Developing deep understanding of teacher education practice through accessing and responding to pre-service teacher engagement with their learning


Source: Professional Development in Education, 45:5, 832-847

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this research, the authors present findings from one part of a longitudinal research project conducted in two countries (Canada and Ireland) that focuses on the development and articulation of pedagogical principles used by teacher educators to support pre-service teachers’ learning about meaningful physical education (henceforth referred to as LAMPE) (Ní Chróinín et et al. 2018).
Specifically, the purpose of this research is to examine how accessing and responding to students’ engagement with their learning about how to facilitate meaningful physical education experiences for pupils can inform teacher educators’ learning through a deeper understanding of innovative teacher education practices.
In this research, the authors demonstrate how they tried to explicitly place the views of pre-service teachers in relation to engagement with their learning and their teaching as a primary filter for their pedagogical decision-making.

The research was cross-cultural, with participants based in three universities in two countries.
Tim teaches in an undergraduate physical education program at Brock University in Canada and Déirdre teaches in a primary teacher education program at Mary Immaculate College in Ireland.
Both were directly involved in planning and teaching learning about meaningful physical education (LAMPE), and it is their experiences and practices that are the main sources of data collected in this study.
In this year of research, there were 28 students enrolled in Déirdre course and 21 students enrolled in Tim course.
In both courses there was a shared focus on positioning students simultaneously as learners and future teachers/coaches.
Tim and Déirdre also served as critical friends to each other, the purpose was to challenge assumptions, confront realities, and identify new ways of thinking about pedagogy (Baskerville and Goldblatt 2009).
Mary is Professor in physical education at University of Limerick and acted as 'meta-critical friend' to Tim and Déirdre.
Mary's role in the process was crucial in the research design – particularly in terms of suggesting and guiding approaches to student engagement – and in the interpretation of outcomes and understandings of teacher education practices.

Data sources and analysis
Data gathering took place in the third year of what is currently a four-year project.
While still using collaborative self-study of teacher education practice (S-STEP) methodology, the authors concentrated on developing awareness of students’ engagement by committing to be more intentional in how they accessed (observed and listened to) and responded to their engagement with their planning and enactment of the pedagogical principles of LAMPE.

There were two main findings related to how the authors accessed and responded to students’ engagement with the pedagogical principles of LAMPE:
(a) Intentionally accessing and responding to student engagement helps inform teacher educators’ learning about teacher education practice,
(b) their attention to student engagement guided their reflection on- and in-action.
Through these processes, S-STEP methodology and the role of critical friendship enabled a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of student engagement, and had a positive influence on the authors’ professional learning by providing them with a mechanism to articulate how their knowledge of teaching teachers is constructed.

This research demonstrates the value to teacher educators that comes from intentionally accessing and responding to students’ on-going engagement with teacher educators’ practices that influence experiences of learning to teach.
Along with several challenges experienced they highlight the importance of teacher educators intentionally and systematically seeking input from students related to their experiences of and engagement with teacher education practices, in this case, those that are represented by the pedagogical principles of LAMPE.
This focus can lead to richer, more complex understandings of teacher education practice and inform teacher educators’ professional learning.
They identified several strategies to access students’ engagement with the pedagogical approaches of LAMPE including observations of students’ peer teaching; planned questions of individual students; individual and group written reflections, and exit slips and small class assignments.

Despite being relatively experienced teacher educators who claim to enact student-centred approaches in their teacher education practice, this research challenged the authors to renew their commitment to focusing on the quality of students’ learning that came as a result of their practice.
Like Bullock (2009), they did this by deliberately accessing students’ perspectives and taking those perspectives seriously.
Their findings point to ways teacher educators can embed accessing and responding to student engagement as an intentional and systematic part of their practice.
However, due to the small-scale nature of this work, further research might consider what similar approaches look like with multiple cohorts of students on the same course across time.
It may also be worthwhile to further unpack the distinction between accessing and responding to student engagement on micro and macro levels.
How students respond to their learning in the moment and after (e.g. one to several years after their teacher education program) can produce very different outcomes.
This is because individual students and groups of students may have different needs and how we access and respond to these needs may require different approaches.

Baskerville, D. and Goldblatt, H., 2009. Learning to be a critical friend: from professional indifference through challenge to unguarded conversations. Cambridge journal of education, 39, 205–221. doi:10.1080/ 03057640902902260
Bullock, S.M., 2009. Learning to think like a teacher educator: making the substantive and syntactic structures of teaching explicit through self-study. Teachers and teaching, 15, 291–304. doi:10.1080/13540600902875357
Ní Chróinín, D., Fletcher, T., and O’Sullivan, M. 2018. Pedagogical principles of learning to teach meaningful physical education. Physical education and sport pedagogy, 23, 117-133. doi:10.1080/17408989.2017.1342789

Updated: Jul. 26, 2020