Outcomes of Preservice Teachers' Qualitative Research

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  • This article was downloaded by: [North Dakota State University]On: 15 October 2014, At: 09:19Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies,Issues and IdeasPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vtch20

    Outcomes of Preservice Teachers' Qualitative ResearchAngela Breidenstein , Ileana Liberatore , Teresa Lioi , Evelyn Miro , Sue Weber & Sheryl StoeckPublished online: 03 Apr 2010.

    To cite this article: Angela Breidenstein , Ileana Liberatore , Teresa Lioi , Evelyn Miro , Sue Weber & Sheryl Stoeck (2001) Outcomesof Preservice Teachers' Qualitative Research, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 74:3, 141-144

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  • Outcomes of Preservice Teachers Qualitative Research

    ANGELA BREIDENSTEIN, with ILEANA LIBERATORE, TERESA 1101, EVELYN MIRO, SUE WEBER, and SHERYL STOECK

    ne of the vexing questions in teacher education 0 today concerns the outcomes of preparation: What happens when preservice teachers graduate from their teacher education program and enter the class- room? Are the effects of their teacher education experi- ences washed out, or do those experiences carry over into their teaching (Zeichner and Tabachnick 1 981)? This question challenges teacher educators at two lev- els-the overall program and the contribution of each assignment or experience to that program.

    The Qualitative Research Project When teacher educators examine individual assign-

    ments and experiences-although doing so is some- what artificial, given the interaction of experiences and their connection to the overall program-they gain important insight with which to make curricular and pedagogical determinations. In our teacher education program at Trinity University, a qualitative research project is one of the pivotal experiences of the prepara- tion program. This is not the research paper with which most undergraduate students are familiar; rather, it is an inquiry project in which students design, research, and write up a qualitative study about a self- determined question related to teaching. The project is completed during the pedagogics course, which focuses on models of teaching and teaching strategies. Students take the pedagogics course in the fall semester of a three-semester (summer, fall, spring) Master of Arts program, which follows four years of undergraduate study either at Trinity (five-year student) or at another institution (fifth-year student). Concurrently, students are completing an eight-month internship in a profes- sional development school with a mentor teacher.

    The assignment requires that each student design and execute a qualitative research project related to an aspect of teaching. Qualitative research, defined broadly by Glesne and Peshkin (1992), consists of coming to understand and interpret how the various participants in a social setting construct the world around them ( 6 ) . Students determine the area of research, as well as the design, with faculty, peer, and mentor guidance. The designs range from ethno- graphic studies based on participant observation to action research based in the intern and mentors class- room (Bullough and Gitlin 1995; Glesne and Peshkin 1992; Gore and Zeichner 1991). Examples of past inquiry projects include the following: a comparison of the practices of a traditional and a constructivist physics teacher and of the performance and percep- tions of their students; a study of mathematics teach- ers use of homework and student perceptions; the development of a foreign language proficiency rubric in an internationally themed magnet school; ESL stu- dents perceptions of mathematics instruction and effective modifications; the problem-solving processes of chemistry students; and special education modifi- cations for foreign language students. By the end of the assignment, students have generated a proposal, paper, and research notebook (a collection of coded data, coding explanations, and reflective writing about the research process).

    Qualitative research is not often included in the cur- riculum of a teacher preparation program, or for that matter within a pedagogics course, because many teacher preparation programs and even prospective teachers tend to emphasize learning how to teach rather than learning from teaching (Bullough and

    ~ ~~~~~

    Angela Breidenstein is an assistant professor of education at Tnity University Sun Antonio, Texas. lleana Liberatore, Teresa Lioi, Evelyn Mir6, and Sue Weber are teachers at Robert E . Lee High School, Sun Antonio.

    Sheryl Stoeck is n graduate student at Trinity University.

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  • The Clearing House January/February 2001

    Gitlin 1995; Johnston 1994). The paradigm in which teachers learn how to teach promotes the accumulation of teaching skills in the form of methods and the mechanics of teaching; in contrast, when teachers learn from their teaching, they develop the ability to engage in deliberate action to determine the interaction of students and teachers in a particular context (Kennedy 1987, 1). As Sergiovanni (2000) points out, it is not enough to accumulate and use skills, for skills need to be accompanied by other dimensions so that teachers are able to decide which skills to use and why and when to use these skills (1 27). Learning from teaching means that teachers generate knowledge from their practice, integrating theory and experience together through reflection and critical analysis (Kennedy 1987; Schon 1983; Sergiovanni 2000). Because our program strives to prepare teachers who have a reflective orien- tation toward teaching and learning, qualitative research is taught as a tool to develop and promote that orientation.

