Teacher Educators’ Professional Development in Flanders: Practitioner Research as a Promising Strategy
Source: Research in Teacher Education, Vol.6. No 2. November 2016 pp. 6-11
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this paper is to explore a Flemish intervention designed to support teacher educators’ professional development in general, and teacher educators’ role as researchers in particular.
The participants were sixteen institution-based teacher educators volunteered to participate in the intervention.
The teacher educators volunteered to participated in a project which was a commitment to develop, implement and study an evidence-based intervention to support teacher educators’ professional development through practitioner research. Several methods of data collection were used: audio recordings and observations of all the group sessions; and interviews with all the participants. The participants were interviewed before, immediately after and six months after participation in the intervention.
The findings revealed that of the 16 participants, 10 successfully completed the intervention. All participants were generally very positive about their participation in the intervention. At the same time, they all emphasised its intensive nature. Inherently linked to this, all participants indicated that the lack of structural time to participate in the intervention was an important obstacle. As a consequence, support – situated on different levels – was often noted as very important. Moreover, the support from colleagues and critical friends within the participants’ own teacher education institution was appreciated.
Impact of the Intervention
The impact of the intervention is situated on three different levels: (1) the impact on teacher educators’ practice, The returns on participatory investment in the intervention on teacher educators’ practice are multiple. (2) the impact on the public knowledge base in teacher education, The impact on the public knowledge base in teacher education is related to sharing research results with colleagues and, thus, contributing to the knowledge base on teacher education. All participants have shared the results of their practitioner research; each of them presented their results in an internal symposium concluding the intervention. Moreover, results were shared during meetings with fellow-participants in the teacher education programme. and (3) the impact on teacher educators’ professional development
The impact of the intervention on teacher educators’ professional development was analysed based on the three different dimensions of teacher educators’ researcherly disposition: (a) the affective dimension, (b) the cognitive dimension and (c) the behavioural dimension.
Regarding the affective dimension, all teacher educators started the intervention with a positive stance towards research. All had at least a positive curiosity towards practitioner research, and the participants were enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from other teacher education programmes.
The cognitive dimension of teacher educators’ researcherly disposition also changed during participation in the intervention. The increased confidence to conduct research also affected the behavioural dimension of teacher educators’ researcherly disposition. All participants that succesfully finished the intervention indicated that they read more research literature and use more research while preparing their lessons. Moreover, different participants referred to an extended network to share and discuss experiences with (inter)national colleagues.
The results of this exploratory study suggest that practitioner research, conducted in professional learning communities, supported by facilitators is a promising strategy to support teacher educators’ professional development. In this respect, practitioner research not only seems to improve Flemish teacher educators’ practice, but also informs the development of a public knowledge base of teacher education in Flanders. Moreover, teacher educators who participated in the intervention express a stronger confidence towards conducting research, absorb more research into their own practice, and value the relevance of their role as a ‘researcher’ to improving their role as a ‘teacher educator’.