Teacher students’ meaningful learning in widening learning worlds

September, 2020

Source: Teaching Education, 31:3, 323-342

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to provide a wider picture of teacher students’ frames of meaningful learning in andragogical and university-based teacher education programmes.
To investigate this issue, the authors made a systematic review using the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) ProQuest database.
Based on the findings, they provide practical contributions and new perspectives on the frames of meaningful learning in higher education focused on adult learners.

The study involves a metasynthesis of articles reporting current research studies on this topic.
Metasynthesis seeks to develop new knowledge based on existing qualitative research with the purpose of building a new or fuller understanding of a phenomenon, or possibly the development of a new theory (Aspfors & Fransson, 2015; Thorne et al., 2002).
The product of qualitative metasynthesis is always an integration of research findings, as opposed to a comparison of them (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007, p. 199).
This metasynthesis involves the synthesis of qualitative findings and results in a comprehensive analysis of phenomena, which makes it a descriptive metasynthesis (Schreiber et al., 1997).
The authors focus on using qualitative methods to integrate qualitative results from prior qualitative studies in a variety of fields.
After full article reviews, five were chosen as relevant for study inclusion in terms of quality by using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) Checklist for qualitative research (CASP, 2017).
The conclusion of the CASP (10/10) qualitative evaluation was that three cases evinced sufficient quality to be included in this study.
The data of all three primary studies were interviews and/or written reflective texts, where teacher students told or wrote about their meaningful learning experiences during the teacher education programmes.

Results and discussion
The results of this study found that the frames, learning worlds, are co-constructed objects among adult students that represent existing meanings in a group during the whole study period.
The three primary studies offered different methodological perspectives and perspectives from students on the phenomenon under investigation.
The results show that the three learning worlds form a common system, which widens from professional awakening to transformative community and agency in society.
The community and society as learning worlds are dichotomous in nature, so adult students’ membership in a community demands both participation and negotiation. In society, adult students need to be both empowered and to exert their ethical power.
Professional awakening was a meaningful inner learning world for adult students during their two-year studies.
The results show how adult students’ critical reflection on fundamental questions relative to their personal and professional identity and professionalism seem to contribute greatly to building an understanding of themselves as egocentric learners who expand their professionalism and feel a strong sense of responsibility for self-development.
The authors’ research demonstrates how teacher students’ self-understanding develops and is reconstructed in interactions with others (see also Arvaja, 2016; Gossman & Horder, 2016).
The transformative community is a two-sided learning world, a place where adult students participate actively and negotiate their positions in the community.
In this study, the social activities of collaboration and networking form learning communities which act as sociocultural environments and even as communities of practice, like spaces for students to learn (Skaniakos & Piirainen, 2019; Tynjälä, 2013).
The authors’ results show that empowered networking and ethical power in education link the students to society, the third learning world.
Empowered adult students identify themselves as experts in well-being with a strong ethical conscience.
This finding is in line with recent studies concerning the significance of increasing self-knowledge in activating teachers’ ethical thinking and action (Fernández-Balboa, 2009), and in how ethicality gives rise to feelings of power (Flint, Zisook, & Fischer, 2011).
However, adult students also resist the external norms of the educational system (Arvaja, 2016) and want to develop it and have an impact on society (cf. Lanas & Kelchtermans, 2015).
In this study, the authors relied on Wenger’s (1998) social concept of learning, in which identity is defined through learning, experiencing, doing and belonging.
Their results clearly indicate how the importance of experience and participation in communities deepen students’ understanding of themselves as professionals and human beings.
This supports Wenger’s (1998, p. 227) assertion that learning is fundamentally experiential and social.
The data also suggest, in line with other recent studies (Timoštšuk & Ugaste, 2010; Uitto et al., 2016), that becoming a teacher is a highly emotional experience.
Teacher students need the community and society to support them and provide space for negotiation on development (Brookfield, 2015, pp. 239–256).
Epistemological contradictions in adult students’ conceptualisation of knowledge and learning in peer groups, as well as confrontation with the unknown within the professional self in group reflection, may awaken their emotions.
To be able to go beyond the experiences and emotions, they recommend that adult education institutes adopt educational approaches that facilitate collaboration, problem solving, investigative activities, written and oral communication skills and critical reflection on the emotions aroused (Andrade, 2016).
The results show that when opportunities for the empowerment of teacher students are enabled, teacher students actively focus their learning and participation on widening their learning worlds.
By combining practice and theory in andragogical teacher education and by emphasising the importance of collaboration and networking for the renewal of teacher education programmes (Peck, Calluicci, Sloan, & Lippincott, 2009; Vähäsantanen, 2015), the teacher students may become empowered, active participants and agents in society.

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Updated: Apr. 17, 2021