Educational Research Within the Curricula of Initial Teacher Education: The Case of Slovenia

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2020

Source: Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, Vol 10 No 3.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The aim of this study was to identify how initial teacher education programmes in Slovenia address the question of empowering prospective teachers with research competence.
The specific goals and Questions were: 
(i) recognition of the importance of undergraduate research (OECD, 2011) as a means of addressing the challenge of developing the necessary competence,
(ii) the fact that there is still little knowledge about how initial teacher education (ITE) programmes address research for students, and
(iii) the question of how the conceptualisation and operationalisation of teacher research can be further advanced to better serve the current contexts and realities of national and transnational policy contexts (Saqipi & Vogrinc, 2019), the present study was undertaken with the aim of providing a systematic insight into the research components within ITE in Slovenia.
According to Flores (2016), insight into research components within ITE curriculum plans is the starting point for further developments in improving the research dimension in the training of future teachers.
Following this main aim, the following research questions were designed:
a) Is the research component reported in the proposed competences of the programme and how is articulated?
b) Is the course educational research included in the ITE programme and what content is proposed in the syllabi?
c) How is the educational research course (or courses) embedded in the ITE programme and evaluated by means of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)?

Method
The aim of the study was addressed using mixed-methods research.
A parallel mixed-methods design was used, which is a type of design in which “the researcher converges and merges quantitative and qualitative data in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the research problem” (Creswell, 2014, p. 15).
According to Mayring (2001), as cited in Mažgon (2008), a mixed-methods study can be conducted on five different levels, and one of them, the data level, was used in the present study.
The data level of integrating quantitative and qualitative research proposes qualitative analysis as a basis for the formation of categories.
Once the categories are formulated, they are analysed statistically, mainly within the framework of descriptive statistics (e.g., frequencies and/or percentages).
The data collection was based on purposefully selected (Creswell, 2014, p. 189) documents, i.e., ITE programme curricula and syllabi of educational research courses, as it was determined that these data would correspond to the aims of the study.
The documents were collected for all 13 faculties in Slovenia, which offer a total of 19 bachelor ITE programmes and 78 master’s ITE programmes (Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic Slovenia, 2018).

Results and discussion
By analysing ITE curricula, the author discovered that in more than half of ITE programmes, students’ attainment of research competence is not a goal.
However, a breakdown of the results shows that two thirds of bachelor ITE programmes and less than half of master’s ITE programmes include the aim of students acquiring research competence.
The aim of bachelor programmes is for students to acquire the competence to perform basic educational research, whereas master’s programmes focus more on utilising educational research as a means of professional development.
The analyses of curricula show that with the exception of one programme, all bachelor ITE programmes include an obligatory course concerning educational research.
In the case of master’s programmes, however, it was established that only half of them include a course (or courses) related to educational research.
Furthermore, the analysis of syllabi content shows that both bachelor and master’s programmes delivered at other faculties aim for the students to acquire basic research knowledge, whereas master’s programmes delivered at faculties of education, as well as pedagogy and andragogy programmes delivered at faculties of arts, seek to empower their students to conduct more complex research, often with the aim of improving their own practice.
The fact that research competence can also be developed within other courses certainly cannot be overlooked.
However, if research is only a (minor) part of a course focused predominantly on developing other competences, students’ research competence will not be assessed, whereas it is subject to formal assessment when research is the course topic.
Furthermore, educational research courses need to be linked to other courses to enable students to apply various research methodologies to different content and content aims.
The analysis of the ECTS credits attributed to educational research courses suggests a variety of solutions, which also indicates a very different role or appreciation of educational research in different ITE programmes and by the educators who have designed them.
In general, the results indicate that bachelor ITE programmes, in comparison to master’s ITE programmes, place more emphasis on equipping prospective teachers with research competence.
Bearing in mind that student teachers have to obtain a master’s degree, it would be expected that master’s study programmes would focus on educational research to a larger extent.
Another issue that needs to be considered in this context is the entry conditions for master’s programmes.
In some master’s ITE programmes, completion of a previous course in educational research is a requirement for admission, but not in all programmes.
Thus, many different options are possible: some student teachers go through the process of gaining research competence in both bachelor and master’s ITE programmes, some only in bachelor programmes, some only in master’s programmes, and some not at all.
As argued by Saquipi and Vogrinc (2016), teacher education in research should be seen as a continuum that starts at the bachelor level of studies and continues at the master’s level.
Later, those student teachers who do have the opportunity to gain research competence within courses related to educational research will not all have the same opportunities, as the load of ECTS credits varies greatly across ITE programmes in Slovenia.
Some student teachers will only be able to acquire the basics, while others will be able to become highly competent researchers of their own practice.
The results of the present study thus confirm findings (Flores, 2016) that suggest there are diverse ways of including research competence in ITE programmes.
It could therefore be suggested that ITE programmes in Slovenia are not consistent in following and supporting this already recognised idea (OECD, 2011; Saquipi & Vogrinc, 2016).
It should be emphasised that the present study was intended to represent a starting point for researching the conceptual structure of ITE programmes in Slovenia and further research on the topic needs to be conducted.
Furthermore, the study is based on an analysis of the teacher education curricula and syllabi that were available on the official websites of faculties delivering ITE programmes.
Considering the main aim of the study, i.e., to provide a systematic insight into the research components within ITE in Slovenia, the design is fairly strong, although the results are based on declared descriptions.
The issue of the role of research elements in ITE can nonetheless be studied in several ways, and a follow-up using another methodology (e.g., focus groups with teacher educators, student teachers, teachers, policymakers, developers of ITE programmes, or using questionnaires with different stakeholders) would be advisable.

References
Creswell, J. (2014). Research Design. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage.
Flores, M. A. (2016). Teacher education curriculum. In J. Loughran & M. L. Hamilton (Eds.), International handbook of teacher education (pp. 187–230). Springer Press.
Mažgon, J. (2008). Razvoj akcijskega raziskovanja na temeljnih postavkah kvalitativne metodologije [The development of action research on the basic assumptions of qualitative methodology]. UL Filozofska fakulteta.
Ministrstvo za izobraževanje, znanost in šport Republike Slovenije [Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic Slovenia] (2017). Analiza področja za izvedbo javnega razpisa “Inovativne in prožne oblike poučevanja in učenja v pedagoških študijskih programih [An analysis of the field for the needs of the public call “Innovative and flexible teaching and learning in initial teacher education programmes”].
OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development]. (2011). Building a high-quality teaching profession, lessons from around the world. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ ed/internationaled/ background.pdf
Saquipi, B., & Vogrinc, J. (2016). Developing research competence in pre-service teacher education. Pedagoška obzorja-Didactica Slovenica, 31(2), 101–117
Saquipi, B., & Vogrinc, J. (2019). Call for papers: Development of teacher research as a form of developing teacher pedagogical practice. https://ojs.cepsj.si/index.php/cepsj/announcement/view/8 

Updated: Dec. 12, 2020
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