Teacher educators’ task perception and its relationship to professional identity and teaching practice

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Published: 
May 2021

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 101

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Taking into account the shortcomings of prior research on teacher educators’ professional identity, the purpose of the present study is to enhance the empirical understanding of teacher educators’ professional identity and its relation to their teaching practice in teacher training courses.
The current study aims to achieve this goal by addressing three research questions:
1: Can teacher educators’ perception that their main task is to be a teacher of teachers be measured empirically?
Teacher educators are teachers of teachers (Koster et al., 2005), but how they interpret this task varies widely.
On the one hand, there are teacher educators with a more learner-centered perspective, while other teacher educators tend to take a more teacher-centered perspective.
Qualitative studies have shown that each of these perspectives is associated with specific teaching methods (Jonker et al., 2018; Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2014).
Based on this evidence, the authors hypothesize that the two perspectives of teacher educators as teachers of teachers can be measured using standardized instruments.
2: How are teacher educators’ perceptions of their tasks as a teacher of teachers related to other components of their professional identity, such as beliefs about teaching and learning, self-efficacy, and job satisfaction?
Professional identity is a multidimensional concept (Canrinus et al., 2012; Kelchtermans, 2009).
From a theoretical perspective, the way teacher educators interpret their role as teachers of teachers should be related to other components of their professional identity, such as beliefs, self-efficacy, and job satisfaction.
None of the existing studies, however, has subjected this relationship to empirical investigation.
To obtain a deeper understanding of professional identity, the authors carry out an explorative analysis to examine the relationship between the different components.
3: How are teacher educators’ perceptions of their tasks as a teacher of teachers related to their teaching practice?
Qualitative research on the teaching practices of teacher educators has revealed that teacher educators differ in their teaching styles with regard to the way they perceive their tasks. While teacher educators with a more learner-centered perspective tend to make greater use of second-order teaching strategies, teacher educators with a more instructor-centered perspective appear to use elements of first-order teaching (Jonker et al., 2018; Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2014).
The authors expect to find similar relationships in the present study.
Moreover, by extending previous work, they aim to quantify the strength of this relationship with their newly developed measures.

Methods

Study context
The present study was conducted in a large federal state in Germany, where the majority of in-service training is provided by experienced school teachers who are assigned to one of four school districts.
In order to become a teacher educator in this federal state, a standardized training program must be completed. This program provides teachers with competencies in various areas such as communication and counselling.

Sample
All teachers (145) present at a staff meeting took part in the survey as requested by the federal state’s ministry of education.

Instruments
For this study, the authors used a paper-and-pencil questionnaire to assess background information on teacher educators, components of their professional identity, and aspects of their teaching practices.
Since this is one of the first studies to examine components of the professional identity and teaching practices of teacher educators in a quantitative investigation, they first had to develop new items and scales.
They followed a multi-stage procedure that began with an intensive literature review of proven and frequently cited scales in order to connect their work with previous research and to build cumulative knowledge by using comparable measures.
They found the scales developed as part of the research projects COACTIV and COACTIV-R (Kunter, Baumert et al., 2013) to be well established in the research through their use by diverse research groups.
During the various feedback loops, items were dropped and in some cases new items were developed by the research team together with the expert groups.

