Teacher educators as teacher researchers: practicing what we teach

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Author: Ranita Cheruvu
Date: May-June 2014
From: Childhood Education(Vol. 90, Issue 3)
Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,596 words
Lexile Measure: 1450L

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Many parallels can be found between the work of early childhood classroom teachers and early childhood teacher educators--teachers of teachers. In my current work as an early childhood teacher educator, I teach preservice teachers in a teacher preparation program. Like many classroom teachers, I often leave each class meeting with a whirlwind of observations, concerns, and ideas. As I take a moment to pause and reflect, I am ultimately left with a multitude of questions: What are my students learning? How are they experiencing the activities, discussions, and assignments? How effective is a particular activity or reading? How will they implement the ideas presented in class into their own practice? What are the unspoken and implicit messages they are hearing and witnessing in this classroom? These lingering questions, the ensuing restlessness of not knowing, and the motivation to systematically search for answers grounded in data (Hatch, 2006) create a familiar and comfortable space--a space I am accustomed to teaching and learning from as a former kindergarten and 1st-grade classroom teacher.

Whether we are a PK-12 teacher or a teacher educator, Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, and Waff (2009) remind us that, "at the end of the day as teachers, we are often left wondering: Are we doing enough? How do we know?" (p. 2). Engaging in teacher research is a powerful way to answer these essential questions. Teachers are "privileged participants in the world of teaching and learning" (Goswami et al., 2009, p. 2). By looking from the inside out (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) teachers can generate unique knowledge and understanding that cannot be reproduced by other forms of research (Goswami et al., 2009). This knowledge and understanding can improve one's teaching practice and, ultimately, increase students' learning.

While many teacher educators espouse teacher research as an important aspect of PK-12 teaching, teacher research or practitioner inquiry is not as widely embraced (Souto-Manning, 2012). Although teacher educators tell their preservice students that teacher research is beneficial for improving practice, they themselves do not readily engage in research concerning their own practice. For many teacher educators, their practice is quite often a separate endeavor from their research. Although a proliferation of self-studies and other forms of practitioner-inquiry by teacher educators focus on problems around practice, such studies have been sharply criticized by policymakers and the larger research community (Cochran-Smith, 2005). This criticism is primarily due to the fact that the majority of research conducted by teacher educators is not easily generalizable across contexts (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). Thus, although there is consensus that teacher research is a useful tool to improve practice on an individual or context-specific level, many teacher educators shy away from or are discouraged from engaging in teacher research. Yet teacher research--systematic data collection and analysis of a problem of practice--is helpful for improving one's practice, gaining a deeper understanding of students' perspectives and needs, and, ultimately, improving students' learning. The unique "insider knowledge" generated from teacher research also has the potential to benefit the practice of other teacher...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A369128877