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date: 15 December 2018

Practice-Focused Research in Initial Teacher Education

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Teacher education has been a matter of concern among policymakers for decades. For just as long, there have been attempts to understand and improve teacher education by studying it empirically. Disenchanted by the progress made by scholarly experts who produced knowledge in “scientific” research “on” teacher education with the aim that findings be implemented in practice settings, teacher educators themselves started researching teacher education. The resulting practice-focused research provides insight into the kinds of research that teacher educators themselves find useful to guide their work and practice in the preparation of teachers.

Broadly speaking, research conducted by teacher educators for teacher educators serves a twofold purpose: to inform the improvement of local practice but also to contribute to the development of a public knowledge base in teacher education. The warrants for knowledge for teacher educator research on teacher education practices derive from a range of qualitative research methodologies, and the authority of this research relates generally to questions of relevance and rigor in qualitative research. Research conducted by teacher educators for teacher educators presents challenges for teacher educators in achieving a balance between goals for local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the field.

There are, though, also challenges for teacher educator researchers in understanding the field within which they work. What seems like a relatively simple mission—to provide an overview of qualitative research that focuses on teacher education practice and the preparation of student teachers—proves to be quite a difficult task. Challenges relate to matters of definition, concerning who “qualifies” as teacher educators in times of rapid change and variation in initial teacher education provision internationally, and what constitutes research on teacher education practices. Also, challenges derive from matters of scope in the publication of research by teacher educators. Publication of such research extends beyond that which appears in top tier international journals and which tends to provide an American-centric and Global North view of teacher education. These challenges in themselves raise questions about who gets to define the field of practice-focused research in initial teacher education and how this field is defined by the research practices it entails.