Results and discussion
Using a newly developed instrument to measure the task perceptions of teacher educators, this study found that teacher educators’ perceptions of their main task fall into two categories: “facilitator” and “transmitter” (research question 1).
In their analysis, the authors illustrated how these perceptions are related to other components of professional identity (research question 2).
They showed specifically that teacher educators who perceive their tasks more from a learner-centered perspective show higher levels of constructivist-oriented beliefs, self-efficacy, and job satisfaction, whereas teacher educators who perceive their tasks more from an instructor-centered point of view show higher levels of transmissive-oriented beliefs.
They also examined relationships between the task perceptions of teacher educators and the ways they teach in-service teachers (research question 3).
Individuals who considered their main task to be supporting the professional development of teachers in general more often reported integrating aspects of high-quality professional development into their courses, such as the promotion of active and self-regulated learning (see Darling-Hammond et al., 2017).
This study builds on previous qualitative research and integrates these findings to arrive at new insights and in-depth knowledge on teacher educators.
First, the authors have contributed an innovative approach to this field of research.
Their study connects to previous qualitative research in identifying relevant target constructs.
It extends the existing research by using a quantitative, large-scale approach to investigating teacher educators.
The authors have developed a new instrument to capture different task perceptions of teacher educators and presented first evidence of its validity and reliability.
In line with qualitative studies on teacher educators as teachers of teachers (Jonker et al., 2018; Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2014), they have differentiated various perspectives on this specific task.
The new measure of this perception can be used as a basis for monitoring the task performance of different groups of teacher educators (university-based, school-based) and for intercultural comparisons.
It provides the basis for further studies, which could go beyond this study, to investigate how task performance is related to other criteria of professional success of teacher educators (e.g. effects on teacher learning).
Second, this study indicates that it might be worthwhile to explore the individual components of professional identity to better understand how educators use teaching strategies in teacher training.
In line with Jonker et al. (2018) and Vanassche and Kelchtermans (2014), the authors have demonstrated that specific task perceptions of teacher educators are related to specific teaching strategies.
Due to our cross-sectional research design, they were not able to identify what was first: task perception or teaching strategy. However, similar results from teacher research have shown that teachers’ beliefs and assumptions can predict their behavior in the classroom. (e.g., Kistner, Rakoczy, Otto, Klieme, & Büttner, 2015; Steinbach & Stoeger, 2016).
This study enhances the existing knowledge by using standardized measurement instruments and a representative sample to illustrate how strongly task perception of teacher educators is related to the characteristics of teacher professional development courses, which are considered in research to be important for teacher learning, but also subsequently for student achievement.
In addition to potential directions for future research, the findings of this study also imply recommendations for practice.
Since the results reveal the importance of components of professional identity, teacher educators need training programs that not only prepare them for their tasks but also help them to actively and reflectively build a professional identity.
In addition, building a professional identity could be seen as a permanent task of teacher educators.
To carry out this task successfully, teacher educators need the resources and support to be able to deal with the question of what it means to be a teacher of teachers in a sustainable way.

References
Canrinus, E. T., Helms-Lorenz, M., Beijaard, D., Buitink, J., & Hofman, A. (2012). Selfefficacy, job satisfaction, motivation and commitment: Exploring the relationships between indicators of teachers’ professional identity. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 27(1)
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-profession...
Jonker, H., M€ arz, V., & Voogt, J. (2018). Teacher educators’ professional identity under construction: The transition from teaching face-to-face to a blended curriculum. Teaching and Teacher Education, 71
Kelchtermans, G. (2009). Who I am in how I teach is the message: Self-understanding, vulnerability and reflection. Teachers and Teaching, 15(2)
Kistner, S., Rakoczy, K., Otto, B., Klieme, E., & Büttner, G. (2015). Teaching learning strategies. The role of instructional context and teacher beliefs. Journal for Educational Research Online, 7(1)
Koster, B., Brekelmans, M., Korthagen, F., & Wubbels, T. (2005). Quality requirements for teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2)
Kunter, M., Baumert, J., Blum, W., Klusmann, U., Krauss, S., & Neubrand, M. (Eds.). (2013). Cognitive activation in the mathematics classroom and professional competence of teachers: Results from the COACTIV project. New York: Springer.
Steinbach, J., & Stoeger, H. (2016). How primary school teachers’ attitudes towards self-regulated learning (SRL) influence instructional behavior and training implementation in classrooms. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60
Vanassche, E., & Kelchtermans, G. (2014). Teacher educators’ professionalism in practice: Positioning theory and personal interpretative framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 44 

Updated: Sep. 03, 2021
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