10 SES 02 E, Research on Teacher Educators
Teacher educators fulfil many roles (Lunenberg, Dengerink and Korthagen 2014). These are context-dependent and change over time (Kelchtermans, Smith and Vanderlinde 2018). The current study examines the perceptions of experienced Israeli teacher educators regarding their professional development paths, and the influence their academic institutions had on these. We believe that drawing academic institutions’ awareness to their own role in teacher educators’ professional development and implementation of research findings can lead to more effective teacher educators and greater contribution of their research to the educational system.
In the following we will shortly describe literature concerning teacher educators’ professional development paths, and then present our research questions.
Laudel and Glaser (2008) describe three development paths for researchers' career: cognitive development, academic (‘scientific community career’) and institutional leadership (‘organisational career’). Cognitive development is the scientific knowledge accumulated by researchers from the studies they conduct. Their academic career is the research they conduct and publish. Institutional leadership is defined as the positions they are appointed to in their place of work. As their career develops, researchers fill more prominent and influential roles within their institutions.
Teaching is the principal task of teacher educators, and is often the second career of school teachers. As teacher educators, they need to be updated in teaching and assessment in both contexts (school and higher education), and explicitly clarify their deliberation and reasoning processes to their students as they teach (Murray and Male 2005; Swennen, Jones and Volman 2010). This is a vulnerable position because they are exposed to criticism concerning the extent to which their actual teaching meets the standards they espouse (Kelchtermans, Smith and Vanderlinde 2018). In most institutions, there are no formal recruitment criteria or preparation processes for this role, nor professional development programs.
It is widely agreed that teacher educators need to engage in practice-based research in an ongoing manner to improve the quality of their multi-faceted practice (Cochran-Smith 2005; Loughran 2014; Vanassche and Kelchtermans 2015). However, Griffiths, Thompson and Hrynigewicz (2014) found that feelings about professional development in research are mixed, and that development is fraught with interruptions and regressions. Novice teacher educators often feel a lack of confidence in their research skills, especially those coming to teacher education from schools rather than from academia. Furthermore, teacher educators’ research does not receive proper attention, because it is viewed as too limited in scope and lacking rigor (Cochran-Smith 2005; Lunenberg, Dengerink and Korthagen 2014).
Professional development in an academic institution involves climbing the career ladder to managerial positions of influence. Paradoxically, although being appointed to a senior position is an achievement, a professional development needs survey conducted among teacher educators found that they were the least interested in learning about academic administration (Czerniawski, MacPhail and Guberman 2017).
To summarize, professional development in each of these professional development paths and striking a balance between them is difficult. The objective of this study is to examine how experienced teacher educators perceive their professional development in research, teaching and institutional leadership, how they describe the interrelationships between the three paths, and how these are influenced by their academic institutions.
This study was conducted in Israeli colleges of education. Similar to European countries, they became academic institutions (awarding bachelor and master degrees) and the role of research has intensified (Hofman and Niederland 2012). However, teaching load in Israeli colleges of education is about twice as high as that of universities.
The participants are sixteen teacher educators (twelve females) who are experienced and actively engaged in research. They come from eight different colleges. The research tool was a semi-structured interview, consisting of four parts: 1. how the interviewees became involved in teacher education and their job remit. 2. The interviewees’ professional development, opportunities, barriers and needs concerning their roles. 3. The interviewees’ attitudes towards research in teacher education, their own research-related activities, needs, and factors that either enhance or hinder their involvement in research. Questions in this part were asked only if answers did not emerge previously, in response to the second part. 4. An open question that asked them to add anything they thought was relevant about their roles as teacher educators, their professional development or research. The non-structured part followed interviewees’ descriptions of their roles and their professional development in each of them, probing their perceptions of the interrelationships between these roles. In addition, they were asked how their roles and professional development are influenced by their colleges. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interviews (Guest, Macqueen and Namey 2012). Initial categories were based on previous research and the interviewees' actual words. We paid particular attention to references to teaching, research, and leadership roles and to their interrelationships, as well as to comments regarding the colleges. Similar phrases and comments were assigned to the same categories. The initial categories were modified in an iterative process: categories that were too general were split into sub-categories, whereas non-frequent categories were merged into categories that are more general or omitted. For example, while examining the work context, college authorities emerged as a significant sub-category. On the other hand, although we expected social activism to be a significant role, it was mentioned by only four interviewees. After the themes were decided on and the codes used to describe them were defined, we reviewed the interviews again. Each researcher reviewed half the interviews and coded them according to these themes. Subsequently, both of us reviewed the full set of coded interviews together to ensure that we agreed on the interview segments that were attached to each theme (Guest, Macqueen and Namey 2012, p. 89).
