Reflective movements in the professional development of teacher educators as supervisors of student research in higher education

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Published: 
2021

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 44:4, 452-467

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors describe the development of a training course for teacher educators as supervisors of practice-oriented student research.
The course addresses the function of research within teacher education programmes (valuing research knowledge, and skills as part of the professional practice of teachers) and the role of teacher educators as research supervisors.
They thereby focus on the relationship between the external domain and the personal domain.
The training course is considered as an external force intended to influence the knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes of teacher educators about supervising student research.
Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002) appoint this mechanism in which teacher educators adapt their knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes as a reflective movement.
The authors were interested in the way the content of the training course provokes reflection, and in what way teacher educators adapt their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs during the course.
In the present study, the authors report in what way teacher educators at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) participating in the developed course adapt their dispositions (affect, cognition, and behaviour).
By analysing the results of learner reports filled in during the course the following research questions will be answered:
1) How do the beliefs, and attitudes of teacher educators about supervising student research develop during a course introducing a new framework for positioning, directing, and supervising student research? and
2) How does the perception of teacher educators of their own knowledge, and skills in supervising student research develop during a course introducing a new framework for positioning, directing, and supervising student research?

Method

Participants
The training course was offered separately to teacher educators within two clusters of bachelor’s degree programmes:
Exact Sciences (f.e. Mathematics, and People, and Technology), and Social Sciences (f.e. History, and Economics).
The course for teacher educators in Exact Sciences had 14 participants, and for Social Studies 21.
Participants were teacher educators working within one of the mentioned clusters and actively involved in the supervision of student research.

Data collection
During the course, data were gathered from the participants by means of learner reports (De Groot 1980).
At the end of each training session, participants were asked to fill out a learner report in which the archetypical fill-in-the-blank sentence questions had been tailored to the specific points addressed during the training session.
The participants were informed about the twofold function of the learner reports as an evaluative tool, and as an instrument for data collection.
All participants (N = 35) completed the course, but occasionally people were absent for a session due to educational obligations or private circumstances.
As a result, not every participant has completed the full number of six learner reports.
A selection based on the criterion that at least four reports had to be submitted resulted in a total of 17 respondents that were included in the analysis.

Results and discussion
The authors’ first research question addressed the way beliefs, and attitudes of teacher educators about supervising student research develop during a course introducing a new framework for positioning, directing, and supervising student research.
In general, they conclude that student teachers as research supervisors felt supported by the model of the intervention cycle for guiding student research.
They acknowledged the necessity, and usability of this model, and the corresponding methodology in their daily practice.
During the course, they critically re-examined their former ways of supervising, revised their attitudes towards their role, and responsibility as a supervisor, and reconsidered their beliefs about the purpose of student research.
The authors succeeded to bring about changes in the attitudes, and beliefs among teacher educators involved in supervising student research.
The course contributed to a shift in their role perception when it comes to feeling responsible for the quality of student research.
During the course, teacher educators stressed the necessity of having an active role in developing the theoretical framework, and the research question.
They also became aware of their responsibility in promoting validity, and reliability.
Knowledge of the intervention cycle as a heuristic to solve problems of practice offered them a compass to keep themselves, and their students on track.
Teacher educators in the present study also concluded that a more demanding and directive approach of students is needed in order to realise the intended strengths of practice-oriented student research, which seems to differ from their former role which we can indirectly derive from the results.
In general, this former role can be typified as supporting, promoting, and monitoring progress.
However, from the results, the authors state that they cannot derive that the attitudes, and beliefs of teacher educators regarding the importance of student research for the development of an active inquiring attitude of students are changed.
There are no quotes hinting in that direction.
It seems that teacher educators in both courses have accepted the growing emphasis on the quality of student research as a fact of life in which they want to fulfil their role as good as possible.
Maybe that is why they are much more oriented towards appropriating the intervention cycle as a methodology instead of asking questions about the rationale behind promoting research attitudes, and skills of student teachers.
The authors’ second research question concerned the self-perception of teacher educators.
They studied in what way the perception of teacher educators regarding their knowledge, and skills in supervising student research changed during a training course in which a new framework for positioning, directing, and supervising student research was introduced.
As already discussed in answering the first research question, participants reported a shift in role perception.
This shift in role perception also made them re-examine their own quality as a supervisor in terms of their own research knowledge, and skills (our second research question).
Although they tried to improve research knowledge, and skills in their training programme, teacher educators felt confused rather than having the idea of being better equipped to fulfil their new role.
During the course teacher educators increasingly became aware of their lack of knowledge, and skills which suppressed a safe, and secure feeling about their position as a research supervisor.
They were moving from unconscious incompetent towards conscious incompetent, which movement was provoked by introducing the explicit vision, and corresponding model of practice-oriented research.
In terms of researcherly disposition (Tack and Van der Linde 2014), they saw a growth of the inclination towards students engaging in research, and in the way, teacher educators look for opportunities for their students to conduct research. However, according to the new framework teacher educators are worried about their own abilities to supervise student research.

References
Clarke, D., and H. Hollingsworth. 2002. “Elaborating a Model of Teacher Professional Growth.” Teaching and Teacher Education 18 (8): 947–967.
De Groot, A.D. 1980. Learner Reports as a Tool in the Evaluation of Psychotherapy. In Psychotherapy, Research and Training, edited by W. de Moor and H. R. Wijngaarden, 177-182. Amsterdam: Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical Press.
Tack, H., and R. Vanderlinde. 2014. “Teacher Educators’ Professional Development: Towards a Typology of Teacher Educators’ Researcherly Disposition.” British Journal of Educational Studies 62 (3): 297–315. 

Updated: Dec. 16, 2021
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