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Article

Matching Performance Assessment to Teacher Capabilities: The Bridge Between Teacher Performance/Evaluation and Student Learning  

Robert Morris

America’s public educational system is under constant scrutiny concerning student performance on standardized tests. Some blame the teachers, others blame the students, and recently many have begun to blame the test. A clearer picture of the issues is important and by reviewing the traditional aspects for evaluating teachers and then analyzing how contemporary testing methods in today’s classrooms has evolved a clearer perspective can be accomplished. The advent of newer models and methods of teacher assessment that focus on the classroom performance of teachers and based on observable assessments, along with a more authentic measure of student capabilities, are central. Although many researchers praise this movement, others have found many pitfalls in the attempt to standardize performance assessments. Many critics advocate the use of performance assessments in the classroom but remain loyal to the multiple-choice assessment as the more reliable and valid measure for comparative standardized testing. All aspects of this debate are important however. Given the increasing usage of performance assessment in today’s classrooms, many believe and advocate the development of newer assessments to replace the more traditional assessments. Understanding the roles evaluation and assessment play in reforming teacher evaluation is vital. Different data sources, new social power relations, and new ways of thinking about teacher evaluation are all important. The link between these developments in teacher evaluation and school reform is hoped to bring about an increased focus on the most important resource for change: the best practices of current teachers.

Article

Philosophical Tenets of Action Research in Education  

Luis Sebastián Villacañas de Castro and Darío Luis Banegas

The juxtaposition of action and research conveys a sense of the richness and complexity of action research, yet it does not entirely translate its nuanced and sophisticated philosophy. In turn, an understanding of this philosophy is crucial for grasping action research’s radical originality. In this context at least, it may be more accurate to define action research by drawing on the term practice, even though it does not form part of the basic conceptual pair. Not only does practice make it easier for us to trace the constellation of philosophical influences behind the theory and practice of action research—from pragmatism to postmodernism, including Greek philosophy and Marxist and psychoanalytic schools of thought—but also to identify where these influences end and action research emerges as the bearer of a nontransferable view. Beyond this, at the heart of action research lies a structural affinity with singular social practices, which are its key ontological sites—that is, the context where action research in each case fills its epistemological and ethical dimensions with meaning. What kind of knowledge does action research aim to produce? What behaviors do action researchers engage in? Compared to other research paradigms in the social sciences—the field of education included—the specific quality of action research has to do with how its epistemological and ethical dimensions are shaped not from without but from within any given social practice. This is the key to its specific ecology. In action research, the epistemological and ethical realms do not stand beyond or above the situated social practices, with their values, principles of procedure, knowledges, and discourses, including their own literacies and modalities—in short, their own internal cultures. Action research conceives and presents itself as a rational and systematic way for members of the different social practices to build and rebuild their own epistemologies and ethics precisely by drawing on, and selecting from, their own internal cultures. How does this ecological perspective translate itself in education? Education is one of the key areas in which action research is generally applied, together with welfare and healthcare. Yet apart from the specific use of action research by educators, action research carries within itself a specific educational philosophy (and a political philosophy as well) which underlies its application, regardless of the specific social practice in which it takes place. In the same way that action research is politically democratic, educationally speaking action research is participatory, meaning that learning, improvement, or development can only be realized through a self-determining process in which people act and research freely upon and among themselves. This is precisely what action research facilitates in the different social practices. Action research is always educational, whether one develops it in education, welfare, or healthcare. As a result, action research has contributed a clear-cut pedagogical model that some critical educators have already imported to their own educational institutions and practices: youth participatory action research.

Article

High Leverage Practices in Elementary Inclusive Education  

Lawrence J. Maheady and Angela L. Patti

Teacher preparation programs are undergoing a shift from knowledge-based to practice-based, meaning the emphasis is on what teacher candidates can do, rather than what they know. In light of this movement, high leverage practices (HLPs)—a set of core practices that educational experts agree all teachers should be able to do upon entering the teaching field—have been developed in several different educational areas (e.g., general education and special education). As experts develop sets of HLPs, they identify practices that (a) are researched based, (b) are often used by teachers during the school day, (c) can be applied across grade levels and subject areas, (d) are fundamental to student learning, and (e) can be taught, practiced, and developed to some degree of fluency by teachers entering the profession. The idea is that these practices can be used as a core curriculum for teacher preparation programs. While initial work with HLPs is promising, additional questions must be answered before moving forward. Institutions of higher education that choose to use HLPs to frame their teacher preparation programs need to determine (a) which HLPs to use, (b) how to integrate HLPs into the program, (c) how to assess teacher candidate fluency with HLPs, and (d) how to evaluate the effects of HLPs on P–12 students. As these questions are answered, further light can be shed on what truly makes a practice worthy of the designation “high leverage.”

