The 3rd issue of the online journal Action Researcher in Education is a thematic issue that concerns Action Research in Teachers’ Education. It includes papers both from Greece and from other countries, such as Canada, U.S.A., Austria, South Africa, and Norway. These papers address various issues pertaining to educational action research, emerging from its implementation in teachers’ education.
Three papers concern the potential benefits of the use of action research for teachers’ education in their undergraduate studies.
Maria Liakopoulou in her paper Theory, practice, educational tacit theories and reflection: student-teachers practicum and educational action research presents a study that aimed at examining the role of field experience in teacher training, during student teachers teaching practicum. More specifically she focuses on the questions: to what extent field experience contributes a) to developing pre-service teachers’ personal theory about teaching, b) to utilising theoretical knowledge in practice and c) to developing the ability of teachers to analyse and evaluate the teaching process. Results suggest that most of the student teachers plan and perform school lessons, during their teaching practicum, rather mechanically, without combining academic theory with teaching practice, without reflecting on the their tacit personal theories that formulate –in a degree- their teaching decisions. So the author proposes action research as an alternative way for organizing teaching practicum focusing on the advantages of the paradigm, especially concerning its potential to develop student teachers’ ability to understand, analyse and evaluate the teaching process.
The next two papers refer to the enhancement of student teachers’ reflective practice through their involvement in action research projects.
Sofia Avgitidou & Vasileia Hatzoglou in their paper The design and evaluation of an instrument for supporting pre-service teachers’ reflection focus on the design and evaluation of an instrument for the enhancement of student teachers’ reflection during journal writing. The two authors designed the specific instrument and its evaluation scale based on relevant studies. Then they tested both the instrument and the evaluation scale in a small sample of student teachers during their teaching practicum, which was organized in an action research manner. Results suggest that different kind of questions posed to student teachers encourage different levels of reflection. The authors give us evidence that student teachers’ reflection can be enhanced if they face questions that ask them to generalize, to evaluate their practice and reason their evaluation, provide examples and offer alternative solutions in problems they face concerning teaching.
Vassilis Tsafos’ paper Developing inquiry and reflection skills in student-teachers: The use of action research focuses on the reflective orientation of student teacher education through action research studying the parameters governing its reflective perspective and the ways student teachers interpreted the reflective process they experienced. In this perspective the author analyses the research reports written by the student teachers who participated in educational action researches. These action research projects were organized in way that they encourage student teachers to use reflective approaches of educational practice, to investigate their beliefs and tacit knowledge on teaching, and to realise the extent to which these tacit beliefs, values and understandings influence in practice the decisions they make and the actions they perform when teaching. Their reports indicate that educational action research could be a means that could help student teachers engender reflective practice and critical analysis of educational practice but mostly in a technical way. They don’t indicate challenging deeply held attitudes and preconceptions. Student teachers don’t seem to incorporate the critique of the institutional contexts in which they were called to work on. However the study demonstrated that action research projects could be both challenging and empowering for student teachers in a reflective perspective.
The next five papers refer to the use of action research in teachers’ life long learning and in their professional development. They present action research projects that involved teachers during their pre-service or in-service education and show the role the university could play in teacher education.
Sigrid Gjøtterud and Erling Krogh in their paper Action research as an approach to professional and organizational development in teacher education present and discuss an interesting action research project they conducted as teacher educators in a post-graduate program of a Norwegian University. Through this five years (2005-2010) project, the participants tried to improve their guiding and researching practices. Reading the paper, it becomes obvious that in these five years, through discussion, sharing of experiences, co-reflection and theorizing of reflections, many changes took place gradually. These changes concerned not only the participants’ (teacher educators’) individual and collective practices but also their student teachers’ thinking, writing and reflection and the way the organization (the post-graduate program for student teachers) functions.
In their paper Making Pedagogical Content Knowledge Explicit: A Tool for Science Teachers´ Professional Development Martin Scheuch and Erika Keller, as teacher educators, present their effort to formulate, test, evaluate in practice and redesign a tool for science teachers’ reflective practice, through an action research they conducted. This tool aims at making Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) of science teachers explicit. The two authors engage in an action research process in order to make their PCK tool more effective, to gain a deeper understanding of their teachers’ learning and to help these teachers in their professional development. Testing their PCK tools in various contexts (in pre- and in-service science teachers’ education), collecting data and feedback from the teachers that used it and reflecting on these data, the two teacher educators further developed their PCK tool and give us interesting ideas for redesigning it again.
In his paper How Teachers Define and Enact Reflective Practice: It’s All in the Action, Joseph Shosh presents a study he conducted in 2010 in Moravian College (U.S.A.). His study focuses on two issues: first, on the reflective practice that the teachers involved in an action research develop and second, on the kind and depth of reflection that teachers develop when conducting action research. The author refers to processes that can enhance reflective practice during teachers’ involvement in an action research. Studying data that derived from 20 teachers that participated in a Reflective Practice Seminar in the framework of Moravian College’s Master of Education program, that engaged them in a highly contextualized action research, Shosh makes some interesting analyses of their research reports and a series of interviews he conducted in which teachers commented upon the actions they took as they attempted to learn more about teaching and learning within the context of their individual classrooms. He examined how teachers perceive reflective practice and how their participation in action research processes gave them the chance to reflect on their teaching and reflecting practice, to change their classroom practice, and to realize the value of the systematic reflection.
Jim Parsons and Larry Beauchamp in their paper Action Research: The Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) and its Implications for Teacher Education present a large-scale project that lasts for more 12 years now, called The Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI). In AISI framework more than 1800 site-based, action research projects have taken place by school teachers these 12 years. The authors –after studying all these action research projects- offer us a brief report sharing their key findings concerning teacher education. Two of all the interesting findings they present worth mentioning: first, the increased growth of teacher professional learning and efficacy as a result of their involvement in AISI action research projects and second, the notion that AISI program can offer (instead of results for experts) clever ideas, interesting proposals to the ongoing conversation about how teacher education programs might be best shaped to benefit both pre-service and practicing teachers.
Hayley Bentham, Angela James and Sathiaseelan Pillay in their paper An exploration of a Grade 9 teacher’s journey along the path of Education for Sustainable Development implementation address the crucial issue of the teacher’s role in the implementation of an innovation in education. They present and discuss how a teacher developed her understanding and practice of an educational innovation (Education for Sustainable Development) through her involvement in an action research project. As she engages in active learning and other action research processes, as reflection, she gradually accesses a deeper practical understanding of the innovation and manages to integrate it into her practice. It seems that action research empowered this teacher and helped her to act not as a simple implementer of the educational change but as an active developer of it.