“Let’s find out together!”: Participatory action research by student teachers and school students in secondary education

Year: 2016

Author: Smit, Ben H.J., Admiraal, Wilfried A., Berry, Amanda K.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

ProblemIn educational research and teacher education (TE) the students’ voice is remarkably missing. One approach to including student voice is through ‘students as co-researchers’.While action research by teachers and in TE programs has been studied (e.g. Ponte, 2002; Hine, 2013), little is known about how to incorporate teacher research and student participation through participatory action research (PAR) in a TE program and subsequently in schools, and what conditions enable or constrain this. Currently, no such programs exist within Dutch university TE.This project concerns how to understand and facilitate student teacher (ST) participation in educational research in TE, so that they feel equipped and motivated to do this with their own school students.Research project and research questionsThe study is conducted with two cohorts of STs and secondary school students within a one-year-master program at Leiden University. Their regular capstone research assignment was modified, namely as PAR, in order to enable teacher-learner partnerships, in schools.Research questions:- How do STs involve school students in research on school practice?- How can teacher-learner research partnerships be efficiently and effectively implemented in school practice?Data and MethodsThe study used a multiple embedded case study design of PAR cases in schools, and an educational design approach for developing the TE program. Data collection included: STs’ research logs, individual and focus-group interviews, site visits, and educational materials. Qualitative data-analysis (within-case and cross-cases) produced case descriptions of the STs’ research projects; and also unique patterns and (dis)similarities. Data are drawn from illustrative cases.Preliminary findings and conclusionsOutcomes- STs vary in dispositions towards PAR; all conducted AR, but on different levels of school student participation.- Tailored facilitation of the research process is needed for introducing STs to educational research, and for developing their AR plans.- STs gained insight into school students’ perspectives on education and school life; the cases showed higher quality teacher-learner relationships, more individualized teaching, and improved class atmosphere.Conclusions- Enabling student participation through PAR by STs seems possible, and can be scaffolded by a consistent participatory approach in the TE program.- Sustainability of the PAR practice after graduation is subject of continued study.