Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 36, Nos. 1–2, (March 2010), pp. 245–262.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This paper focuses on the professional and academic development of teacher educators in relation to research. It draws on findings from a small-scale, comparative study of teacher educators in two higher education institutions in the south of England.
The research was carried out in a well-established pre-1992 university and a newly established post-1992 university. Twelve interviews—with three teacher educators and three research mentors from each university—were carried out, in order to identify effective mentoring practices and other forms of support, as well as any barriers or problems encountered in developing a research profile.
An innovative aspect of the methodological approach is that beginning researchers from the teacher education faculty in both universities undertook the interviewing and co-authored the article.
Six teacher educators - five women, one man; three from each university - participated in the study. The teacher educators represented a range of ages and gender, as well as experience in schools, higher education and research, roles and responsibilities. The common factor was that they were all from a school-teaching background before they came into higher education.
Six research mentors - four women, two men; three from each university - covering a similar range, were also interviewed, making a total of 12 interviews altogether.
The study has been highly enlightening about the attitudes and research experiences of teacher educators and research mentors working in two universities. Although the historical cultures of the two institutions are very different, the patterns of transition into higher education for teacher educators and into a researcher’s role have emerged as remarkably similar, with the same major challenges and problems. At the heart of these lies a tension between the kinds of work involved in teacher education and research, in the time that each needs and the skills required.
From their accounts, the teacher educators achieved best when they received structured support, through supervision and research mentoring, appropriate for the stage that they had reached. However, the teacher educators were most enthusiastic about being engaged in collaborative work with experienced researchers, who could then model processes in real research contexts. The research mentors found these activities rewarding too.
Cultural differences between the two universities in terms of research expectations gave rise to some significant differences in the extent to which teacher educators felt valued: at the old university, the prioritisation of high-status research made it especially hard for teacher educators to feel confident about embarking on research themselves, and they and mentors felt that teacher education itself was undervalued too. This affected the teacher educators’ emerging research identity. In contrast, teacher educators and mentors at the new university felt that teaching was valued more highly than research; in a different way, this also made it hard for teacher educators to develop research identities.
The authors conclude that the need for an entitlement to and protection of research time is stressed, as well as a range of supportive practices within an active research culture. The authors argue that this aspect of teacher educators’ professional development requires as much attention as the pedagogical aspects of their role.