Student teachers’ collaborative research: Small-scale research projects during teacher education

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    Teacher research

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    tioning stance, understand school culture, construct new curriculaand pedagogy, modify instruction to meet students needs, andbecome socialized into teaching by participating in learning

    Parkinson (2009) shows that being engaged in collaborative actionresearch during teacher education can bring about a shift in theperception of pre-service teachers of the role and needs of students.Burn (2007) describes an action research project for both studentteachers and experienced teachers as a means for continuingdevelopment.

    In summary, conducting research is described as a promisingactivity in educating student teachers, but only when it is done ina purposeful, deliberate and reective way, embedded in a program

    * Corresponding author. Present address: Faculty of Psychology and Education,VU University, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Tel.: 31 20 5981520.

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    journal homepage: www.e

    Teaching and Teacher Education 28 (2012) 609e617E-mail address: (M. Dobber).tion of student teachers in terms of engaging in research into theircurricula (e.g., Beckman, 1957; Burn, 2007; Hiebert, Morris, Berk, &Jansen, 2007). Engaging in research during teacher educationcan have positive effects on the careers of student teachers;Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, and Bransford (2005) found thatgraduates from teacher education programs which make extensiveuse of teacher research reported signicantly higher feelings ofpreparedness and were rated more highly by employers.

    According to Cochran-Smith, Barnatt, Friedman, and Pine(2009), research during teacher education aims to encouragestudent teachers to engage in critical reection, develop a ques-

    instead of being a single point in time or a single activity. Workingfrom an inquiring stance thusmeans that every site of professionalpractice becomes a potential site of inquiry (Cochran-Smith &Lytle, 2009, p. 121).

    In line with the idea of inquiry as stance, Hiebert et al. (2007)propose a framework that aims to design teacher educationprograms which prepare student teachers to learn from teaching.Within this framework, the analysis of teaching practices as a formof inquiry is central. These researchers recommend preparingstudent teachers for deliberate and systematic analysis of their ownpractice, which continues when entering the profession. Similarly,1. Introduction

    Teacher research is increasingly deof professional development (CampbeCochran-Smith, 2003). Themovemena long history (Zeichner & Noffke, 20the value of teacher research through1950s, teacher education programs s0742-051X/$ e see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd.doi:10.1016/j.tate.2012.01.009as an important aspectNamara, &Gilroy, 2004;rds teacher research hasd led to an emphasis onchers careers. Since theto include the prepara-

    communities. These authors, based on the work of Cochran-Smithand Lytle (1999, 2009), discuss an important distinction betweeninquiry as stance and inquiry as project, advocating that the formershould be the ultimate aim. Inquiry as stance is a long-term andconsistent positioning or way of seeing (Cochran-Smith et al.,2009, p. 22), while inquiry as project is a time-bound activitywithin a teacher education course. In the case of inquiry as stance,inquiry becomes an inherent part of professional teaching practice,CollaborationStudent teachers collaborative researchteacher education

    Marjolein Dobber a,*, Sanne F. Akkerman b, Nico Vea ICLON, Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching, P.O. Box 905, 2300 AX Leiden,b Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80127, 3508 T

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 14 July 2011Received in revised form12 January 2012Accepted 13 January 2012

    Keywords:Teacher education

    a b s t r a c t

    Teacher research is increresponse, teacher educatiocollaborative research proprogram, focussing on elapreferences, which led to bengage in these processesa balanced approach, alterAll rights reserved.mall-scale research projects during

    op a, Jan D. Vermunt b

    Netherlandsrecht, The Netherlands

    gly described as an important aspect of professional development. Inrograms incorporate teacher research in their curricula. We report on thees of two groups of student teachers in a university teacher educationation and decision making. In one group, group members had differentncing elaboration and decision making. The other group, however, did notconscious way, leading to an arduous research process. We contend thatng elaboration and decision making, is desirable.

    2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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  • eachthat highlights inquiry of teaching as a continuous part of practice.Our study is concerned with research groups which are situated ina Dutch post-master university teacher education program (formore information on such a program, see Dobber, Akkerman,Verloop, & Vermunt, in press). Student teachers enter this one-year program after receiving a Masters degree in a relevantschool subject. For teachers from such programs (about 10% of allteachers in The Netherlands), conducting small-scale research ispart of their profession. The goal of research in this program is to letgroups of student teachers conduct an inquiry project into theirown practices, with the primary aim of acquiring research skills.Our study aimed to investigate the ways in which research con-ducted by student teachers in the context of a research project cancontribute to inquiry as stance.

    In accordance with our aim of gaining insight into inquiry asproject and inquiry as stance, we focus on two processes wheninvestigating two research groups in teacher education. The rstprocess that is investigated is elaboration. This process becomesvisible when group members thoroughly discuss a particular topic.During such elaboration, student teachers try to develop newinsights and make meaning within their research project. Thesecond process that is considered is decision making. This processbecomes visible when group members decide to take a certaindirection in their research project, which closes the door to otherdirections. Decision making is generally goal-directed and isrecorded in products such as reports from meetings. Van Ginkeland van Knippenberg (2008) found in their empirical study ofprofessional groups that those groups that spend time on elabo-ration (focussing on exchange, discussion, and integration ofdecision-relevant information), were better able to make decisionsthan groups that did not spend time on elaboration. We theorizethat giving attention to both elaboration and decision makingduring a research project can result in inquiry as stance. Elaborationchallenges student teachers to discuss their ways of seeing and toposition themselves as researchers, while decision making isa goal-directed activity leading to making choices, and thusgenerating outcomes which are aimed at improving own practice.We assume that by giving attention to both positioning themselvesas well as deriving outcomes, group members gain an inquiringstance that is aimed at improving practice, and at the same timeshow that they are able to successfully engage in an inquiry project.We hypothesize that when most time is spent on decision makingand little on elaboration, a group is only directed at nishinga certain task as quickly as possible, which indicates that the groupperceives inquiry as a project, and not as a stance. Our researchquestion is: To what extend and in what way do student teachers, inthe context of a research project, engage in elaboration and decisionmaking during the research process?

