Process vs. Product: What Are Preservice Teachers Learning from ISL Projects?

Process vs. Product: What Are Preservice Teachers Learning from ISL Projects?

Christina Janise McIntyre (Midwestern State University, USA), Angela M. Cartwright (Midwestern State University, USA) and Stacia C. Miller (Midwestern State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9929-8.ch020
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The purpose of this case study was to determine if the common practice of Impact on Student Learning (ISL) projects, such as those found in the edTPA and TK20 systems, is adequately preparing preservice teachers to engage in the kinds of action research that are necessary for continuously improving classroom practice. In these projects, teacher candidates administer pre- and post-tests, then determine the efficacy of the lessons between by comparing the scores. While ISL projects provide exposure to assessment for planning, it leaves preservice teachers underprepared for the types of action research that are required for continuously improving classroom practice. Preservice teachers would benefit from additional experiences with research during their undergraduate education programs in order to increase their efficacy, and interest, in classroom research practices.
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It is not unusual to focus on the product instead of the process, along with teaching research methods exactly as we were taught. As Lather (2002) says, we continue in our research practices not “out of some sense of the great sufficiency of what we have done, but rather out of our puzzlement as to how to proceed differently” (p. 209). We see the limitations of our current models, but are unsure as to how, or where in the educational process, to change. Educators know that research is a tool for engagement, emphasizing “process, method, correction, [and] change,” based in lived experiences and in pursuit of solutions to practical problems (Diesing, 1991, p. 75). In many ways, the way we currently teach research, a product-oriented approach, limits its applicability to practical problems encountered in our daily lives. For teachers and teacher educators, these practical problems frequently focus on how to increase student learning (Sagor, 2000). One of the ways in which teachers investigate how to increase learning and achieve desired student outcomes is by engaging in action research in their own classrooms. Action research, that which is conducted by practitioners for the purpose of improving their performance, is useful to educators because it can be done in their classrooms with a focus on the needs of their unique situations (Sagor, 2000). Educators who engage in action research are “more skilled at reflecting on and evaluating the consequences of their practice for children” (Colucci-Gray, Das, Gray, Robson, & Spratt, 2013, p. 142), and as such, is an important component in the training and development of our teachers of tomorrow.

The training of preservice teachers is now at the heart of the authors’ professional focus; after several years in P-12 education, we have transitioned to teacher education. Many of the methods courses in our Educator Preparation Provider Program (EPP) include a field component in which our preservice teachers apply their coursework with P-12 students in Professional Development Schools. As part of program requirements for assessing student-learning outcomes in a standards-based environment, preservice teachers participate in various forms of data collection as they engage in assessment for planning. During their clinical teaching experience, preservice teachers in our EPP complete an Impact on Student Learning (ISL) project, in which they administer pre and post unit assessments to determine the efficacy of planning and instruction. While ISL projects, known by various names across EPPs, are frequently utilized as accreditation documentation, our case study data indicates that these experiences leave preservice and early career teachers underprepared to conduct the types of action research required for continuously improving classroom practice.

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