Understanding and Learning to Do Teacher Education in an Introductory Methods Course

January - March, 2022

Source: Quest, 74:1, 17-36

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study is to examine how two doctoral students report understanding and learning to do teacher education during an introductory methods course as a self-study.
There is little research on this topic, yet there is a pressing need to understand how doctoral students come to understand one of the central tasks of being a professor (i.e., teaching), should inform the practices of doctoral programs in physical education teacher education (D-PETE) and doctoral students.


Research design
This was a collaborative self-study (Richards & Ressler, 2016) using an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to examine how doctoral students make sense of learning to do PETE (Brandenburg & McDonough, 2019).
Ovens and Fletcher (2014) proposed three characteristics of self-study: community, stance and desire.
In this self study two graduate students and their advisor formed a small community.
The graduate students functioned as both participants and often as critical friends to each other as they sought to understand teacher education, challenged their assumptions and critically evaluate their engagement in the course.
In this study, the students each served as a critical friend to one another, and their advisor served as a critical friend to them both.
Their stance was reflected in their inquiry on their practice.
Not just in terms of the technical delivery, but in terms of the rationale for the course, its design, the culture of the class, the pedagogies they used and their expectations for the outcomes they were seeking from their students in the course and themselves as beginning teacher educators.
The third characteristic of self-study is the desire to improve one’s understanding, in their case of teacher education.
Because they were new to teacher education they viewed themselves as highly motivated to learn and understand the career they had undertaken.
An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was preferred for this study because of its focus on examining how individuals make sense of lived experiences, and the use of detailed interpretations to understand the experience (Pietkiewicz & Smith, 2014).
IPA allows for multiple individuals who experience similar events to describe the common meaning of their lived experiences of a concept or phenomenon (Pietkiewicz & Smith, 2014).
IPA extends beyond traditional phenomenology because of its focus on particular versus the general called idiography.
In IPA, researchers conduct a detailed single-case analysis for each participant before comparing patterns across cases.
Thus, participants are allowed to interpret similar experiences differently in this case in the context of the socialization phases and other life experiences.
The authors used reflection as the primary method of inquiring into their practice.
They relied on Schön’s (1983) concept of reflection-on-action as a continuous inquiry approach conducted during the fall semester of the course and continuing into the spring semester following the course.
Specifically, they used critical reflections and record-keeping of these reflections in the context of the methods course.
These reflections served to provide opportunities for the doctoral students to “examine assumptions, frame problems, and develop their pedagogical muscle” (Hammerness et al., 2002, p. 240).
They tied their reflections to theory examining their own knowledge development of teacher education and the context for practice providing ecological validity for their findings (Gouuier et al., 2010).

Results and discussion
Three themes were identified: social justice, practice-based teacher education, and adapting to the COVID-19 environment, these and their accompanying sub-themes are reported.
In this self-study, the authors described their first introduction to PETE and introductory methods class grounded in practice based teacher education (PBTE) and core practices, using deliberate practice and reflection as core learning strategies.
The class was embedded with social justice issues, something they did not recognize prior to taking the class.
They have learned the importance of embedding and confronting social justice issues in PETE classes.
They have also learned the strength of a well designed course in preparing students to teach one that emphasizes structure, expectations and accountability.
They learned that PBTE focused on aligning theory to practice and that core practices define the teaching behaviors and skills to be learned.
Furthermore, they also learned the value of adapting their instruction and supporting students to ensure their success.
The power of modeling these behaviors for their students that they can in turn use in their teaching.
They also learned to know who the students are and to meet them where they are.
By this they mean to recognize the life experiences of their students and to understand their prior knowledge of what they are teaching.
They have also learned that they are still significantly limited in their understanding of PETE and how to do it.
But, with this experience, they are one step closer to knowing more.
From the COVID-19 context they learned that working in that environment was less than satisfactory.
But that it was not teaching practice that was the major challenge, but the mental health of the students they were teaching.
This required much closer relationships with them than they might otherwise have had, and it is something they can take forward with them into non-COVID-19 environments.
From an occupational socialization lens, doing the self-study represented their first formal inquiry into understanding and doing teacher education in their doctoral education.
It was a valuable tool allowing them to learn about and from their practice as teacher educators.
They recommend this self-study to other doctoral students and they recommend increased research on the topic of how to prepare doctoral students to do teacher education.

Brandenburg, R., & McDonough, S. (2019). Ethics, self-study research methodology and teacher education. In R. Brandenburg & S. McDonough (Eds.), Ethics, self-study research methodology and teacher education. Self-study of teaching and teacher education practices, vol 20. Springer.
Gouuier, W., Barker, A., & Musso, M. (2010). Ecological validity. In N. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of research design (pp. 400–405). Sage Publications.
Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, L., & Shulman, L. (2002). Toward expert thinking: How curriculum case writing prompts the development of theory-based professional knowledge in student teachers. Teaching Education, 13(2), 219–243.
Ovens, A., & Fletcher, T. (2014). Doing self-study: The art of turning inquiry on yourself. In A. Ovens and T. Fletcher (Eds.), Self-Study in physical education teacher education (pp. 3–14). Springer.
Pietkiewicz, I., & Smith, J. A. (2014). A practical guide to using interpretative phenomenological analysis in qualitative research psychology. Psychological Journal, 20(1), 7–14.
Richards, K. A. R., & Ressler, J. D. (2016). A collaborative approach to self-study research in physical education teacher education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 35(3), 290–295.
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.

Updated: Jun. 27, 2022