    2. Teacher research

    Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) describe how a renewedinterest in teacher research has emerged since the late 1980s asa result of a shift in the way of thinking about teachers. Teachershave become increasingly recognized as knowers and thinkers,who should play an active role in research and who have uniqueknowledge regarding their own classrooms.

    Teacher research is motivated by different aims, which can alsobe pursued simultaneously. The rst is the professional devel-opment of teachers (e.g., Bianchini & Cavazos, 2007; Furlong &Salisbury, 2005; Mitchell, Reilly, & Logue, 2009; Sperling &Dipardo, 2008), which can be focused on cognitive outcomes,such as knowing more about practice, as well as on emotional ormotivational outcomes such as empowerment, condence and

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and T610self-awareness. The second aim of teacher research is improvingcertain aspects of pupil or student outcomes. This is done bychanging practices during the research or by informing practiceafterwards (e.g., Bulterman-Bos, 2008; Castle, 2006; Cooper &Cowie, 2010; Lunenberg, Ponte, & van de Ven, 2007). The thirdaim is to inuence policy on the basis of research outcomes(Davis, Kiely, & Ashkam, 2009; Sperling & Dipardo, 2008), whichis sometimes described in relation to social change in a broadersense (e.g., Castle, 2006). Overlapping with the previous aim, thefourth aim is to contribute to the wider community of teachers,both informally and formally, for example through presentationsand publications (Castle, 2006; Sperling & Dipardo, 2008). Finally,some authors have also mentioned the potential contribution ofteacher research to theory (Davis et al., 2009; Saunders, 2004;Zeichner & Noffke, 2001), whereas other authors doubt whetherthis is or even should be an aim (e.g., Furlong & Salisbury, 2005).These other authors argue that teacher research should notnecessarily be the same kind of research as is conducted ineducational science, and therefore should not be set against thesame criteria (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Zeichner & Noffke,2001).

    A few studies have reported successful teacher research projects(Hall, 2009; Mitchell et al., 2009; Zeichner, 2003; Zeichner &Noffke, 2001), but many studies have concluded that teachersnd it very difcult to conduct research (e.g., Atay, 2008; Bianchini& Cavazos, 2007; Lunenberg et al., 2007). The realization of theaforementioned aims is affected by several factors. Many studiesemphasize the conditions that need to be met, such as the neces-sary time and resources for teachers to engage in research. Inaddition, Sales, Traver, and Garca (2011) state that action research,which can be seen as a particular form of teacher research focusedon changing practices, should be grounded in a need for changewhich is felt by the school community. Ermeling (2010) has foundthat meaningful instructional changes are more likely whenteachers work in teams, are led by trained leaders, use protocolsfocused on inquiry, and have stable settings. Lunenberg andSamaras (2011) have reported on a study into self-study, which isanother specic form of teacher research that focuses on researchby teacher educators. They have formulated guidelines for self-study, which might also be useful for teacher research morebroadly. Some of these guidelines are: 1) The starting point of theinquiry should be the own practice and the method should bealigned with that inquiry. 2) The learning side should be empha-sized, focussing on improved and continuous learning beyond theself. 3) The necessity of sharing research by means of presentationand publication should be stressed. 4) Dialogical participantstructures should be created for supportive and productiveengagement with participants contributions. In the context ofresearch groups that are part of a teacher education program,especially guideline four is important, as the research project isdeliberately set-up as a collaborative project. In line with thatguideline, other studies also found that an important condition forteacher research is the need for a teacher community in whichteachers share results or collaborate in order to conduct research(Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Lunenberg et al., 2007; Zeichner,2003). It should be noted that in some studies, collaboration isdescribed as a possible complicating factor in research endeavours(Atay, 2008; Bianchini & Cavazos, 2007; Lunenberg et al., 2007), andso it is relevant to look more precisely at how such a sharedresearch process manifests itself.

    3. Inquiry as collaborative process

    According to Pontecorvo (2007) collaboration is an importanttool for any type of learning and especially for socialization into

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617research practice. At the same time, different authors argue that

  • eachcollaboration during inquiry requires more thorough preparationwhen compared with individual inquiry practices. Frankham andHowes (2006) on the other hand, advocate that working withdisturbances during the set-up of a collaborative research projectmight help to establish a basis for a relationship. Cornelissen, vanSwet, Beijaard, and Bergen (2011) found that student teachers ina research group reported on active engagement and expertise, andsometimes also on the development of trusting relationships.Kuiper, Volman, and Terwel (2009) describe the conditions thatneed to be met in collaborative inquiry activities. The purpose ofthe project should be shared between the participants, who shouldrely on each others knowledge and skills and share knowledge. Intheir study, these conditions led to a high level of motivation andthe accumulation of knowledge. Wells (2001) advocates reectionacross a group as a whole, which, according to him, can contributeto the construction of knowledge. Paulus, Woodside, and Ziegler(2010) as well as Zittoun, Baucal, Cornish, and Gillespie (2007)stress the importance of the development of knowledge oncollaborative processes.

