Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

The Action Research Story of a Student-Teacher: Change Is Not Easy and It Takes Time, Effort, and Critical Reflection

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

The Action Research Story of a Student-Teacher: Change Is Not Easy and It Takes Time, Effort, and Critical Reflection

Article excerpt


A new national curriculum will be implemented in Finland at the beginning of the 20162017 school year. Although the Finnish education system is already child-centered and liberal (Sahlberg 2011), the overall goal of the new curriculum is to give students more independence by giving them responsibility for their own learning through an emphasis on the joy of learning and students' active role (Finnish National Board of Education 2015). More specifically, in physical education (PE), students should become active participants who are able to cooperate and help each other (Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014). This significant change is one reason teachers should find new methods of teaching physical education. For the first time ever, model-based practice and Sport Education (SE) in particular have been included in the teacher guidelines of the Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (Utbildningsstyrelsen 2014) as a method of enriching PE.

The SE model is an internationally used and researched model that has had several positive outcomes (Layne & Hastie 2015), and it will be further developed in later sections. It is also gaining more traction in countries that do not primarily speak English, though studies in these countries are still limited, as well as textbooks in languages other than English (Glotova 2011). There is a gap in the literature base about model-based practice in Scandinavia (Romar 2013; Romar, Ahlroos, Flykt, & Penttinen 2015). Although there has been an initial effort in Finland (Romar, Henriksson, Ketomäki, & Hastie 2016), there is still a need for more research on the implementation of SE in Finnish schools.

In addition, Araújo, Mesquita, and Hastie (2014) pointed out that there are still several gaps in international SE research, which they suggested could be filled through action research in SE. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to study SE through action research. I chose to do so during my final student-teacher experience as a way of increasing my knowledge of innovative model-based practices, which are also expected in researchbased teacher education programmes in Finland (Niemi & Nevgi 2014). Research-oriented teacher education has received credit as well as criticism due to the relation between research and practice. By situating action research in teacher education, educators assume that authentic researcher experiences will help preservice teachers translate theory into practice, particularly when dealing with innovative instructional strategies (Kemmis 2010). Furthermore, Eklund (2014) proposed that action research could be a solution to preservice teachers' dilemma. Though teachers understand and see the logic of the research orientation, they feel that research-based teacher education does not give them enough practical tools.

All first-person references in this article refer to Nicolina, as I was the practitioner in this study. When drawing conclusions and implications, all three authors' voices will be heard. Jan-Erik and Ben, the silent coauthors in this paper, were experienced university faculty members who have expertise in the use of SE and action research, respectively. JanErik was the master's thesis supervisor, and we constructed the SE unit, discussed data collection, analysed the data, and discussed the findings together. He also challenged my understanding of the whole process. Ben provided an outside audit, giving peer debriefings and acting as a critical friend in order to challenge my interpretations of the student-teacher experience.

Action Research

By definition, action research is when practitioners systematically investigate their own practice, to understand and improve it (Huang 2010; McNiff & Whitehead 2006). Besides developing and changing the practice, practitioners use action research to understand the change process (Newby 2010). Action research has been implemented in several ways, and one general feature is an approach where new knowledge is generated through changeoriented activities (Kalliola 2009). …

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