From PAR to Partnership: design of a teacher education program preparing for student participation in schools

Year: 2018

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

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Background and scopeThe study aimed to understand how pre-service teacher students (PSTs) can set-up and conduct participatory action research (PAR) together with their school students and how to design a one-year TE program that prepares and motivates PSTs for this approach.
The study has been conducted with two cohorts of PSTs and their secondary school students within a one-year-master program at Leiden University, over two consecutive academic years. Their regular capstone research assignment was modified, namely as PAR, to promote teacher-learner partnerships, in school-based research.
Accordingly, the TE program and teaching approach was modified, such that it reflected the participatory principle of the teacher-learner partnership. An important principle guiding the study was to align educational practice in the TE program to the intended participatory approach in the research project and school practice of the PSTs.
DesignThe study used a multiple embedded case study design of PAR cases in schools, and an educational design approach for developing the TE program. Data were: TE interviews, TE learner reports, TE staff meetings, seminar field notes, PST one-minute papers, PST research logs, individual and focus group interviews, and educational materials.
Qualitative data analysis was aimed at identifying linkages between contextual factors, program characteristics (interventions), processes (mechanisms) and outcomes, to formulate design propositions.
FindingsSalient characteristics of the program relate to a consistent and sustained emphasis on the perspective of the learner, however difficult for new PSTs. Also, for teacher educators, this implied a change in their thinking and in their teaching strategies. TEs increasingly modeled and scaffolded the participatory approach.
Familiarizing PSTs with educational/social science research early in the program supports understanding the nature of educational action research and the way school students can be involved in research activities. Adjusted program content, specific assignments aimed at focusing on the learner, and extra facilitation of the PSTs in developing and conducting their research plans fostered a positive disposition in PSTs towards PAR and participation of their school students, and influenced the form and intensity of school student participation in their research, for instance not only in roles of ‘data sources’ or ‘active respondents’, but in the role of ‘co-researchers’ as well.
Further researchIssues for further research could be: the sustainability of the approach; micro-level investigation of student participation processes in school-based research; development of the approach in other TE contexts.