    As collaboration during research is argued to be demanding, itis relevant to study the ways in which collaborative researchprocesses actually take place. Most literature focuses on condi-tions that need to be met in collaborative research projects, or theform these projects can take. In our study, the process of twocollaborative research groups is scrutinized, giving a detailedinsight into the factors which lead to the complexity of thesegroups. In the literature on collaborative teacher research, threeaspects of research processes are discerned, namely a focussingand planning period, the implementation of a teaching action anda period of assessment/evaluation and dissemination (Nelson,2009; Slavit & Nelson, 2010). This model of teacher research isnot only aimed at investigating current practices, but also atchanging these practices, which happens by collaborativelyimplementing actions within the classroom. As we want todescribe a research project which is part of a teacher educationprogram and that is not aimed at changing practices, we willdescribe our results using a more general distinction betweentypical research phases: designing and writing a researchproposal, gathering data, analyzing data and deriving results andconclusions, and reporting the research results (cf. Akkerman,Admiraal, Brekelmans, & Oost, 2008). Describing the processeswithin the student teacher research groups in each of these phasesallows us to study and compare the collaborative researchprocesses of the groups in detail.

    4. Method

    4.1. Participants

    This study was conducted in a typical post-graduate teachereducation program in the Netherlands. This one-year programhosts about 150 student teachers per year, teaching 19 differentschool subjects in upper secondary education. When entering theprogram, the student teachers already have a Masters degree ina school subject, such as German or Biology. The student teachersspend half of their time on an internship or job at a school and theother half on activities for the teacher education institute. One ofthe activities in the second semester is a small-scale educationalresearch project, in which groups of student teachers collaborate,mostly without teacher educators being present. We conducted anin-depth qualitative case study of all of the meetings of two studentteacher research groups. Groups were composed on the basis ofshared interest for a research topic. In both cases, teacher educatorswere asked to propose a group that they considered to be willing

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and Tand able to participate in our study. We informed the selectedgroups about the topic of our study and what the data collectionprocess would mean for them, and asked the members of thegroups whether they were indeed willing to participate in ourstudy. Both of these groups consisted of three group members fromdifferent school subjects, two female and one male. The two groupswere supervised by different teacher educators, bothmale. The rstgroup was concerned with the supervision of beginning teachers,the second group investigated how pupils experienced interactivewhiteboards.

    4.2. Design of the program

    The members of the groups already knew each other, as well astheir supervisors, from other activities at the teacher educationinstitute when they started to collaborate within these researchgroups.

    4.2.1. Designing and writing a research proposalIn the beginning, the groups participated in three workshops as

    part of larger groups of about 20 student teachers. The workshopleaders were researchers from the teacher education institute.Before the beginning of these workshops, the student teachersreceived a syllabus, which consisted of information about thedemands of the program, planning etc. During these workshops,the groups of student teachers were gradually prepared for theirresearch project in terms of methodological knowledge and guid-ance in writing a research plan. They started with designing andwriting a research proposal during theworkshops. This was done inthe groups, by discussing the ideas different group members hadand making decisions about the set-up of the research. Before eachworkshop, the groups had to hand in worksheets which togetherled to a research plan. These worksheets were intended to helpframe the research, they for example had to formulate a researchquestion and more detailed sub questions, indicate what literaturethey would use and think about the method they were going tofollow to answer each of their sub questions. They received feed-back on their worksheets from the researchers as well as fromanother research group through an electronic learning environ-ment. After the workshops, the research plans of the groups had tobe approved by the researchers.

    4.2.2. Gathering dataAfter approval the groups started to work on their research

    projects. In this phase, they were supervised by a teachereducator, whom they could call on when they needed help. Theyhad to read scientic literature, develop research instruments andcollect empirical data in the schools where they had an internshipor job.

    4.2.3. Analyzing dataAfter gathering data, the groups had to analyze the data them-

    selves, by employing either qualitative or quantitative analysismethods. They could get help from the supervising teachereducator and there was help available from researchers in forexample using SPSS. The analysis should lead to well-groundedconclusions on the research questions of the groups.

    4.2.4. Reporting the research resultsTwo end products were requested for these research projects:

    a presentation at a conference at the teacher education instituteand a course paper that should full the demands of a scienticarticle. This meant that it should include a theoretical introduction,description of the methods, results, conclusion and discussion asa description of a thorough research project. The papers were

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617 611assessed by the supervising teacher educator.

  • each4.3. Procedure

    This is an in-depth qualitative case study (Miles & Huberman,1994). We collected data by video and audio taping most of themeetings of both groups. We also asked the groupmembers to sendon their email correspondence and we had access to the electroniclearning environment that was used during the workshops. Aftereach groups nal meeting, the group members were interviewedvia a stimulated recall procedure (Calderhead, 1981). They wererst asked to choose moments from the previous meeting whichthey could clearly remember. After this, these moments, as well asthe beginning and end of the video, were shown to them. Theywere asked to report what went on in their minds during themeeting. When necessary, questions were asked about what theydid, thought, felt andwanted at that moment (these questions werederived from the questions in the digital logs of Meirink, Meijer, &Verloop, 2007). The researcher asked the student teachers to onlyreport what theywere thinking on the moment itself, and not whatthey thought retrospectively while watching the video. Theseinterviews were fully transcribed.

    4.4. Analysis

    We studied the two case studies in-depth by means of patterncoding (Miles & Huberman, 1994), using the steps of designing andwriting the research proposal, gathering data, analyzing the dataand deriving results and conclusions, and reporting the researchresults (Akkerman et al., 2008) as structuring concepts. We con-ducted discourse analysis of the interactions (Taylor, 2001), con-tained in all of the video and audio data from the meetings. Thisanalysis was mostly focused on the process that the groups wereengaged in, and not so much the content of their research. Fromthis analysis, we summarized the inquiry processes during each ofthe inquiry steps. We also analyzed the electronic material fromboth groups, and the transcriptions of the stimulated recall inter-views. These data sources were used to supplement the video andaudio data, and therefore enriched our understanding of theresearch processes of the groups.