Teaching, research and institutional leadership are perceived as important areas for professional development and that the relationships between them range from mutual support and complementation to conflict over limited time resources. Teacher educators reported they were obligated to high standards of teaching, have close relationship with their students and are committed to their success: 'We [college lecturers] evaluate our success less on the basis of our research projects and more on our success in teaching'. College authorities offer teacher educators opportunities for professional learning in teaching and publicly value those who are rated highly by students. However, both academic as well as institutional promotion are dependent on academic publications. Teacher educators engage in research out of a combination of internal and external motivations that include personal interest, contribution to practice, as well as the desire to obtain academic recognition and influential positions within the institution. Over-emphasis upon research and publications comes at the expense of other areas of professional development, and eventually hampers the quality of research and its contribution to practice. It is therefore concluded that teacher educators need pre planned and well balanced professional development opportunities. Furthermore, teacher educators' professional development is currently viewed by college authorities as a personal endeavor. They do not require that teacher educators collaborate as teams, nor do they introduce changes based on the results of studies conducted by their own academic faculty. These behaviors undermine their professed commitment to research informed teaching. The current paper suggests that by forming research teams and transforming their practices in accordance with their findings, colleges can amplify the impact of studies conducted within their institutes and provide opportunities to test their recommendations. Thus colleges may be bridge over the gap between individual practitioners’ research and global recognition and impact (Cochran-Smith 2005; Zeichner, 2007).
Cochran-Smith, M. 2005. "Teacher Educators as Researchers: Multiple Perspectives." Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2): 219-225. Czerniawski, G., A. Guberman, and A. MacPhail. 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. Griffiths, V., S. Thompson, and L. Hryniewicz. 2014. "Landmarks in the Professional and Academic Development of Mid-Career Teacher Educators." European Journal of Teacher Education 37(1): 74-90. Guest, G., K. M. Macqueen, and E. E. Namey. 2012. Applied Thematic Analysis. Los Angeles: Sage. Hofman, A., and D. Niederland. 2012. “Is Teacher Education Higher Education? The Politics of Teacher Education in Israel, 1970-2010." Higher Education Policy 25(1): 87-106. Kelchtermans, G., K. Smith, and R. Vanderlinde. 2018. "Towards an ‘International Forum for Teacher Educator Development’: An Agenda for Research and Action." European Journal of Teacher Education 41(1): 120-134. Laudel, G., and J. Glaser. 2008. “From Apprentice to Colleague: The Metamorphosis of Early Career Researchers.” Higher Education 55: 337–406. Loughran, J. 2014. “Professionally Developing as a Teacher Educator." Journal of Teacher Education 65 (4): 271-283. Lunenberg, M., J. Dengerink, and F. Korthagen. 2014. The Professional Teacher Educator: Roles, Behaviour, and Professional Development of Teacher Educators. Rotterdam: Sense. Murray, J., and T. Male. 2005. "Becoming a Teacher Educator: Evidence from the Field." Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2): 125-142. Swennen, A., K. Jones, and M. Volman. 2010. "Teacher Educators: Their Identities, Sub-Identities and Implications for Professional Development." Professional Development in Education 36 (1-2): 131-148. Vanassche, E., and G. Kelchtermans. 2015. "The State of the Art in Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices: A Systematic Literature Review." Journal of Curriculum Studies 47 (4): 508-528. Zeichner, K. 2007. “Accumulating Knowledge across Self-Studies in Teacher Education.” Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1): 36–46.
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