10 SES 12 A, Research on Programmes and Pedagogical Approaches in Teacher Education
The gap between educational research and practice has been raised by researchers, practitioners, and policy makers for many years (Broekkamp & van Hout-Wolters, 2007; McIntyre, 2005; Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010). While opinions differ largely on the causes of the gap, Lytle and Cochran-Smith (1992) particularly emphasize that implicit in this problem is a theory of knowledge for teaching that privileges knowledge of university researchers over others (teachers), whereas, ironically, blaming teachers for the failure of education systems has reinforced the argument that teachers could be strong agents in the educational scene based on their professional decision making on a day-to-day basis. As a result, although the ultimate role of educational research is to inform policy and practice (Broekkamp & van Hout-Wolters, 2007; McIntyre, 2005; van Zee, 1998), few teachers would argue that their teaching practice is largely informed by educational research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1990; Korthagen, 2007, McIntyre, 2005). Therefore, teachers express discontent with the separation they encounter between research and practice and the subsequent low impact of teacher education (Korthagen, 2007).
As opposed to the traditional view, teachers, in fact, should not only be regarded as consumers of research, but they should also be seen as producers of research (Robinson, 2003). While several reasons may account for incorporating the role of researcher into the professional lives of teachers, it is, at the outset, a powerful form of professional development (Iliško, Ignatjeva, & Mičule, 2010; Robinson, 2003) that offers much to professionalizing teaching (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999) and initiating school-based educational changes, contrary to expecting the act of teaching to be stable and predictable. Moreover, questions raised and investigated by teachers may offer more practical implications to other teachers than research conducted by university-based researchers (McIntyre, 2005; van Zee, 1998). As such, to make a difference by informed decisions, improve the practice of teaching, and address current educational needs in classrooms more effectively, teachers, as reflective practitioners, must actively take place in educational realm and carry out research, which offers a way beyond alienation (Iliško et al., 2010). In many of these endeavors, empowering teacher research indicates an enlarged view of the teacher’s role such as a decision maker, consultant, curriculum developer, analyst, activist, and school leader (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999).
Accordingly, in empowering teacher research as a “systematic and intentional inquiry carried out by teachers” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1990, p. 3), this study used the data collected after the implementation of a project that was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and aimed to develop research skills of teachers who were also graduate students in the faculties of education at different universities in Turkey. Specifically, the study examined how well the project was conducive to develop the essential knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that are considered as necessary for the process of carrying out research in education. Therefore, the study sought to answer the following research question:
What essential knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that this project was conducive to develop for carrying out research, as perceived by participating teachers?
The present study offers implications for a vision of a European teaching profession as it provides insights to European Union (EU) member states for how teachers can be supported as researchers and lifelong learners. The study also acknowledges the European Commission’s calls for equipping teachers with essential competences and supporting their continuous development in a rapidly evolving world, which have been important goals for the EU as they are closely connected with Europe’s social policy, innovation policy, and research policy to promote social cohesion and the EU's competitiveness (Commission of the European Communities, 2007).
The study was designed as a qualitative case study which explores a phenomenon (the case) in depth and within its real-world context based on an empirical inquiry (Yin, 2014). Accordingly, the current study took place within the context of a research project that was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and aimed to develop research skills of teachers. The sample involved 27 teachers who were selected by purposive sampling strategies (Patton, 1990). First, employing criterion sampling, it was ensured that the participants were graduate students in the faculties of education at several universities in Turkey, particularly those established in 2006 or later, as they are quite recent institutions and it is largely criticized that they lack adequate infrastructure in many regards resulting in poor quality teacher education. Thus, the project had aimed to improve the research skills of the participants coming from those newly-established universities. Second, utilizing maximum variation sampling, the characteristics of participants varied for different factors such as pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. degree, the universities that they have been studying at, and their graduate programs as it was believed that these differences might allow for uncovering the variations in the cases or in the experiences of participants, as well as they might enable the identification of common patterns that emerge out of heterogeneity (Patton, 1990). The data were collected through semi-structured face-to-face focus group interviews as it is a socially oriented method that creates a supportive environment, and encourages the discussion and expression of differing opinions and points of view within a group of 4 to 12 people in an atmosphere more relaxed than a one-to-one interview (Marshall & Rossman, 2011). Once the interview schedule was developed, it was revised based on the opinions of experts, and then piloted. The researchers conducted five focus group interviews and each session took nearly 30 to 45 minutes. Along with the permission of the interviewees, the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data have currently been analyzed by content analysis method, in which a process of coding and identifying essential patterns has been undertaken to generate broader themes based on smaller units (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Patton, 1990). To this end, the transcripts have been coded using NVivo 10. Lastly, for establishing credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability aspects of trustworthiness, the study employed multiple strategies, which will be described in further detail.
Considering the results of preliminary analyses, the participants explained that the project successfully supported them in improving their research knowledge, skills, and attitudes while they also addressed certain aspects to be strengthened. For instance; the participants articulated that they were able to expand their knowledge on how to conduct an effective literature review. Similarly, they clearly expressed that the project helped them develop positive attitudes towards carrying out scientific research, which further revealed that some participants, as they stated, initially had negative attitudes towards it stemming from several factors such as the misconceptions held, lack of adequate knowledge, the content and implementation of the research methods courses taken previously, and so on. Some participants further stated that the project was helpful in raising their awareness about research ethics and misconduct. Moreover, the participants mentioned that they had an opportunity to build certain research skills throughout the project, including collaborating with others and engaging in the practice of quantitative and qualitative data analyses, in which they reported to have had little experience before. Besides, some participants highlighted the impact of the project on increasing their self-confidence as a researcher, as well as developing their self-reflection skills. The study further pointed to different sources that had an influence on the effectiveness of the project. To illustrate, the participants called for more practice-based opportunities which could complement the knowledge and skills that they acquired throughout the project. Similarly, they expressed a desire for a stronger learner-centered approach to instruction as they reasoned that learner-centered teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it, and thereby increases the effectiveness of instruction significantly. Based on these results, the present study might offer essential insights to policymakers for designing more effective programs and courses to empower teachers as researchers.
Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2007). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods. The USA: Pearson Education. Broekkamp, H., & van Hout-Wolters, B. (2007). The gap between educational research and practice: A literature review, symposium, and questionnaire. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 13(3), 203-220. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1990). Research on teaching and teacher research: The issues that divide. Educational Researcher, 19(2), 2-11. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later. Educational Researcher, 28(7), 15-25. Commission of the European Communities. (2007). Communication from the commission to the council and the European Parliament: Improving the quality of teacher education. Retrieved from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52007DC0392&from=EN Iliško, D., Ignatjeva, S., & Mičule, I. (2010). Teachers as researchers: Bringing teachers’ voice to the educational landscape. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability, 12(1), 51-65. Korthagen, F. A. J. (2007). The gap between research and practice revisited. Educational Research and Evaluation, 13(3), 303-310. Lytle, S. L., & Cochran-Smith, M. (1992). Teacher research as a way of knowing. Harvard Educational Review, 62(4), 447-475. Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (2011). Designing qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. McIntyre, D. (2005). Bridging the gap between research and practice. Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(3), 357-382. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Robinson, V. (2003). Teachers as researchers: A professional necessity? SET: Research information for teachers, 1, 27-29. Vanderlinde, R., & van Braak, J. (2010). The gap between educational research and practice: views of teachers, school leaders, intermediaries and researchers. British Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 299-316. van Zee, E. H. (1998). Preparing teachers as researchers in courses on methods of teaching science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(7), 791-809. Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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