    Within each of the research phases, we distinguished betweenthe two inquiry processes elaboration and decision making. Elab-oration is operationalized, following Van Ginkel and vanKnippenberg (2008), as a process of exchange, consideration, andintegration of information. Decision making is operationalized asmaking a choice on a certain matter. Each of these processes can beengaged in on a supercial or thorough level. Elaboration anddecision making were employed as categories for selective coding(Corbin & Strauss, 1990) of all data. We described in each of theresearch phases what role each of these processes played andportray these descriptions by using transcripts from the videoobservations and stimulated recall interviews.

    We conducted an audit procedure, in which an external auditorvalidates the quality of the data collection, analysis and synthesis ofa complex, in-depth qualitative study (Akkerman et al., 2008).During this procedure, the rst author made a description of theresearch process and handed over all data, as well as a conceptversion of this article, to an independent researcher. This researcheraudited each step of the analysis, starting from the end product(this article) back to the raw data (video and audio observations ofthe groups meetings). For each step, the auditor randomly chose toinclude a number of outcomes in the audit procedure. For example,the auditor chose to watch the video of a certain meeting andchecked whether she approved with the descriptions of thediscourse analysis, after which she also checked whether sheapproved with how these descriptions were made visible in the

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and T612nal article. This allowed the auditor to determine whether it wasclear what data sources were used, how each data source waslinked to the next one andwhat procedurewas followed (visibility),whether it was clear how ndings were grounded in data fromformer components and what decisions, inferences and interpre-tations were made by the auditee (comprehensibility) and whetherthe processing of the data and the linkage of the components wasdone in a reliable and valid way (acceptability). The auditorconcluded that the quality of the research steps was good in termsof these three aspects.

    5. Results

    We will now describe the results of our study by describing theresearch process of both cases. For each research phase, wewill rstdescribe what happened, after which we will interpret thisdescription in terms of elaboration and decision making. We willdiscuss the contrasting inquiry processes of the two groups in theconclusions section.

    5.1. Case 1: Ina, Rosanne and Wilfred

    5.1.1. Phase 1: designing and writing the research proposalIn the beginning, both within the workshops and during their

    own meetings in between, the student teachers spent time onelaborating when deciding on the topic of their research. They didso by thoroughly discussing the pros and cons of different potentialresearch topics and by allowing each groupmember to put forwardhis or her ideas. The groupwas active in making appointments withresearchers who were specialized in their research topic and inkeeping their supervising researcher informed. Their planschanged radically at two points during this process, in that theychanged their research question when they found another onewhich they deemed more relevant or interesting. They also elabo-rated onwhat data to collect and what instruments they needed fordata collection. In the end, they made the decision to investigatethe organization of the supervision of beginning teachers atschools, and how their supervision is being perceived by theseteachers. From their own experience, the group members knewthat there were great differences between how beginning teacherswere supervised at schools. They saw that some schools providemuch supervision and support for beginning teachers, and othersalmost none. Thus, they were eager to nd out how schools orga-nized such supervision, and how other beginning teachers expe-rienced it. After getting an approval for their research plan shortlyafter the last workshop, they could start gathering data.

    Wilfred was the most active group member in terms of makingsummaries of meetings. He said at one point during this phase: Weshouldnt lose it, as happens so often. This remark, as well as thefact that he was focused on writing summaries of the discussionswhich occurred in their meetings, illustrates his focus on decisionmaking. He emphasized the importance of sticking with previouslymade decisions, and felt that the group did not do so enough. Assuch, there seemed to be tension for Wilfred between the mostcommon practice of the group and his own preferences. Histendency towards decisionmaking was also reected in a commenthe made, about not being interested in the set-up of Rosannes datacollection. His remarks consistently indicated that he only wantedto be involved with the other group members when it was neces-sary for the completion of the task at hand, and not for the sake ofthinking the task through. He was thus focused on the groupworking as efciently as possible. Accordingly, Wilfred can be seenas the gate-keeper who ensured that the group made nal deci-sions about how to proceed. The other two group members, on theother hand, were more inclined towards elaborating on different

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617alternatives and thoroughly discussing these.

  • each5.1.2. Phase 2: gathering dataIn between the workshops, the group members had already

    been working on data collection tools. The rst tool was an inter-viewguideline in order to interview coordinators of the supervisionof beginning teachers. Secondly, they revised an already existingquestionnaire to measure the way beginning teachers perceivedthe interpersonal style of their supervisors. They asked help froma researcher who was a specialist in their research topic and whowas also using the instrument that they revised. This researcherstressed that when working with quantitative data, it is importantto have knowledge of statistical analysis methods. Rosanne replieswith: Well, both of us [points to Ina] have studied psychology, sowe, I. Ina: SPSS, Rosanne: have had SPSS and so, but that hasall gone. They discussed with the researcher how they can conductan analysis on their the data which is not too challenging, anddiscussed the time frame for the rest of their research project. Thegroup elaborated on what data to gather and what tools theyneeded for that during a meeting. They considered, for example,what teachers to include (i.e., teachers who had just nishedteacher education only or teachers who came from another schoolas well). Based on the pros and cons, they decided to keep theirfocus on real beginning teachers. After that, the further devel-opment of the research instruments was distributed among thegroup members and they commented on each others work.Subsequently, each of the student teachers collected data at his orher own school, by interviewing a supervision coordinator aboutthe organization of supervision, and administrating the revisedquestionnaire to 7 or 8 beginning teachers, leading to a total sampleof 22 questionnaires.

    In this phase, elaboration took place in the beginning, when thespecics of the data collection process were discussed. During theactual data gathering process, very little elaboration took place, aseach group member was focused on gathering data at his or herown school. Thus, making decisions and following them throughwas central within this phase.

