Exposing the ‘messiness’ of action research: 'Cycling' towards change with primary pre-service teachers enacting assessment for learning in physical education

Year: 2019

Author: Macken, Suzy, MacPhail, Ann, Calderon, Antonio

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Background:Much criticism remains surrounding the impact of teacher education programmes on pre-service teacher (PST) preparation for the reality and complexities of the classroom (Darling-Hammond, 2006). Assessment for learning (AfL) has been widely researched and defended within policy documents and literature, yet such recognition of the effectiveness of using assessment strategies does not guarantee that a transfer of theory into PST’s school placement will occur (Lorente-Catalán & Kirk, 2016). With a lack of research on primary PST’s assessment literacy in enacting AfL in primary physical education, both internationally and nationally in the Irish context, the presenter sought to engage in action research to establish the impact of her current practice on PST’s enactment of AfL, and explore how to improve the effectiveness of her practice (Stringer, 2014).

Research Design:This presentation draws on the presenter’s experiences as a teacher educator engaging in action research with primary PSTs on a two-year professional masters of education. This study employed a seven-phase longitudinal action research approach. The data discussed in this presentation will draw from the presenter’s reflective diary maintained throughout her doctoral research, field notes based on participant observation by the presenter, and semi-structured interviews conducted with the PSTs. The challenges, complexities, and benefits of action research will be discussed in line with the impact on the research study and the presenter’s practice as a teacher educator in primary physical education.

Findings and Discussion:The findings of this study present the ‘messiness’ that was experienced by the presenter through sustained engagement in the overall cycle of action research, and the multiple micro cycles of action research throughout her doctoral studies. This presentation provides an insight into the complexities of action research when playing the dual role of a teacher educator and a researcher, the implications of accessibility to PST's teaching primary physical education, and the rationale for, and outcome of decisions made as part of the action research cycles. Furthermore, the presenter will share how the knowledge gained from this doctoral research has impacted on her own practice in her initial teacher education programmes.

Implications:Action research as a methodology can lead to more informed change in one’s own practice, however, embracing and acknowledging the chaos and messiness of the process is what can ultimately lead to change. This study raises questions for how teacher educators can effectively prepare assessment literate PSTs.