Article

Heuristic Inquiry in Teacher Education  

Rochelle Fogelgarn

Teacher educators often encounter novice pre-service teachers who naively declare that their chief motivation for choosing a teacher training course is their passion for teaching children and young adults. Our challenge is to sustain that passion and transform it into effective pedagogical practice. As education is a profession with a crucially important affective dimension, preparing pre-service teachers for the rigors of daily teaching requires more than facilitating the acquisition of pedagogical technique and strategy. Heuristic inquiry is a methodological approach that affords teachers-as-researchers the means to portray the lived experience of teaching so that both pre- and in-service teachers can identify with, and learn about, the holistic experience of teaching. In contrast to other methodologies, the heuristic researcher’s own experience regarding the phenomenon informs, guides, and interacts with the lived experience of the study participants. The multidimensional, multiperspectival, and multifaceted “story” of the lived experience of teaching which emerges from a disciplined heuristic inquiry provides pre-service teachers with a window through which they can vicariously experience the joys, challenges, and risks inherent in the work of teaching. Being more deeply aware of what to expect may better prepare novice teachers to remain within the profession with their initial passion intact. As a methodological approach, heuristics involves self-inquiry and dialogue with others in order to discover the meaning, significance, and implications of pertinent human experience. Knowledge crystallizes within the researcher in consequence of sensory input, perception, transpersonal communication, belief, and judgment. The individual and composite portrayals and the creatively synthesized essence of the phenomenon that evolve from heuristic exploration coalesce to give a powerful picture of human experience. When heuristic inquiry depicts the dedicated efforts of dynamic teachers who have managed to make a real and enduring impact on their students’ learning and transformative growth, insight is likely to emerge regarding how to ensure the vibrant sustenance of inspired, effective teaching.

Article

Teacher Participation and Pedagogical Research in the Educational Sphere  

Daniel Hugo Suárez

Narrative documentation of pedagogical experiences is an alternative and emergent focus of educational research that promotes teacher participation in the processes of research-training-action in the educational field and seeks to make the relationships it configures between power and knowledge more horizontal. Theoretical, methodological, and epistemic-political criteria inform the rules of composition and the validation of constructed pedagogical knowledge, and this methodological framework organizes narrative and autobiographical practices so that educators can reflect on and rename the pedagogical environments they inhabit. Additionally, educators can engage in a series of peer-critique reading-writing exercises that are focused on revising different versions of recounting pedagogical experiences. Moreover, the pedagogical field has a democratizing potential due to the public nature and specialized circulation of these narrative documents.

Article

Status, Content, and Evaluation of Lesson Study in Japan on Teacher Professional Development  

Takashi Nagashima

In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.

Article

Ethnographic Inquiry in Teacher Education  

José Ignacio Rivas-Flores

Teaching’s purpose is to build a society’s knowledge and skills through a group of students using a curricular proposal within a social and institutional framework. It therefore takes place in institutions specifically created for this purpose, which, as such, represents a culturally constructed environment that is in line with the conditions of the society in which this process unfolds. Thus professional cultures have been historically constructed according to the working conditions, the teaching experiences transmitted from generation to generation, and the evolution of the educational systems. In addition, institutional cultures are developed according to the particular history of each school. Student cultures also form as social groups within these institutions. This represents a complex system that goes beyond mere instruction by curriculum. Preparing the professionals who will go on to work in these institutions requires an understanding of these cultural frameworks and the competence to be able to act on them. Ethnographic research promotes an understanding of educational reality from a critical reflective perspective, and this is only possible if researchers themselves participate in those frameworks. Ethnography can be understood as a shared construction of places for reflection, aimed at comprehending the cultural, social, and political phenomena that involve participants in the processes of change and transformation. Teacher preparation must, therefore, be established with an ethnographic approach, which reconstructs the school experience from a critical reflective perspective. In this way, the conditions for developing a professional identity based on the reconstruction of this experience are created. The theories, in this case, offer the opportunity to pursue this critical dialogue, breaking away from the prescriptive role that they adopt from a positivist perspective. Ethnography contributes to the tasks through three basic dimensions. First, teacher preparation throughout is an object of educational inquiry: there are many research studies of an ethnographic nature that report teacher training methods in an attempt to understand the processes taking place. Second, ethnographies are a tool for preparing future teachers: in this case, this refers to a curricular use of ethnography aimed at future teachers’ understanding of the educational processes through research. Third is a way of understanding learning—in other words, ethnographic attitude as a learning strategy and the use of ethnographic inquiry strategies and tools as means of learning about educational processes. This last case generally entails staying and acting in schools, and it is what most clearly links research and teaching in a shared process.