    5.1.3. Phase 3: analyzing data and deriving results and conclusionsAfter gathering data individually, the group members met again

    in order to analyze the data and discuss the results. The qualitativedata of the interviews were quantied so that the three schoolswere more easily comparable. Their conclusion based on theinterviews was that there were large differences between the threeschools in terms of the organization of the supervision. The groupmembers asked a relative of one of them for help using thestatistical analysis program SPSS to analyze the outcomes of thequestionnaire. The groupwent to see this relative on a Saturday andanalyzed the data together. The results of the questionnaire werethat there were differences between the way beginning teachersscore the interpersonal style of their supervisors. Afterwards theyonce again divided the work that had to be done, so that everygroup member became responsible for writing a certain part of thearticle. They kept each other informed via email and commented oneach others word documents by using track changes. In the end,the group concluded that there is a correlation between the orga-nization of the supervision and the way beginning teachers scorethe interpersonal style of their supervisor.

    During this phase, goal-directed decisionmakingwas central. Bydividing up the work, each group member became responsible fora certain task (e.g., writing the conclusions paragraph) and theysent emails to each other informing one another about theirprogress and providing feedback.

    5.1.4. Phase 4: reporting the research resultsIn the nal meeting before their presentation, the student

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and Tteachers elaborated on which approach they should take in thepresentation and the article. They felt the pressure of time, which isreected in the following remark which Ina made during thestimulated recall interview:

    Yes, then I thought, I do want to make clear, indeed, that I seesomething in everything. But we do have to come to a compro-mise, because you do not have time to think about things fora long time.

    This citation shows that Ina felt that there was a tensionbetween decision making and elaboration. Due to time constrains,she felt that the process of elaboration should not take too long, asthe group had to make a lot of decisions. The elaboration wasfrequently cut short by Wilfred. In the following remark from theinterview, Wilfred clearly shows that he was inclined towardsdecision making much more than towards elaboration. At thismoment I was thinking, this discussion about exactly what we aregoing to do is taking far too long. He told the others that he wasbusy with other things, both at school and other activities for theinstitute, and had not done his part of the work. The others madecynical jokes in response to this, but later on also asked him tocontribute to the current discussion, in which they were trying tomake a choice on how to involve the attendants of their presen-tation in their research topic. As Rosanne said during the stimulatedrecall interview about asking Wilfred to contribute:

    Yes, I thought that was good, like, Wilfred was really lookinga bit dazed, like, let these women chat for awhile. And then I sayrst: Yes, Wilfred, what is your idea now really? Then you seethat he has already thought it out in his head, and that he hadthought: Yes, we are just going to do this, actually.

    Rosanne indicated that she expectedWilfred to contribute to thediscussion that she and Ina were engaging in, and also explicitlyasked him to do so. At the end of this meeting, Ina and Rosannetogether decided that in the coming week, Wilfred had to do more,as they had already done most of the work. The group membersonce again divided up the work and each of them was responsiblefor writing a certain part of the article and preparing a part of thepresentation. They kept each other informed of what they wereworking on by email. In their article, they concluded that a goodorganization of supervision at school has a positive impact on theexperiences of beginning teachers.

    An important sign of the development of strong bonds withinthis group is that for the presentation of their research, the groupagreed to wear clothes in the same colour, expressing a desire toshow to the public what a good team they were. After theirpresentation, the article was approved by the supervising teachereducator. The group members were happy with their positiveresults and were proud of themselves and their teamwork, whichis expressed in an email from Wilfred: Super! What a good teamwe are!.

    Here, just as in the rst phase, there was a signicant differencebetween Wilfred and the other two group members in terms ofelaboration and decision making. This time, Ina and Rosanneengaged in elaboration and expected Wilfred to contribute to thatas well. He showed that he had other priorities by working onanother teacher education assignment during the meeting, but inthe end engaged in the elaboration process reluctantly because ofpressure from the other group members. The group shiftedbetween elaboration and decision making frequently during thisphase, as all of the group members felt under pressure to nishtheir project on time. At the same time, Ina and Rosannewere gate-keepers for elaboration, so that the decisions made were groundedin discussion and in the weighing up of alternatives. While therewere differences in preference for either of the two processes

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617 613between Wilfred on the one hand and Ina and Rosanne on the

  • eachother, the group members presented themselves as one group, aswas exemplied by wearing the same colour during theirpresentation.

    5.2. Case 2: Tom, Francis and Eva

    5.2.1. Phase 1: designing and writing the research proposalThis group started by spending a lot of time at the beginning of

    their project on elaborating on the subject of their research, forexample by discussing denitions and considering various options,and on developing research instruments and seeking after theo-retical input. Their research question was: How do pupils perceivethe use of interactive whiteboards at school? They became inter-ested in this topic because they had been to a presentation aboutthe possibilities of interactive whiteboards of student teachers ofthe previous year at the research conference of the teachereducation institute. The group members were interested in the useof new technology in their own classrooms, as they felt interactivewhiteboards could have great potential in making lessons moreattractive and interesting for pupils, but they also saw that it couldlead to distraction of attention. The group decided to investigatethis question by questioning pupils at the schools where they wereworking about how they perceived the use of such boards in school.

    In between themeetings, all of the groupmembers read articles,which they discussed during themeetings. After the rst workshop,the group had received feedback on their research plan from theresearcher of the teacher education institute. In their rst meetingoutside of the workshops, the group members elaborated to somedegree on the research plan, but they quickly decided to make thechanges which had been suggested by the researcher. At the end ofthe meetings and workshops, the group divided up the tasks, sothat each group member would revise certain parts of the researchproposal themselves. More than once, one or more of the groupmembers indicated at the beginning of the meetings that they hadnot done their share of the work, for example reading certainarticles and reporting on that. As a result, the group spent timeduring their meetings on the tasks that the group memberspreviously had agreed to do in between the meetings. Also, groupmembers were not present at meetings more than once, so that inthe nextmeeting the others had to explainwhat had been discussedpreviously. After the last workshop, the groups worksheets werenot approved by the researcher, which meant that the group had tocorrect them and hand them in again, which they did shortlyafterwards.

