Stimulating teachers’ inquiring attitude in academic and professional teacher education programmes


Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 43:3, 352-367

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to compare the inquiring attitude of students who followed an academic or a professional programme in primary teacher education.
Differences between students were investigated, and the programmes were compared in terms of how research is addressed in the curricula.
In the present study, the inquiring attitude of students from an academic programme and a professional programme in teacher education were compared by means of a questionnaire and interviews with students.
Furthermore, the curricula of academic and professional programmes were compared by means of a curriculum analysis and interviews.
The central research questions of this study were formulated as follows:
To what extent and how does the inquiring attitude of student teachers who followed an academic or professional curriculum in teacher education differ?
How do these differences reflect the way in which research was addressed in the academic or professional curriculum?


Study design
The first research question (focusing on differences in the inquiring attitude of student teachers who followed an academic or a professional programme) was investigated with a questionnaire.
Furthermore, interviews with nine students were conducted to gain more in-depth information about students’ inquiring attitudes.
To answer the second research question (which focuses on the way in which research is addressed in the academic and professional curricula), a curriculum analysis was performed, and interviews were held with (the same) nine students.

The questionnaire was completed by 260 student teachers.
The 26 students, who were in the last year of the academic programme, were approached for the interviews during lectures.
Nine students were willing to participate.
They followed both parts of the professional programme (at the professional institute) and the academic programme.
As these students were engaged in both the professional and the academic programme, these students were able to reflect on differences between these programmes.

Inquiring attitude of student teachers
A questionnaire was constructed to measure the six aspects of an inquiring attitude (the inclination to be critical, to share, to know and understand, to achieve, to innovate innovative and to take responsibility).
These aspects are elaborated in 49 competences (Jacobi and Van der Rijst 2010).
Student teachers indicated whether they were capable of these competences with a ‘yes’ (1) or a ‘no’ (0).
For each student, a total score for all the competences and a score for each of the six core aspects of an inquiring attitude were calculated.
The semi-structured interviews contained questions about students’ attitudes towards research and their motivation to use research in practice.

Curriculum analysis
The curricula of both the academic programme of VU University Amsterdam and the programmes of the four collaborating professional teacher education institutes were analysed.
The curriculum analysis included the complete curriculum of the professional teacher education institutes (not only the part of the curriculum that was followed by the academic students).
A contact person of each institute was asked to send all documents (course manuals, curriculum descriptions etc.) with information about how research was integrated in the programme.

Results and discussion
The results of the questionnaire showed that students from the academic programme had a more inquiring attitude than students from the professional programmes.
In particular, they appeared to be more critical.
The interviews also showed such a critical attitude for academic students.
The students had the intention to perform different forms of research in their classroom, and literature was used by these students to critically evaluate their practices.
These findings largely correspond with the findings of other studies (Afdal and Spernes 2018; Gray 2013; Maaranen and Krokfors 2008; Niemi and Nevgi 2014).
The curriculum analysis showed that teacher research was integrated in both academic and professional programmes.
However, the academic curriculum included more courses involving teacher research as well as academic educational research and these courses were distributed over all the years of the study.
The focus in the academic programme was mainly on quantitative research.
Research received less attention in the professional programme. In most professional programmes, research was not integrated throughout the entire curriculum.
The focus in the professional programmes was mainly on qualitative methods.
Students experienced the forms of research in the professional programmes as being better connected to classroom situations than in the academic programme.
In the academic programme in this study, the connection between research and the classroom situation received little attention, which was also found in previous studies (Afdal and Spernes 2018; Reis-Jorge 2007; Volk 2010).
In these studies students were unable to reconcile the research elements in their study programme with practicability in schools.
The highly structured nature and the academic rules in research even had a negative effect on students’ motivation to use research (Reis-Jorge 2007).
In contrast to these studies, the students who participated in this study’s interviews seemed to value academic research more than practical forms of research because they found they had learned to use valid and reliable research methods and techniques in their academic programme.
The difference between this study’s results and those of Reis-Jorge (2007) and Volk (2010) may be explained by the way in which attention was paid to research in the teacher education programmes that were studied.
The academic students in this study performed several research projects in which different forms of research were used in all the years of the programme.
The students stated that connecting the theoretical knowledge with educational practice was difficult, especially in the beginning of their studies. However, the interviews suggest that after some time, academic students were able to make this connection.
They indicated that they were able and motivated to perform (teacher) research and were willing to use literature to reflect on their practices.
In contrast, in the study of Volk (2010) research was not integrated in the complete programme and students’ experiences were that that research was not connected to practice.
The attention to different forms of research, integrated in all years of the programme, may have been an important condition for developing an inquiring attitude in the academic programme in this study.
This study argues for teacher education programmes in which different forms of research are integrated through all the years of the programme. The authors suggest that teacher education with a good balance between a professional and an academic orientation with attention to research from the beginning of the study may be successful in stimulating the inquiring attitude of student teachers.

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Updated: Dec. 30, 2020