University of Sussex
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How does student teacher research contribute to knowledge creation within the secondary school context?

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posted on 2023-06-08, 19:09 authored by Robert Rosenthal
The extent to which participation in research is seen as an essential part of Initial Teacher Education programmes is very variable across time and institutions. Where it is a necessary part of the programme, student teachers are expected to engage in classroom enquiry and this is considered beneficial for them, the schools involved and to others more widely. This thesis explores student teacher research as knowledge creation, how the knowledge created by examples of the University of Sussex PGCE Special Study was used by the students, their school-based mentors and professional tutors and what effect this had on the culture of the schools. The research is presented through multiple embedded case studies derived from interviews with three participants in each of three schools: a student teacher researcher, their departmental mentor and the professional tutor. These are discussed through a micro-political lens by cross-section according to their collective role and holistically in relation to each school case. This analysis is further developed using a Bourdieusian analysis to support an understanding of how participants used the Special Studies to further their individual interests. The place of student research in the contested field of national initial teacher education policy is also discussed in order to highlight conflicted constructs of teacher professionalism. The ‘insider-outsider’ binary is explored throughout the thesis and is reflected in its iterative methodology, types of knowledge, models of research, communities of practice and the researcher’s own biography. Conflict and disruption are reviewed as offering creative potential and it is proposed that student teachers and their research are uniquely positioned to constitute a hybrid ‘semi-insider/outsider’. It is argued that by occupying this mid-space they can make a unique contribution to their school communities and the professional knowledge of teachers. However, the extent to which this takes place will depend on the potential that agents see for student research to further their own positional interests in a contested field. The thesis concludes that research projects can not only prepare student teachers for a research-active model of teacher professionalism, but also allow them to make an important contribution to partnership schools.


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