    It appears that in this phase, the group was neither focused onthorough elaboration nor focused on informed decision making.The group spent a lot of time collaboratively writing the researchproposal, as a response to some group members not having donetheir part of the work. This delayed the process and the researchproposal put forward by the group was in the end negativelyassessed.

    5.2.2. Phase 2: gathering dataAfter their worksheet was approved, the group did not plan any

    meetings for one and a half months. Then Tom sent an email,proposing to meet. Francis responded on the same day by emailinga document in which she had already answered the rst researchquestion, which was: What are interactive whiteboards and whatpossibilities do they have? During the meeting, the group discussedwhat had to be done in order to collect data quickly and split thework betweenTomand Eva, as Francis had alreadyanswered therstresearch question. The most encompassing task was to developa questionnaire. In between, Tom and Eva emailed about what theyhad done, for example: Ive read the document. I think it is good. Ive

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and T614made a few changes (mostly changing sentences) and Ive indicateda few lines that I think we should elaborate. The group met againtwo weeks later to further discuss the data collection. They decidedto collect data in three classes, one in each of their schools. On thequestionnaire, pupils indicated whether and how interactivewhiteboards were used in their school and how they perceivedclasses with and without interactive whiteboards in terms of forexample variation. Once again, the group divided the tasks at the endof the meeting and also discussed when the data had to be collected.Each group member collected data at his or her own school. Thequestionnaire was administered to a total of 73 pupils. The dataweremerged afterwards to compare the three schools.

    During this phase, the group began with a long period of inac-tivity. After that, they planned a meeting. Given the small amountof time that was left, the group had to made quick decisions,without any thorough collaborative elaboration. The groupmembers were focused on quickly developing instruments for datagathering, gave some feedback on each others work, and after thatindividually gathered data at their schools.

    5.2.3. Phase 3: analyzing data and deriving results and conclusionsThe group members met again in one of their homes two weeks

    later to analyze the data and derive results. It now appeared to thegroup that they did not know how to analyze their quantitativedata, which is visible in the next excerpt:

    Tom: We also have to calculate coefcients and so on. And ofcourse you have to know when something is signicant,when do you have a number that is meaningful. Or arentwe going to do that? Did we decide to only calculate themeans?

    Eva: But can you do that with Excel?Tom: It can be done with Excel, according to this thing, I think.Eva: But can we do that with Excel?Tom: That is the question. And thats why I thought, I have to

    have someone who.

    A few days later, they had a meeting with their supervisingteacher educator. They sent him some documents beforehand andasked him if he could provide help with the statistical analysis oftheir data. The teacher educator made it clear that he wasunpleasantly surprised by the documents, and that he was notconvinced that the group would have enough material to actuallypresent their work the following week. It turned out that Tom hadsent wrong versions of the material to the teacher educator.Together with the teacher educator, they talked about what theyshould do in order to present their work at the conference. Thestudent teachers had to make a plan and send the most recentmaterial to the teacher educator, so that he could provide themwith feedback. After this meeting, the group members were allsomewhat shocked and started to work very hard on the analysisand writing so that they would nish on time for the conference.What is striking in both the face to face and the email communi-cation after this moment is that the group members started toaddress each other in a more friendly and supporting tone, andcommented on each others work more often, many timesincluding quite specic feedback. An example can be found in thebeginning of an email from Francis:

    Hello dear people, Ive included my notes and read the part ofTom. I have the following questions: To Tom: I thought every-thing was good (especially the last part), I changed a word hereand there. I saw that you did not include [remark of teachereducator], did I not read it well or is there a reason for that?

    This shows that group members became more engaged witheach other, and asked for some more elaboration on certain issues,

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617although feedback and questions were often limited to specic

  • eachsentences in the article. One of the group members had a partnerwho knew how to work with the statistical analysis program SPSS,and so they got help in carrying out the analysis. After that, theymet again to collaboratively elaborate upon their results andconclusions. The main conclusion of their research was that theinteractive whiteboard led to higher concentration, more varietyand more understanding of the subject matter, but not to morecollaboration between pupils.

    During this phase, the shortage of time and the requirements ofthe program resulted in a conict with the teacher educator. Thestudent teachers had to engage in rapid, goal-directed decisionmaking, as they had to produce documents for their presentationquickly but were not sure how they should analyze their data. Timefor elaboration became very scarce, although the group tried toincrease the time they had to think things through by planning longmeetings with each other. What is striking in the interaction duringthis phase is that group members became more engaged with eachother and providedmore specic feedback, which led to somemoreelaboration on certain aspects.

    5.2.4. Phase 4: reporting the research resultsThe group worked on their presentation and article simulta-

    neously to the analysis, as a result of a lack of time. For both thepresentation and the article, the group members divided up thework, so that everyone had something to do. Afterwards, they gavefeedback on each others work. On the day of the conference, thegroup came together before their presentation to decide how theywould divide roles during their presentation. Each of them pre-sented the part that they worked on most. After the presentation,the group discussed what had to be done before the article could besent to the teacher educator and divided up the tasks which neededto be done. After that, the groupmembers kept each other informedon what they were working on, mostly in general terms: Iveincluded the questionnaire as an attachment, and commented oneach others work: Tom, at the end of the article you talk abouttips, and you include one. Are we supposed to include others or dowe stick with that one?

