Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 33, p. 90-99, July 2013.
In this study, the authors explore educators’ experiences in a research design that adheres to collaboration with educators; in this case in a year-long formative intervention in the context of teacher education. They address to the following research question:
How do educators experience formative intervention research compared to other research designs?
This study was situated in a Dutch teacher education institute that offers one-year postgraduate teaching degree programs.
The participants were a PhD researcher, who supervised by three professors, and two experienced teacher educators.
Collaboratively, the researcher and two teacher educators redesigned the classes of the teacher education curriculum.
In describing how formative interventions are experienced by those involved, the authors will primarily draw on a group interview conducted at the end of the collaboration.
This analysis revealed three main contrasts, all of which the teacher educators experience as being consequential for their participation in the research.
The first reflection related to how the teacher educators perceived their own position.
The educators describe this position as one of agency and ownership, coupled with recognition of their expertise.
Notwithstanding the educators’ ownership and agency, there was still a division of labor: the educators were primarily responsible for and focused on teaching, whereas the researcher was responsible for and focused on the research.
As such, this suggests that when the different expertise of educators and researchers alike, is valued equally, these differences can be exploited.
Secondly, the position of the researcher was experienced as different from what the educators normally encountered.
This position was one that explicitly involves learning.
From this analysis it appears that the position the researcher assumes is also important in this process and that, sharing doubt(s) and showing learning, can actually foster educators’ active involvement.
Lastly, the research was experienced as being integrated.
This implies that the involvement of the educators not only included the implementation, the design and evaluation of the intervention, but it also included the research.
More so, the research was interwoven with the other collaborative activities instead of being a separate element.
The results indicate that the same goals can be realized when educators are involved in a formative intervention.
In turn, this enables the researcher to benefit from the educators’ expertise in terms of their interpretation of the object of research as well, which has been described as reintegrating the negotiated meaning by other participatory approaches.
Moreover, from this analysis it appears that sharing these dilemmas can in fact strengthen educators’ engagement.
The three contrasts are in line with the basic principles of formative interventions and similar intervention research approaches.
In talking about the collaboration, it becomes clear that educators perceived the study as a partnership in which they felt appreciated.
This in turn triggered enthusiasm for the study and this research approach more generally.
As educators’ engagement is crucial, we think it is worthwhile to be aware of this more consciously as a researcher: intervention research is not only a matter of research design, but also a matter of researcher position and the relationship established with the educators.
The authors summarize that the educators indicate that this type of collaboration might trigger several processes (enthusiasm, involvement, participation( that, in turn, benefit the truth value, neutrality and, to some extent, the applicability of the research.
Naturally, the fact that the research and the way of collaboration were emergent and context-dependent entails that the results cannot be replicated exactly, which, in turn implies that research consistency is more difficult to assess.
The study indicates that collaborating with educators can have several advantages in terms of maintaining rigor, thereby adding to the quality of research.
As such, collaboration in formative intervention research can be consequential in a positive sense for both research and practice.