Action Research, Pedagogy, and Activity Theory: Tools Facilitating Two Instructors’ Interpretations of the Professional Development of Four Preservice Teachers

Jul. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 28, Issue 5, pages 649-660, (July, 2012)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the complexity of the preservice secondary school mathematics (PSSM) teachers' experiences in their use of action research as a tool provided for them in the teacher education program.
It also examines what do the teacher educators learn about their repertoires and those of their students as they develop the research project within and across the disciplines.

The authors used Engestrom's (2001) model of activity theory, Cultural Historical Activity Theory-third generation (CHAT-3rd) as conceptual framework.
The action research project involved two university professors and four PSSM teachers.

The article draws upon data collected from multiple cycles in a research project (2007-2010).
Data were collected through statements of philosophy of education, transcriptions of focus group interviews, action plans written, reflection memos, online discussions and final action research project.


The findings show that the PSSM teachers received opportunities to learn through discussions, multiple points of views, microteaching, feedback from peers and instructors, their reflections, and sharing summaries of the class readings from current and old literature on mathematics education.
Both PSSM teachers and instructors aligned or realigned strategies for current and future classrooms.
Over the semesters, the PSSM teachers built trust, which helped them to share their challenges with their instructors.
In this way, the authors were able to provide the needed assistance while they were in student teaching and working on their action research projects.

The findings also reveal that most of PSSM teachers’ foci were not directly on mathematics content knowledge but rather more on the conditions under which students can acquire such knowledge, such as classroom management and particularly issues to address motivation to learn mathematics.
There seemed to be feelings of immediate need to address behaviors and some focus on teaching strategies, but fewer emphases on the content.

The instructors realized that there needed to be a stronger connection between the PSSM teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.
The PSSM teachers gained more knowledge about the urban environment in which they plan to teach, about some possibilities for effective teaching, about how what they implemented could be done differently, and about what seemed to appeal most to their students.

The PSSM teachers had hands-on experience and they are more confident to continue doing action research and become more reflective in their own classrooms.
Furthermore, the PSSM teachers enhanced their skills for students’ mathematics learning context. They also gained deeper understanding of pedagogical practices for students in urban contexts.

In conclusion, the authors use CHAT as a conceptual frame, which helped them to analyze the action research data in authentic ways.
Working collaboratively, framing their action research study, and analyzing the data helped the authors in the evaluation of their teaching and the PSSM teachers’ perceptions of the quality of training they received.
These outcomes can only strengthen teacher preparation programs when change is acted upon.

Engestrom, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-156.

Updated: Jan. 26, 2015