    The nal group meeting was with the supervising teachereducator, who gave them feedback on the concept version of theirarticle. The fact that most of the work was done individually, andnot collaboratively, led to uncertainty for the group members. Thisis reected in the following remark by Eva during the stimulatedrecall interview, after watching an episode in which the teachereducator asks about the literature that Francis included in a certainpart of their article:

    So I was really wondering, what [the teacher educator] askedhere, could we easily manage that? Because I do not knowwhere she got it from, whether she really had read the wholearticle, or if she got it from another article.

    This excerpt shows the uncomfortable feelings which groupmembers can experience when each member becomes responsiblefor a certain part of a product which is as a whole important toeveryone, but has not beenwritten as a collaborative product. At theend of thismeeting, the groupmembers set a datewhen theywouldemail the next version to the teacher educator and divided up thework. At the end of the meeting, the teacher educator asked thestudent teachers what they had learned from this research process.He says that during the previous meeting they had, he thought theywould never engage in research again. Tom conrms this: For me,that is true. I would let someone else do it. Seriously. It is not worththe effort for me. The group members say that this research wassomething they all found demanding. Eva explained she did not feelat ease with this type of research, as she has previously only done

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and Tliterature research. Francis conrms this and says she has reallyenjoyed reading literature. They all express satisfaction in the endproduct of their research. The teacher educator concludes that theyliked some parts of the research and were proud of the results theyderived, but the quantitative analysis was too demanding. After thisconversation, the student teachers adapted the article once againand it was approved by the teacher educator.

    During this phase, the group spent much time on their researchproject, but they mostly worked individually and sometimes barelyknew what the other group members had exactly done. Conse-quently, one of the group members expressed uncomfortablefeelings about not knowing what the other group members wereworking on. Due to the delay of this group in earlier phases and thefact that the group members were determined to nish on time,they were now forced to engage in a quick decision makingapproach, leading towards a sufcient outcome. As a result, therewas little time left for thorough elaboration.

    6. Conclusions and discussion

    We studied the inquiry processes of two research groups inteacher educationwith the aim of answering our research question:To what extend and in what way do student teachers, in the context ofa research project, engage in elaboration and decision making duringthe research process? Whereas sole decision making is associatedwith task-oriented work and therefore with the idea of inquiry asproject, engaging in both elaboration and decision making isassociated with taking inquiry as stance. We studied the ways inwhich the groups engaged in these processes within subsequentresearch steps (designing and writing a research proposal, gath-ering data, analyzing data and deriving results and conclusions, andreporting the research results).

    The rst research group demonstrated an inquiry process whichincluded both decision making and elaboration. One of the groupmembers (Wilfred) turned out to be the gate-keeper for decisionmaking, while the other two group members were gate-keepers forelaboration. During the different research phases, most of the timewas spent on either one of these processes e for example in theanalysis phase, decision making was most central e but during eachphase, the gate-keepers made sure that attention was directedtowards both. Because of the difference in preferences between thegroup members towards the two research processes, decisions werebased on thorough elaboration, which, according to Van Ginkel andvan Knippenberg (2008), leads to better outcomes. The importantrole of the gate-keepers in balancing the two processes are forexample apparent within the rst and the last phase, in whichWilfred showed impatiencewhen he considered that too much timewas being spent on elaboration, and so he tried to shift the processtowards decision making. During the second and third phases, thewhole group shifted towards decision making after short phases ofelaboration automatically, because of the time frame of the activitiesin these phases. The group members indicated that during thesephases they felt a tension between spending time on thinkingthroughanddiscussingalternatives (elaboration)andmaking choicesin order to proceed (decision making). Nonetheless, this tensionwasresolved in a productive way by shifting between the two processeswhen necessary. This enabled the group tomeet the requirements ofthe program, producing the desired (in between) products ascollaborative products. It also led them to feel positive about theirresearch process at the end of the project.We can infer from this thatthegroupmembershad indeedacquireda certaindegreeof inquiryasstance asmeant by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999, 2009), because asthey feel positive about this research project, they might soonerengage in inquiry during their professional career.

    In contrast with the research process of rst group, in the

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617 615second group both thorough and deliberate decision making and

  • eachelaboration were scarce. The second group was inactive for longperiods during several stages of the project, especially at thebeginning of the second phase, and when they were active theywere mostly focused on an undirected form of discussion, asa result of group members not having completed their individualtasks. This group had difculty meeting the requirements of theprogram from the beginning, when their research plan was dis-approved. Although they began by elaborating on possible researchdirections and by writing a research plan just as the rst group did,their process was much more undirected and very time-consuming. After receiving negative feedback on their work-sheets, and later again from the supervising teacher educator, evenless time was dedicated to exchange and thorough and sharedelaboration. At the same time, it appears that the group membersbecamemore involved with each other. During the nal phases, thegroup was trying hard to full the requirements of the program,which they did mostly by performing parts of the research inde-pendently. They were trying to nish their project in time and, asa result, made quick, ad hoc decisions, which according to VanGinkel and van Knippenberg (2008) are not as good as moredeliberate decisions based on thorough elaboration on alternatives.At the end, this group told the supervising teacher educator thatthey were not interested in conducting educational research in thefuture. This indicates that they, both during and afterwards, did notdevelop an inquiring stance but only saw this as an inquiry projectthat they had to do for their diploma, similarly as is described byCochran-Smith et al. (2009). One possible explanation is that thestudent teachers of the second case may not have been motivatedfor the research from the start. A rival explanation for the differencebetween the two groups is that the second group became demo-ralized by the negative feedback they received on two moments intheir process. This might be an important factor leading towardsstress and thus towards a hasty approach aimed at getting theproject over with. The fact that the teacher educator was bothsupervisor of the project as well as evaluator poses an ethicalchallenge, which might have worsened the stress of the secondgroup. The rst group made a good start, as they received positivefeedback and thus found their way of working to be effective, whichmight have encouraged and motivated them.

