Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 36, No. 1, p. 3–23, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The aim of this study is to provide deeper insight into the realisation of teacher research in professional development schools (PDS) in the Netherlands.
Participants of these schools were asked for their perceptions of the actual and preferred situation concerning teacher research in terms of the context, processes and outcomes of practice-based research activities by teachers-as-researchers.
The authors interviewed eight school principals, 10 teachers, and six student teachers from four professional development schools in the Netherlands.
Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with the selected principals and (student) teachers.
The authors can conclude that a large difference between the actual and preferred situation was noticeable.
This implies that according to respondents realising the preferred context, process and outcomes of teacher research, was difficult.
Participants differed not only in their perception of the implementation process but also in the preferred features for realising teacher research they pointed out.
Many elements seemed to be merely present in participants’ ‘ideal images’ but much less so in their perceptions of the actual situation.
Furthermore, aspects were implemented in very different degrees, for some elements respondents could not provide concrete examples or empirical evidence, while other elements had just been implemented.
The authors can conclude that a trend displayed across all types of participants was their focus on the context dimension of research.
A second notable finding in participants’ perceptions was the apparent complexity of realising a partnership between the different partners involved in the PDS.
In this research, a significant discrepancy was found between perceptions of the ‘ideal’ and the ‘actual’ PDS in this respect.
However, it is striking that the PDS participants in this study showed a strong external disposition.
They attributed the failure of an effective partnership to shortcomings of the teacher training institutes rather than their own limitations.
Nevertheless, in a high quality partnership between different partners, all should be contributing to and take initiative with respect to the exchange and cooperation in the partnership, including the schools themselves.
Thirdly, this research stresses the importance of accomplishing a ‘research oriented culture’ at all levels of the school, including pupils.
Participants several times mentioned the preferred realisation of a learning organisation with all teachers (and student teachers) involved in research, school development and supervision, if possible even members of the school leadership.
Additionally, a major difference exists between perceptions of the actual and preferred situation related to the effects of teacher research on pupils’ outcomes.
Despite the central focus of research on pupil learning and learning results, the fact is that pupil results made a very small portion of all participants' perception statements.
At this moment, pupil learning and outcomes seemed not to be a central focal area of the participants.
The strength of this study lies in the distinction between two types of perceptions: actual and preferred perceptions.
This study suggested a particular need for schools to be more focused on pupil outcomes, on the quality of and knowledge with respect to conducting research and the place of research within the partnership, related to the roles that the different partners take in this partnership.
Another strength is its differentiation between the perceptions of three different participant groups: school principals, teachers and student teachers.
Together they lead to a more comprehensive picture of what is seen (by participants) as a ‘conductive’ implementation of teacher research at their schools.
Finally, these results suggest that in Dutch professional development schools increased attention is needed both by researchers and practitioners on the process and outcome dimensions of doing teacher research.