Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 34, Issue 2, p. 159-171, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to analyze the researcher's attempt to address the research/practice divide from the position of a teacher educator.
The author is a teacher educator, who teaches in a university-based mathematics methods course during the academic year a Research I university in the midwestern United States.
He used a self-study methodology in this article.
Data were collected through a variety of sources, included a teacher journal, preservice teachers' postings to a course Website, assignments from the course, midterm and final evaluations of the course, critical feedback questionnaires, and post-course interviews.
The findings revealed that although the university at which this research was conducted offered students practicum placements throughout their time in the teacher education program, the preservice teachers had difficulty making connections between information learned in university classrooms and experiences in area elementary schools.
To address the disconnect between methods coursework and the preservice teachers' practicum placements, the author intentionally planned three class field trips to elementary schools where reform mathematics was the norm.
He utilized the field trips to create a collective context with which everyone was familiar.
In doing so, discussion time focused specifically on the connections that were being made between the content of the methods course and the elementary classrooms they were visiting.
In this way, it became clear that engaging in field experiences as a class offered a collective context that helped address the research/practice divide.
Furthermore, in planning a collective field experience for the students in his methods course, he was able to ensure that the instructional strategies the students were exploring at the university were being enacted in the field.
In this way, the connection between research and practice was less happenstance.
In fact, by planning ahead and interacting with expert elementary practitioners, they were able to intentionally connect research and practice in the elementary mathematics classroom— something that benefitted not only the future teachers, but the classroom teachers and himself as well.
From this study, the author learns that teacher education programs can benefit from careful and critical examinations of field placements.
In doing so, teacher educators can be deliberate in ensuring that university-based experiences and clinical field work become more tightly coupled.
In addition to implications for teacher education programs, there are implications for the individual methods course instructor as well.
This self-study was a powerful learning experience for the author on multiple levels.
It improved his elementary classroom practice, it allowed him to validate the power of the instructional methods he was encouraging in his methods course at the university, and it helped tie his instruction in that methods course to actual classroom practice.
The author concludes that he was attempting to stay in touch with classroom practice to bridge the research/practice divide.
Teacher educators need to be cognizant of the need to continually search for opportunities to engage in more than causal interactions with P-12 classroom practice.