Becoming Clinically Grounded Teacher Educators: Inquiry Communities in Clinical Teacher Preparation

From Section:
Teacher Educators
Mar. 01, 2021
March 1, 2021

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 72 issue: 2, page(s): 168-179

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reports on a hermeneutic approach to naturalistic qualitative research by two novice university-based teacher educators.
By cycling in and out of parts and wholes of the experience of teaching in clinically grounded ways, the authors used an iterative process of collecting teaching artifacts and relevant literature.
They reflected together and adjusted their practice based on those reflections, studying the ways they learned their new roles in the midst of the national pivot toward clinical practice.
As graduate-school colleagues, they supervised teacher candidates in internships and taught a discussion-based course related to the clinical experience.
These new teacher educators framed the course around the notion of inquiry community (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999) to embrace a clinical approach to teacher preparation.
An inquiry community stimulates opportunities for educators across the professional lifespan to systematically study their practices by working collaboratively.
As such, the inquiry community approach discussed in this article encouraged teacher candidates to study their practices as developing teachers, while the teacher educators, who also participated in that inquiry community, modeled studying their practices as developing teacher educators.
The teacher educators, therefore, studied their approaches in using an inquiry community in a clinical setting.
The study asked, “How do novice teacher educators use inquiry community to approach their experiences in becoming clinically grounded teacher educators?”


The authors had no experience as clinically based teacher educators before working in the professional development school (PDS).
They had experiences in teacher preparation as undergraduates and had taught methods courses on campus that were not connected to clinical experiences.
It was because of this inexperience and pressure from their college to renew teacher preparation toward clinical practice that the authors asked the following:
“How do novice teacher educators use inquiry community to approach their experiences in becoming clinically grounded teacher educators?”
To gain insight into this question, the authors met regularly to critically reflect on their teaching approaches.
They studied and synthesized artifacts from the Integrated Teaching Seminar, literature on clinical teacher education and inquiry communities, standards from accrediting and evaluation organizations, information related to PDS school sites, and their teacher candidates’ progress and needs related to the program goals.

Data Collection and Analysis
Hermeneutical researchers focus not on outcomes, but on events to make interpretive sense of a phenomenon (Crotty, 1998; van Manen, 1990).
Therefore, data collection in this study reflects the events that helped meaning develop from using an inquiry community to approach clinically grounded teacher education.
The authors met to discuss new insights, reflect on current and historical implications of their work, and plan for teaching.
These meetings served as data collection resources.
They also collected data as artifacts from teaching, including syllabi and schedules, student work (e.g., reflection journals, inquiry briefs), teaching tools (e.g., planning meeting notes, lesson plans, anecdotal and observational notes), and tools of practice for teacher candidates (e.g., school handbooks, school improvement plans).
Hermeneutical data analysis seeks to move researchers beyond original understandings to develop deeper understandings of beginning knowledge and apply it in different ways (Okrent, 1998).
The authors understood in theory the need to be clinically grounded in their roles as teacher educators and understood from literature the role that inquiry community could play (Jacobs et al., 2015).
The analysis of their data helped them take critical new direction in clarifying meaning through individual and social levels within historical and cultural contexts.

Implications and Conclusion
The research conducted by the authors of this article provides some insight into the ways teacher educators can clinically ground their work.
An inquiry community framework for clinical internship experiences provides direction for educators who wish to embrace a clinical approach to teacher preparation by stimulating opportunities for collaborative, systematic studies into clinical practices.
Although inquiry communities have often been utilized in reference to programmatic design, this research demonstrates the ways it can be useful for connecting individual courses to clinical work.
Teacher educators and the teacher candidates they serve are likely to benefit from an inquiry community framework to structure courses in clinically embedded teacher preparation experiences.
As much of the work of clinical teacher education continues to fall on novice teacher educators, the research shared in this article also has implications for those learning to do the work (which would arguably include veteran teacher educators, as well).
By researching their own teaching practices alongside teacher candidates who were studying their own new roles in an inquiry community, the teacher educators learned from collaboration, reflection, modeling, and being vulnerable alongside their students.
The inquiry community the authors had developed for their coursework serendipitously became an inquiry community in which they learned to be teacher educators.
Also, by researching their teacher educator practices, this study demonstrates the ways teaching and research can align.
The implication is especially important for novices learning to be teacher educators in research-intensive universities.
The findings of this study suggest that by using an inquiry community to approach their practice, novice teacher educators can learn to ground their work in an inquiry community that can facilitate clinically rich experiences.
An inquiry community approach can provide fertile ground on which to build the structure and space for teacher educators to advance teacher preparation toward clinical practice.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later. Educational Researcher, 28(7), 15–25.
Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research. SAGE.
Jacobs, J., Yendol-Hoppey, D., & Dana, N. F. (2015). Preparing the next generation of teacher educators: The role of practitioner inquiry. Action in Teacher Education, 37(4), 373–396.
Okrent, M. (1998). Heidegger’s pragmatism: Understanding, being, and the critique of metaphysics. Cornell University Press.
van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. State University of New York Press. 

Updated: Jun. 27, 2021
Practitioner research | Professional development schools | Qualitative research | Teacher educators | Teacher preparation