Pre-service Teacher Action Research Skill Development

Year: 2021

Author: Willison, John, Painter, Ainsley

Type of paper: Symposium

A prime form of research that drives change in classrooms, moves thinking forward and responds to rapidly changing conditions is teacher Action Research (AR). As a methodology, spirals of action may see increasing rigour and sophistication built into the AR process, or there may be single-loop thinking that does not look more broadly than the local environment and remains idiosyncratic.This presentation considers the results when Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs) in the second year of an undergraduate teaching degree employed action-research thinking in professional placements in high schools. While AR models classically guide teachers in four phases represented in cycles of action, the sequential nature (Phase 1, 2, 3, 4, 1…), can trivialise many of the realities and nuances of AR. The approach taken in this study was for PSTs to focus on the skills they used for action research, as characterised by the Research Skill Development (RSD) framework. These skills were explicitly introduced, practiced in tutorials and assessed in assignments, and pre-service teachers were prompted to think about high school student engagement with reference to this skill set.Students were required to employ small spirals of AR in their teaching of small groups on their professional placement. While the degree of rigour and sophistication typically started low, a main aim was to build PSTs’ confidence in AR and a willingness to employ it. This study reports on statistically significant changes in PST pre- and post- perceptions of their research skills and connected affective elements, as well as an analysis of their stories from the field. If more PSTs graduate as AR-savvy teachers, then the teaching profession may become increasingly able to respond rapidly and effectively to the changing conditions the future will inevitably bring.