10 SES 08 C, Research on Professional Knowledge & Identity in Teacher Education
The aim of this study is to examine the professional identity of the subject discipline teacher educator. The subject discipline teacher educator is as a higher education based subject specialist involved in initial teacher education, for example, a physics lecturer teaching on a science initial teacher education course. The subject discipline teacher educators in this study work in concurrent (post-primary) initial teacher education in Ireland. On these courses more than half of the teaching and learning experiences of student teachers happen within their subject specialism. The role of the subject discipline teacher educator in initial teacher education is to facilitate the development of the student teachers subject knowledge. In-depth knowledge and familiarity with the organisation of the subject, and a passion for the subject area are all evidence of an expert teacher (Sosniak 1999; Jong and Brinkman 1999). While those exhibiting a lack of subject knowledge rely on tightly controlled lesson plans, and teacher-led learning (Grossman 1990). Despite the considerable exposure of student teachers to subject specialist teacher educators, and the key role they play in teacher development, very little is known about this group. This study aims to address this knowledge gap.
Considerably more is known about teacher educators with “expertise in teaching and learning, about teaching” (Dolan and Kenny 2014, 10), as this group of teacher educators forms the basis for much of the research in this area (Loughran 1997, Lunenberg 2002, Loughran 2006). This is especially evident in studies on the professional identity of teacher educators, which trace the shifting identities of school teachers, who become teacher educators in higher education (Murray and Male 2005, Kosnik and Beck 2008). Indeed, in much of the literature, having experience as a school teacher, is assumed to be a prerequisite met by all teacher educators (Swennen, Jones and Volman 2010). These studies often fail to acknowledge the various actors involved in higher education based teacher education who may self-identify as teacher educators, despite coming from diverse backgrounds, and via circuitous routes into teacher education (European Commission 2013, Livingston 2013). As such there remain groups of teacher educators, such as the subject specialist teacher educator, that are under-researched and under-represented.
This research addresses one research question: What is the professional identity of the Subject Specialist Teacher Educator?
The study is based on a survey of 70 subject specialist teacher educators. A purposeful sampling approach was used (Creswell and Clark 2010, Patton 2002), whereby participants were selected based on their role as subject specialist teacher educators teaching on concurrent (post-primary) ITE courses in Ireland. Participants were sourced from all of the 10 institutions that offer concurrent (post-primary) ITE courses in Ireland. All subject specialist teacher educators (N ≈ 180) were viewed as potential participants. Total respondents to the online survey (N = 70), represent 38.9 percent of the estimated active population of subject specialist teacher educators (N = 180). All providers of concurrent (post-primary) ITE in Ireland are represented in the sample, as are all of the subject specialisms offered on concurrent (post-primary) ITE courses. The survey included a broad base of questions on the subject specialist teacher educators’ background, academic profile, as well as, pedagogical, research, school placement, and administrative practice as related to their work as teacher educators. The survey also asked participants about their professional identity as teacher educators, a central focus of this particular study. The survey design included nominal and binary categorical variables. A smaller number continuous interval variables were also included, all of which are measured on a 5-point scale. Analysis explores frequencies, as well as, the central tendency and standard deviation of continuous variables. Independent t-tests were also conducted to compare the means of different groups identified in the research. Cross tabulation analysis was used to analyse the similarities and differences across nominal and binary variables. In all cases significance between means is assumed when observed p values are less than the criterion of 0.05. Participants also provided qualitative responses to some open-ended questions. These responses were coded thematically, and examples reported where appropriate.
The results of this survey on the professional identity of subject specialist teacher educators provides a first examination of this cadre of teacher educator. This paper, therefore, addresses the lack of research on this particular subset of higher education based teacher educators. Several factors related to the professional identity of the subject specialist teacher educator will be analysed. It is expected that the results will reveal that the subject specialist teacher educators in the study are a heterogeneous group in terms of their propensity to identify as teacher educators. It is expected that correlations will be evidenced between those exhibiting a strong professional identity as teacher educators and their backgrounds, commitment to, and engagement in, their practice of teacher education. The research question posed by this study is important, considering the significant role played by subject specialist teacher educators in teacher preparation, and the limited research documentation of their professional identity as it relates to teacher education.
Creswell, J.W., and V. Clark. 2010. Designing and conducting mixed method research (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Dolan, R., and M. Kenny. 2014. Who prepares teachers? The Irish experience. Paper presented at the WERA (World Education Research Association) focal meeting, as part of the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA) 39th Annual Conference, 19-21 November, Edinburgh, Scotland. European Commission. 2013. Supporting teacher educators for better learning outcomes. Brussels: European Commission. Grossman, P. 1990. The making of a teacher: teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teacher College Press. Jong, O. de. and F. Brinkman. 1999. Investigating student teachers conception of how to teach: international network studies from science and mathematics education. European Journal of Teacher Education.22(1): 5-10. Kosnik, C., and C. Beck. 2008. In the shadows: non-tenure-line instructors in pre-service teacher education. European Journal of Teacher Education. 31(2). 185-202. Livingston, K. 2013. “Teacher educators: what does the concept mean and who are they?”. European Journal of Teacher Education, 36(1): 1-2. doi: 10.1080/02619768.2013.763484. Loughran, J. 1997. An Introduction to Purpose, Passion and Pedagogy. In J. Loughran, and T. Russell Eds. Teaching about Teaching: Purpose, Passion and Pedagogy in Teacher Education, pp. 3- 9. Oxon: Routledge Falmer. Loughran, J. 2006. Developing a Pedagogy of Teacher Education. London: Routledge. Lunenberg, M. 2002. Designing a Curriculum for Teacher Educators. European Journal of Teacher Education. 25(2-3): 263-277. doi: 10.1080/0261976022000044872. Murray, J., and T. Male. 2005. Becoming a Teacher Educator: Evidence from the field. Teaching and Teacher Education. 21(2). 125-142. Patton, M.Q. 2002. Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Sosniak, L. 1999. Professional and subject matter knowledge for teacher education. In G. A. Griffin ( Ed.) The education of teachers 98th NSSE yearbook, part 1, pp. 185-204. Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education. Swennen, A., Jones, K., and M. Volman. 2010. Teacher educators: their identities, sub‐identities and implications for professional development. Professional Development in Education. 36(1-2): 131-148
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