Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Genres of Empirical Research in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Genres of Empirical Research in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Is empirical research on teacher education really so bad? Critics decry its inconsistent quality and inability to respond convincingly to some of the field's most vexing problems. At the same time, teacher education is a relatively new field of study. Those who have traced its development observe that rigorous, large-scale research on teacher education is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to conduct; thus, some of the theoretical and methodological advances seen in more mature fields, for example, research on student learning, are just beginning to emerge in research on teacher education. When we reviewed empirical research and reviews of research in teacher education (Borko, Whitcomb, & Byrnes, in press), we noted an excitement associated with working on the frontier of establishing a field of study, a willingness to critique the methodological rigor of our work, and a desire for our scholarship to have a constructive impact on teacher education policy and practice. As editors of this journal, one of the most important contributions we can make is to help push the field forward--to improve the quality and impact of empirical teacher education research. (1)

In keeping with that goal, we organized our JTE-sponsored session at the 2006 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) annual meeting to focus on Enhancing the Scholarship of Teacher Educators' Practice. This issue of JTE continues the conversation begun at that session, as we feature articles by session presenters Jean Clandinin, John Loughran, and Ken Zeichner. In an effort to broaden and stimulate the conversation, this editorial office offers our assessment of four genres that have been central in empirical teacher education research, namely (a) effects of teacher education, (b) interpretive, (c) practitioner, and (d) design. The first two--effects and interpretive--are established genres that have contributed substantially and over many years to the knowledge base on teacher education. The latter two--practitioner and design--are more recent additions. Although the three articles featured in this issue address only one of these genres--practitioner research--we highlight it because as an emerging genre practitioner scholarship is of great interest to many teacher educators and more variable in its quality and impact. We conclude by comparing and contrasting possibilities of the four genres and suggesting worthwhile avenues for teacher education research.


"Effects of teacher education" research refers to a body of scholarship concerned with understanding the relationships between teacher education experiences and student learning. With roots in the scientific method of the natural sciences, this research genre seeks to identify generalized patterns of relationships between characteristics of teacher candidates, features of teacher education practices and programs, and learning of teacher candidates and K-12 students through experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational research methods. Its establishment as a major genre of research was ensured by E. L. Thorndike's (1910) argument in the early part of the 20th century that experimental psychological research and statistical analyses should guide educational research. As he explained in his introduction to the Journal of Educational Psychology's first issue,

   A complete science of psychology would tell every
   fact about every one's intellect and character and
   behavior, would tell the cause of every change in
   human nature, would tell the result which every
   educational force--every act of every person that
   changed any other or the agent himself--would
   have. (p. 6)

The legacy of this cause-and-effect orientation is evident in the process--product studies that dominated inquiry in teaching and teacher education in the late 1960s and 1970s. These studies were grounded in the logic of the descriptive-correlational-experimental loop. …

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