    Analyzing the Projects Outcomes To examine whether the qualitative research project

    serves its purpose of promoting reflective practice, I invited a graduate in her first year of teaching (Tere- sa), a graduate in her second year of teaching (Eve- lyn), a current student (Sheryl), and two teachers from our professional development high school (Ileana and Sue) to discuss the project in the context of a conference presentation. Currently, all of the par- ticipants teach in the professional development high school (PDS), and the graduates completed their internship in that school as well. The graduates proj- ects represent a range of topics and designs. Teresa interviewed and observed three English teachers and their students regarding the use of multicultural liter- ature in English courses. Evelyn interviewed the for- eign language coordinators of four high schools in a school district as well as the districts foreign language curriculum coordinator in order to compare and con- trast the horizontal (language proficiency) and verti- cal (language accuracy) foreign language teaching methodologies. Sheryl conducted action research in her English 4 classes regarding student-led discus- sions, using different practices and analyzing student participation and feedback.

    The conference presentation focused on two themes: the experiences of doing research as a preservice teacher and the outcomes of these experience as an inservice teacher. Each panel member prepared indi- vidual responses for each of the themes based on their experiences. I recorded and transcribed the presenta- tion, and I also coded the responses. The transcripts and coding were shared with the participants, and they assisted with the preparation of this article by reading drafts and providing feedback.

    Outcomes: Classroom, Collegial, Pedagogical, and Reflective Inquiry

    According to the participants, the primary outcome of the project relates to the stance of the graduates as inquirers. Students who complete a qualitative research project have, through that process, been inquirers in the areas of research, theory, and practice. Although they may no longer use the formal research process or continue their inquiry in that area, they con- tinue to act as inquirers after becoming teachers. Four specific areas of inquiry emerged: inquiry in the class- room with students, inquiry with colleagues, inquiry regarding curriculum and pedagogy, and reflective self- inquiry. What follows are descriptions of each area from the participants who completed the assignment and are now teaching as well as the observations of the PDS teachers.

    Inquiry in the Classroom The graduates see themselves as inquirers in their

    classrooms. They specifically note experimentation in the classroom, meaning that they used different methods and pedagogical approaches with their stu- dents. Interestingly, they also believe that this mode of inquiry and experimentation extends to their students, in terms of assessing their experiences and the overall tone of the classroom:

    TERESA More generally, I think my experience doing research put me in a more experimental mode in the classroom. I run experiments in the classroom all of the time, and I tell my students this is an experiment and then afterwards we talk about it-did it work well, did it not work well, how can we make it better? Because Im in this inquiry mode, I put my kids in that state too and they participate in it as well.

    EVELYN: Doing the research makes you experiment and be flexible and open-minded about what is best or what other things can work in the classroom to teach kids.

    SHERYL: My research project forced my mentor and me to do some experimenting that we might not have necessarily done. I hope that we would have done that without the project, but I dont know. Also, the project encouraged me to get student feedback, written down, about things we were doing in the classroom; I know Ill continue to do that in the future.

    Collegial Inquiry The graduates, current student, and PDS teachers all

    said that the research project required their interaction with other teachers in the professional development school and in other educational settings. As a result of that experience, they now engage in collegial interac- tion more readily and naturally at their school, in the school district, and in the profession:

    TERESA A challenge would be all of the networking that you have to do for this research. The library is only

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  • Vol. 74, No. 3 Qualitative Research 143

    the beginning, and usually as an undergraduate thats the classics like The Scarlet Letter. The main thing I where you do all of your research. Im a shy person, and learned is that students are more comfortable with non- for the project I had to approach a lot of people I was canonical literature because its in their language and its nervous about approaching. It helped me with that skill. easier to read than something thats old and classical. Its

    really affected how I teach, because I realized that I have to decide if I want to teach themes and ideas or if I want EVELYN: The research project gave me opportunities to to teach reading comprehension. For example, when I meet many teachers and the district foreign language was reading Hamlet this year with my seniors, I decided coordinator. Doing the research gave me an excellent to use a parallel text, with Shakespeare on one side and opportunity to get out into the community and talk to the paraphrasing on the other, because I wanted to go many foreign language teachers and hear from experi- for the ideas contained in Hamlet and not just compre- enced teachers about teaching a foreign language. It was hension. Other times I pick poems because I want them a great learning and networking experience. I also think to wrestle with the language and figure it out and so I do doing the research can be contagious. People in my that. I make more conscious choices about what Im department were aware of what I was doing and I was sharing with all of them. Doing research in the school doing because of the research.

    opens their eyes to something else, something that is different, evolving, something that is current, some- EVELYN: As a foreign language teacher, I was amazed to thing that works. find out that there were so

    many different ways to teach, and I had to find the meth- SHERYL: The research is ods and practices that were done at different levels- school, district, and class- I n i tia I l y, the research project most effective for me and

    room. engenders more anxiety and most effective for my stu- dents. Exploring in those

    resentment than excitement areas, especially student SUE: Ive been a learner as well as a giver of my thoughts effectiveness, was incredible. Also, I was lucky enough to teachers in the school become

    immediate partners in schol- be on a textbook review com- arship because the students mittee to select the textbook either involve us directly as participants or involve us in well be using for the next ten years. It was good to be conversations during and after their research. Ive been using knowledge of how students learn a foreign lan- teaching at my school and in my room for twenty-eight guage and how teachers can teach it to make decisions years, and the whole process of working with the like picking the next textbook.

    and experiences. I think the and...

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