10 SES 12 D, Research on Teacher Educators
There is an established association between teacher quality and student learning in schools, which promotes research studies focusing on teachers. However, a similar link has not been established between teacher education and student learning (Murray & Kosnik, 2011). Despite a slightly notable increase in studies about teacher educators, this group of professionals is regarded as under-researched, insufficiently understood and generally ignored (Cochran-Smith, 2003, Murray & Male, 2005; Vanassche & Keltermans, 2016).
There are various definitions of who teacher educators are. The one which is adopted in this study defines “teacher educators as teachers of teachers, engaged in the induction and professional learning of future teachers through pre-service courses and/or the further development of serving teachers through in-service courses” (Murray & Swennen & Shagrir, 2009, p. 29). In this definition, teacher educators are not involved in initial teacher training only but also teachers’ professional development which is a life long process.
The literature mainly concentrates on teacher educators who work at higher education institutions and who have entered academia, having experienced the transition from first-order teaching to second-order practice (White, 2014). Many of these studies place teacher educator professional identity in the center of understanding of what it means to do teacher education (Olsen & Buchanan, 2017; Murray, 2010; Murray & Male, 2005).
Based on this, this study investigates professional identities of in-service teacher educators who are responsible for training language teachers at state schools in Turkey. Considering professional identity as a group of attributes that are employed to differentiate one group of professionals from another (Ben-Peretz & Kleeman & Reichenberg & Shimoni, 2010), the researchers utilized the framework suggested by Davey (2013) for teacher educators. Davey (2013) described professional identity as both personal and social; fragmented and multifaceted, changing and evolving. It is related to emotional beings and is value-driven, includes a sense of group membership, and it is collective (pp 31-32).
In this presentation, in order to have a deeper understanding of ‘what is it like to be an in-service teacher educator?”, the focus will be on in-service teacher educators’ conceptualizations and definitions of training teachers; challenges, and the sources of reward that help them deal with the struggles of training teachers.
Overall, in Turkey there is a dearth of research studies on teacher educators’ profiles and their professional development (Yıldırım, 2013). Specifically, as Borg (2011) and O’Dwyer and Atlı (2015) point out, research on language teacher educators’ identity and professional learning is quite scarce. Therefore, exploring professional identities of language teacher educators is quite important. Moreover, investigating particularly professional identities of in-service teacher educators carry utmost significance since in contexts like Turkey frequent changes occur in the education system (Uztosun, 2018), and in-service teacher educators are the ones who primarily guide teachers through these educational reforms. Moreover, studying in-service teacher educators’ professional identities will contribute to the expansion of research which focuses on roles, practices, knowledge domains of teacher educators as the unique group. In this sense, this study will offer insights into the growing research field of identity studies on professional development facilitators and school-based teacher educators.
The leading research questions are:
- How do in-service teacher educators’ metaphors reveal their self-images in training language teachers?
- What are the challenges and dilemmas that in-service teacher educators experience in training language teachers?
- What are the sources of reward that enable in-service teacher educators to keep their commitment to training language teachers?
This study aims to investigate in-service language teacher educators’ personal involvement in training teachers within the framework of teacher educator professional identity. Moreover, the study also tries to explore how educators perceive the profession, the challenges, and commitment to teacher training. This requires the researcher to particularly focus on the experiences and insights of the specific group of in-service teacher educators. Therefore, this study is designed as a qualitative case study in the social constructivist framework (Creswell, 2013). The unique experiences and conceptualizations of the educators provided the bounded system of this case study (Stake, 1995). Through the case study design, an in-depth and rich understanding of their experiences was sought. Particularistic, descriptive and reflective accounts of teacher educators’ experiences were the focus of the study. In the study, purposeful sampling strategy (Creswell, 2013) was used in the first step. The participants who could purposefully inform the understanding of the teacher educator’s professional identity were chosen. Then the snowball technique (Creswell, 2013) was secondarily followed. Six in-service teacher educators participated in this study. All the participants were former language teachers. They received an eight-month-long training in Turkey and in the USA to be an in-service teacher educator. With the Ministry of Education’s assignment and support, these teacher educators offered one-week long professional development seminars across the country for all 65.000 English language teachers working at state schools for nearly three years. The researchers conducted three-sets of in-depth semi-structured individual interviews. With each participant, interviews lasted for 3-4 hours in total. The interview questions, based on the methodological framework offered by Davey (2013), focused on their preparation and training processes; daily experiences and job descriptions; knowledge and expertise in teacher training, challenges, ambivalences, values and pleasure sources, and professional community. The interviews were audio-recorded and verbatim transcribed. The researchers used thematic coding and content analysis. They re-read each transcript twice before the actual coding and took memos. Based on inductive interpretation by making meaningful inferences, they identified themes. For quality assurance, the researchers will make use of member checking and inter-coder reliability (Creswell, 2013).
In this study, participants’ self-images as in-service teacher educators were investigated through the metaphors they provided to describe their experience of training teachers, the challenges and tensions they felt in this process and the values and the sources of fulfillment they embraced in facilitating teachers’ professional development. The findings show that in-service teacher educators’ metaphors for the profession reveal their understanding of their roles, duties, responsibilities in training teachers in various ways. Some metaphors were related to leading a journey or guiding teachers in their practices, others displayed a parental perspective of nurturing. In other metaphors, the focal point was on the educators themselves, seeing teacher education as a life style or putting emphasis on continuous change in their identity. The participants mentioned that training teachers was a job full of professional and personal struggles. In this regard, in-service teacher educators referred to reluctance and resistance from the participant teachers, lack of appreciation and recognition, and challenges related to the nature and structure of the training program. However, these issues were overcome thanks to the numerous sources of reward. The sources of fulfillment came from the power to reach a wider audience, which are pupils, the sense of belonging and the satisfaction they found in working with distinguished professors from the field of ELT in training teachers. They also mentioned the important role of working with an accomplished, supportive and collaborative group of peers and the positive effect of witnessing the change the participant teachers showed in terms of their attitudes towards the training sessions.
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