    The results of both of these research groups exemplify how bothdecision making and elaboration are necessary elements to reachthe full potential of a collaborative research project. The secondgroup engaged in neither of these processes in a deliberate andthorough way throughout their research project, which causedtheir project to be arduous and seems to have led to a negativestance towards conducting research. The rst group, on the otherhand, engaged in elaboration and decision making in an iterativeway throughout the whole project. A group that engages in sucha cyclical process starts with elaboration on a certain topic, afterwhich the group is able to make an informed decision. Then, a newphase of elaboration can take place, etc. In such a process, the twoprocesses of elaboration and decision making are balanced andmutually enriching. This process appears to have taken place in therst group because the group consisted of both a gate-keeper fordecision making and gate-keepers for elaboration. In the secondgroup there were gate-keepers for neither of these processes, sothat the group was not thoroughly engaged in either. These resultsrelate to the results of Van Ginkel and van Knippenberg (2008), asthey showed elaboration to be crucial in decision making.

    On a more general level, our ndings suggest that it is notnecessary to treat inquiry as stance and inquiry as projectmerely as opposites, as proposed by Cochran-Smith et al. (2009).The rst group that was studied showed that it is possible tomaintain inquiry as stance and even to develop a positive attitude

    M. Dobber et al. / Teaching and T616towards research in the context of a time-bound research project.However, the second group showed that this cannot be expectedautomatically, and a great deal seems to depend on the groupmembers and their collaborative process.

    Our results correspond with the view in the literature thatcollaborative research is demanding (Atay, 2008; Bianchini &Cavazos, 2007; Lunenberg et al., 2007). We have shown thata research activity in which student teachers are supposed tocollaborate is challenging and requires hard work. Alongsideeverything else that student teachers have to do for both theinstitute and at school, they experience much time pressure. At thesame time, the demands of the research project were quite high,and the student teachers had not been involved in this type ofresearch before, so they had to nd out how educational research isconducted as well. A particularly demanding aspect of the design ofthis project lies in the fact that three student teachers have tocollaborate on one shared product, which had consequences foreach of them in terms of receiving their teaching certicate. Thus,they were dependent on each other for their personal gain. Thesehigh demands were felt despite the grounded preparation by theteacher educators and researchers towards a clear-cut researchplan and methodological assistance at the beginning of the project.As such, it might have become tempting for the groups toconcentrate on quick, ad hoc decision making more than on thor-ough elaboration, which relates to the arguments of Cochran-Smithet al. (2009) against inquiry as project. We maintain that moredeliberate attention should be paid to the collaborative inquiryprocess, specically elaboration and decision making, as this wouldallow teacher education programs to prepare and guide studentteachers during research projects towards inquiry as stance.

    How can teacher education programs include attention forelaboration and decision making in their programs? In literature onteacher research, one important precondition that is found neces-sary is a grounding in own work and own questions (Lunenberg &Samaras, 2011; Sales et al., 2011).Within teacher education, studentteachers have to do research, which takes place within their ownpractice during internship or practice at school, but is not neces-sarily something that they would engage in themselves, especiallynot as they have to choose one research question as a group. Thisrelates to the nding of Kuiper et al. (2009), that a shared purpose isa precondition in research projects. Therefore, the relevance ofconducting research should be evident for these student teachers. Itmight be good to think of a way in which the questions of studentteachers can be the starting point of an inquiry, so that thoroughelaboration, and as a result well-informed decision making, willmore naturally take place, as a consequence of higher levels ofmotivation. Also, the teacher educator can play an important role insupervising groups of student teachers towards engaging in elab-oration and decision making. This can take place already whenforming groups, in which preferences of group members towardseither one of the processes can be a starting point in groupingstudent teachers. Furthermore, during the research process, theteacher educator could keep track of the progress of the group,especially on their elaboration and decision making processes. Thisresonates with the proposals of Paulus et al. (2010), Wells (2001),and Zittoun et al. (2007), who all advocate meta-cognitive strate-gies, such as collaborative reection and developing knowledge oncollaborative processes, when working on research projects.Furthermore, the roles of supervisor and evaluator might better notbe taken up by the same teacher educator.

    The generalizability of this study is limited as only two groups ofthree student teachers were investigated. The relevance of ourstudy lies in the description of the research processes of elaborationand decision making within the context of collaborative studentteacher research, and the nding that meaningfully engaging in

    er Education 28 (2012) 609e617these processes appears essential in research projects and

  • developing an inquiry stance. To see the value of these processes inthe broader context of teacher research, the interactions betweengroup members in other collaborative research projects should beinvestigated, both within teacher education and in schools. Espe-cially, the role of engaging in decision making and elaboration is aninteresting direction for further research. Based on the results ofthis study, we propose that group members should be aware of thefact that focussing too much on elaboration can lead to not making

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    Student teachers collaborative research: Small-scale research projects during teacher education1. Introduction2. Teacher research3. Inquiry as collaborative process4. Method4.1. Participants4.2. Design of the program4.2.1. Designing and writing a research proposal4.2.2. Gathering data4.2.3. Analyzing data4.2.4. Reporting the research results

    4.3. Procedure4.4. Analysis

    5. Results5.1. Case 1: Ina, Rosanne and Wilfred5.1.1. Phase 1: designing and writing the research proposal5.1.2. Phase 2: gathering data5.1.3. Phase 3: analyzing data and deriving results and conclusions5.1.4. Phase 4: reporting the research results

    5.2. Case 2: Tom, Francis and Eva5.2.1. Phase 1: designing and writing the research proposal5.2.2. Phase 2: gathering data5.2.3. Phase 3: analyzing data and deriving results and conclusions5.2.4. Phase 4: reporting the research results

    6. Conclusions and discussionAcknowledgementsReferences