Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Perceptions of Research and Its Link to Teaching

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Perceptions of Research and Its Link to Teaching

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article investigates graduate education majors' perceptions of research and its relation to teaching. I show that most students view research as consumers. Missing from this view is an inquiry-based stance in which they position themselves as producers of knowledge about their students and classrooms. Implications for instruction and professional development are: a) teachers must be exposed to literature positioning them in the role of researchers and b) research assignments must not be restricted to literature review research.

Introduction

There are growing calls for K-12 teachers to engage in research and reflect on teaching. For instance, one of the five core propositions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) requires that "teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience" (NBPTS, 2005, p. 16). The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) echoes a similar call when it declares that "'the teacher is a reflective practitioner who continually evaluates the effects of his/her choices and actions on others and who actively seeks out opportunities to grow professionally" (INTASC, 1992, p. 31). University researchers studying areas such as professional development, action research and teacher expertise have stressed the importance for teachers to conduct classroom research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993; Good & Brophy, 1997; Levine & Trachtman, 1997; Borich, 2003; Hogan & Rabinowitz, 2003). According to NBPTS (2005, p. 16), the call for research reflects the recognition that teachers "work in a field marked by many unsolved puzzles and an expanding research base", rendering it indispensable for teachers "to be lifelong students of their craft." Despite these calls for teachers to engage in research, there is surprisingly little research that examines teacher perceptions of research and the relationship of research to their teaching. We know very little about how teachers define 'research' and how they understand the overall relationship between research and teaching. In fact, evidence suggests that most teachers do not see the link between research and their own teaching (Hargreaves, 1984).

This article investigates the perceptions of research by 70 graduate education students, addressing the patterns they perceive research and its relation to teaching. I find that most of them construe research as library-based research and as a tool to discover new teaching techniques and strategies. What is missing is an understanding of how research can inform the instructional decisions teachers make and how effective teaching requires the ongoing research of students and student reactions (Good & Brophy, 1997; Borich, 2003).

Methodology

This project invited 75 teachers to define research and its relation to teaching. Data was collected over a 2-year period and participants were asked to respond to two open-ended questions (What is research? How is research related to teaching and education?) that were presented to them at the start of five sections of a required introductory education research course. Participants were told that their responses would not be graded, but only analyzed for research and course improvement purposes. Of the 75 teachers asked, 70 (16 males and 54 females) submitted their responses. The 70 participants including 52 in-service and 18 pre-service teachers were enrolled in the Master of Science in Education program, required of candidates seeking their professional certification in New York State. Their teaching areas ranged from English (16), social studies (24), math (6) and science (8) to special (12), foreign language (3) and physical education (1). Prior to this course, they had received their bachelor's degrees and initial teaching certification from New York State. Apart from their education courses, their academic backgrounds varied in which subject areas they specialized in and where they were in their graduate studies. …

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