Encountering large-scale research in the staffroom

Year: 2012

Author: Dixon, Mary, Kostogriz, Alex, Rowan, Leonie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper addresses the significant research design problem of doing research which productively and generatively addresses the everyday of teachers' work and the large-scale issues of teacher education. The Studying the Effectiveness of Teacher Education (SETE) project is engaging this complex problem as it investigates the following research questions:

  1. How well equipped are teacher education graduates to meet the requirements of the diverse settings in which they are employed?
  2. What characteristics of teacher education programs are most effective in preparing teachers to work in a variety of school settings?
  3. How does the teacher education course attended impact on graduate employment destination, pathways and retention within the profession?

Methodologically, this study features the interplay between large-scale quantitative data methods and small-scale qualitative case studies. By utilizing a research design that works between the specificities of case study and large-scale surveys, a deeper understanding of the 'big picture' of early career teachers' experiences and their links to their pre-service teacher education programs is constructed. This design reveals how these play out with both the specifics of particular teacher workplaces and histories of professional learning.

The study brings together significant data sets and is innovative in the ways that the different data are used iteratively. This mixed methods approach follows a sequential explanatory design where the quantitative data is collected and analysed, then supported by qualitative data. Round One survey instruments and case studies inform development of Round Two survey instruments. This pattern continues over the data collection period. Each of the methods also produces stand-alone findings. The quantitative data and its analysis stand on their own. Similarly, the qualitative data and analysis stands on its own.

The case studies produce new insights regarding how early-career teachers draw on professional knowledge, practice, engagement and ethics to effect and enhance students' learning. The desk top mapping and the initial surveys have offered new readings of the teacher education experience in Australia. This paper provides the first reading of these analyses. The challenge to read across the data sets has generated new knowledge of the effectiveness of teacher education. It has also provoked a refinement of case study approaches in this area.