Action Research in Pre-service Teacher Education – A Never-Ending Story Promoting Professional Development

June 2016

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 42, No. 3, 441–457, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This case study aimed to deepen the understanding of action research as a tool in professional development in pre-service teacher education.
This paper examines how student-teachers experience the process and outcome of doing action research and what the authors as their teacher-educators can learn from these experiences about facilitating the student-teachers’ processes.

This study was conducted in a preservice teacher education programme for secondary school teachers at a university in Norway.
The participants were 32 student-teachers.

Data were gathered through pre and post focus groups, a questionnaire completed in the last seminar, an online evaluation after the examination, the student-teachers’ action research reports, their preliminary plans, email correspondence and the authors own more or less sporadic notes during the term.

The participants were encouraged to take risks and try something where they did not know how it worked by conducting action research.
The findings revealed that most students experienced a positive outcome from doing action research. They were surprised to discover that what happened in the classroom did not always turn out to be as they had thought based on their own observations.

The results also showed that in order to validate the evaluation of the actions, the student-teachers had to listen to their students and learn from them. The authors argued that action research promoted cooperation. However, even if the participants cooperated with students and peers, few of them seemed to cooperate with their mentors. Additionally, cooperation between the university and the schools was poor. The authors noted that the participants’ projects may benefit from cooperation with an experienced teacher if the mentor provides quality mentoring.
The authors also mentioned that today there is a focus on research-informed teaching.

By doing research themselves, the participants became more aware of research and also more critical with respect to research and better able to evaluate research.
The authors also found that an important condition to ensure that action research functions as a tool for professional development is enough time and space to make it possible to reflect in depth.

Finally, the findings revealed that most student-teachers experienced the process as positive and saw action research as a tool in professional development.

The authors conclude that this research supports the expected benefit of action research in terms of introducing students to a tool for systematic professional development.
They argued that the opportunity to discuss and think together with others in order to expand horizons and see teaching in a broader theoretical perspective is crucial. 

Updated: Feb. 21, 2018