Article

Practice-Focused Research in Initial Teacher Education  

Jane Abbiss and Eline Vanassche

A review of the field of practice-focused research in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) reveals four broad genres of qualitative research: case studies of teacher education programs and developments; research into student teacher experience and learning; inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning, identity, and beliefs; and conceptual or theory-building research. This is an eclectic field that is defined by variation in methodologies rather than by a few clearly identifiable research approaches. What practice-focused research in ITE has in common, though, is a desire on the behalf of teacher educator researchers to understand the complexity of teacher education and contribute to shifts in practice, for the benefit of student teachers and, ultimately, for learners in schools and early childhood education. In this endeavor, teacher educator researchers are presented with a challenge to achieve a balance between goals of local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the broader field. This is a persistent tension. Notwithstanding the capacity for practice-focused research to achieve a stronger balance and greater relevance beyond the local, key contributions of practice-focused research in ITE include: highlighting the importance of context, questioning what might be understood by “improvement” in teacher education and schooling, and pushing back against research power structures that undervalue practice-focused research. Drawing on a painting metaphor, each genre represents a collection of sketches of practice-focused research in ITE that together provide the viewer with an overview of the field. However, these genres are not mutually exclusive categories as any particular research study (or sketch) might be placed within one or more groupings; for example, inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning often also includes attention to student teachers’ experiences and case studies of teacher education initiatives inevitably draw on theory to frame the research and make sense of findings. Also, overviewing the field and identifying relevant research is not as simple as it might first appear, given challenges in identifying research undertaken by teacher educators, differences in the positioning of teacher educators within different educational systems, and privileging of American (US) views of teacher education in published research, which was counteracted in a small way in this review by explicitly including voices located outside this dominant setting. Examples of different types of qualitative research projects illustrate issues in teacher education that matter to teacher educator researchers globally and locally and how they have sought to use a variety of methodologies to understand them. The examples also show how teacher educators themselves define what is important in teacher education research, often through small-scale studies of context-specific teacher education problems and practices, and how there is value in “smaller story” research that supports understanding of both universals and particularities along with the grand narratives of teacher education.

Article

Teacher Research in Teacher Education  

Lisa Kervin and Barbara Comber

Teacher research is well established internationally. Teacher research serves an important role for teacher education, both as the object of academic study and as a practice within programs and the profession. Teacher research has the potential to build teacher knowledge for practice, in practice, and of practice. An understanding of the role of research in these different types of knowledge, enables a demonstration of both the richness of and potential for the education field. Research has an important role in both preservice and in-service education and the potential to bring about change personally, professionally, and politically.

Article

Teachers’ Knowledge for the Digital Age  

Margaret L. Niess

The 21st-century entrance of digital media into education has required serious reconsideration of the knowledge teachers need for guiding students’ learning with the enhanced technological affordances. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK or TPACK) describes the interaction of the overlapping regions of technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge that also creates four additional regions (technological pedagogical knowledge, technological content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and technological pedagogical content knowledge). These knowledge regions are situated within a contextual knowledge domain that contains macro, meso, and micro levels for describing the dynamic equilibrium of the reformed teacher knowledge labeled TPCK/TPACK. Teacher educators, researchers, and scholars have been and continue to be challenged with identifying appropriate experiences and programs that develop, assess, and transform teachers’ knowledge for integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) that are also spurring advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) as learning tools in today’s reformed educational environments. Two questions guide this literature review for engaging the active, international scholarship and research directed toward understanding the nature of TPCK/TPACK and efforts guiding the transformation of the teacher’s knowledge called TPCK/TPACK. The first question considers the nature of a teacher’s knowledge for the digital age and how it differs from prior descriptions. Three distinct views of the nature of TPCK/TPACK are explained: the integrative view; the transformative view; and a distinctive view that directs how the primary domains of pedagogy, content, and technology enhance the teacher’s knowledge. The second question explores the research and scholarship recommending strategies for the redesign of teacher education towards developing, assessing, and transforming teachers’ TPCK/TPACK. These strategies recognize the importance of (1) using teacher educators as role models, (2) reflecting on the role of ICT in education, (3) learning how to use technology by design, (4) scaffolding authentic technology experiences, (5) collaborating with peers, and (6) providing continuous feedback. This research further characterizes teacher educators with strong ICT attributes as the gatekeepers for redesigning teacher education programs so that today’s teachers are better prepared to engage in the strategic thinking of when, where, and how to guide students’ learning given the rapid advancements of digital technologies. These cumulative scholarly efforts provide a launchpad for future research toward transforming teachers’ knowledge for teaching with the technological advancements of the digital age.