At the American Education Research Association annual meeting in April, Clive Beck, Clare Kosnik and members of their research team received an award from the AERA Constructivist SIG for a submission based on their longitudinal study of 40 teachers. This study, which began in 2004, has been funded by four successive SSHRC grants and will continue for at least two more years; it is one of the most extensive longitudinal studies of teachers ever conducted. Also in April, a chapter on longitudinal research written by Clive, Clare and Elizabeth Rosales was published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Education.
As I (Yiola) prepare for the upcoming AERA conference by finalizing and editing my papers I am drawn to a few key ideas on teacher development that I have come across in the literature.
The International Handbook of Teacher Education volumes 1 and 2 (Loughran and Hamilton Eds., 2016) include a number of chapters on topics in teacher education. Our own team leaders Clare Kosnik and Clive Beck along with close colleague Lin Goodwin (Teachers College, Columbia University) share a chapter on Reform Efforts in Teacher Education.
The volumes are filled with interesting chapters. What has caught my attention at this time is a chapter on teacher led professional development. Bullough and Smith write on Being a student of teaching: Practitioner research and study groups. The chapter describes the idea of being a student of teaching (as a current practitioner) from two dimensions: the personal and the contextual. Exploring reflective practice (the personal dimension) and opportunities and support for teacher learning (the contextual dimension), the authors share insights from Dewey (1933) to Avalos (2004, 2011) and Livingston (2011). The chapter also explores ways of being a student of teaching: through practitioner research and study groups and the varied ways one can learn. An in-depth and detailed review and analysis of teacher led professional development.
This work fits beautifully with my paper titled: Examining the Professional Life of an Elementary School Teacher: Literacy Education in the Making where I have taken one participant from our 13 year longitudinal study of 40 elementary schools teachers from Canada and the USA and shared her literacy teaching trajectory (mainly from the contextual dimension). I am looking forward to sharing this paper and work at the upcoming AERA conference in late April.
Most recently we are reviewing the data from a study that explores graduates’ impressions of their teacher preparation from one teacher education program. The participants are graduates from 1999-2014 and we have well over 200 respondents. A survey was conducted that included qualitative responses. So far, the responses have been incredibly interesting. As we work through the data I gain more and more excitement for the possibilities of understanding teaching education and improving not only my personal practice as a teacher educator but also the potential for improving the structure and programming of teacher education.
As we review the current data I keep in mind the many findings and recommendations of past research. For example, in 2009 Clive Beck and Clare Kosnik along with a strong team of graduate researchers published their findings from a qualitative study on classroom teachers’ understandings, perceptions, and explanations of their practice and teacher education experience. Their book, Priorities in Teacher Education: The 7 Key Elements of Pre-Service Preparation, is the first of several from what has become longitudinal study (13 years and counting) of teachers work and development. In Priorities of Teacher Education Beck and Kosnik identify seven priority areas for teacher areas:
- program planning
- pupil assessment
- classroom organization and community
- inclusive education
- subject content and pedagogy
- professional identity
- a vision for teaching
These priorities are coming up in several interesting ways in our current research and I look forward to analyzing and writing up the findings in the months ahead. More so, I am excited to be thinking about research-based considerations for improving our teacher education program and my personal practice.
Clare, I (Clive) and our wonderful research team are gearing up for our annual visits and interviews with the 40 teachers in our SSHRC study. This is the 12th year of study and we have got to know the teachers well; we are really looking forward to seeing them again. (Actually, we recently received SSHRC funding to follow them for another 5 years, which is exciting.)
At the same time, Clare, Elizabeth Rosales (one of our team members) and I are working on an article on longitudinal study of teachers for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. This is a challenge, because people differ on what longitudinal research means. For example, some say it must involve studying the same “cohort” year after year (as in our project), while others include “cross-sectional” study of different teachers at different career stages.
In the article, we have decided to take a broad view of longitudinal study, including any research that has a time perspective. For one thing, studying the same teachers year after year is not always feasible: funding is often just for a restricted period, and teachers may move to other parts of the country (we have been lucky in that nearly all our participants have stayed put, either in the Greater Toronto Area or the New York/New Jersey area).
Where feasible a cohort study does have clear advantages. As we are finding, you can get to know the teachers and their context very well, and so understand the details of how they change and grow and why the changes occur. However, large-scale cross-sectional studies of teachers at different career stages – such as Huberman’s research in the 1980s and the 2001-2005 VITAE study in the UK – can also provide enormous insights.