher Education Quarterly, 33(3) 79-96. National Audit Office (2016) Training new teachers: Report by the Controller and Auditor General. Available at: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/training-new-teachers/ Accessed 30 November 2018) Russell, D. R. (2004) Looking beyond the interface, activity theory and distributed learning. In: H. Daniels and A. Edwards, eds. The Routledge Falmer Reader in Psychology of Education. London: Routledge Falmer, 307-326. Smith, K. and Sela, O. (2005) Action research as a bridge between pre-service teacher education and in-service professional development for students and teacher educators, European Journal of Teacher Education, 28(3) 293-310. Tack, H. and Vanderlinde, R. (2016) Measuring Teacher Educators’ Researcherly Disposition: Item Development and Scale Construction, Vocations and Learning 9(1) 43-62. Van Velzen, C. and Volman, M. (2009) The activities of a school-based teacher educator: a theoretical and empirical exploration, European Journal of Teacher Education, 32(4) 345-367. White, E., Dickerson, C. and Weston, K. (2015) Developing an appreciation of what it means to be a school-based teacher educator, European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(4) 445-459.
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