by Steven Z. Athanases, Juliet Michelsen Wahleithner & Lisa H. Bennett — 2012
Background/Context: Learning to meet students’ needs challenges new teachers often focused on procedures, management, materials, and curriculum. To avoid this development pattern, student teachers (STs) need opportunities to concentrate especially on needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. Teacher inquiry (TI) holds promise as one such opportunity.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We sought to understand how STs in a teacher credential program with a history of attention to diverse learners were learning about their CLD students through TI.
Research Design: We examined data collected from 80 STs over a 6-year period, including 80 TIs; STs’ data analysis field memos; questionnaires with reflections on TI processes and products; and taped ST peer discussions and conferences with instructor. Data also documented TI instruction, classroom culture, and opportunities to develop learning related to conducting TI. Drawing on research and theory, we developed, tested, and used a rubric of 17 indicators of attention to CLD learners as a means to examine the range of ways and the extent to which STs attended to CLD students through TI.
Findings/Results: STs took actions of various kinds to learn about diverse students: researching contexts and histories; examining student work and performance at full-class, subgroup, and individual levels; and asking and listening beneath the surface to students’ reasoning, attitudes, beliefs, and concerns about school learning and other issues. Various assessment and inquiry tools supported the process, helping STs develop data literacy to attend to CLD learners. However, TI elements were used to varying degrees, in various ways, and with varying levels of success. Two cases illustrate the range of TI tools that STs used to learn about their CLD learners, to generate data and evidence about learning, and to act in ways responsive to what they learned about students.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Those interested in studying multiple STs’ inquiries for attention to CLD learners may need to develop frames and analytic methods to examine a corpus of cases. This study was grounded in an assumption that such crosscutting analyses accumulate knowledge to disseminate to larger audiences, challenging conceptions that values of TI are purely local, serving only those directly involved. Teacher inquiry can help focus attention on individual student learners by allowing a teacher to compare data among individual students, giving a clearer, organized format in which they can observe growth and improvement or a decline in performance. In my own project, I observed lower performance among specific students concurrent with assignments in which instructions may have been difficult to decode for English learners or students with disabilities. (Tracey, preservice English language arts teacher)
Tracey is reflecting on inquiry she conducted with 10th graders as a student teacher (ST). Tracey’s teaching placement was in a high-poverty high school with 87% students of color, about equal numbers Latino and African American, slightly more Asian of varying ethnicity, and many English language learners (ELLs), with Spanish the dominant among many first languages. Tracey’s remarks exemplify countless reports we have collected from White STs such as Tracey and STs of color on how teacher inquiry (TI) sharpens a focus on individual learners and supports learning to better serve culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. As classrooms grow increasingly diverse, the need for teachers to deeply examine and understand students’ experiences and learning grows more critical. Among approaches that teacher education (TE) has used, TI holds promise to deepen knowledge, skills, and dispositions for teaching CLD learners.
TI uses intentional, systematic effort to understand and reform teaching and schools (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Fecho & Allen, 2003). TI may foster learning to teach CLD students effectively. Little work, however, has treated knowledge constructed in TI as warranting analysis (Zeichner, 2009) or useful to informing a knowledge base of effective teaching (Cochran-Smith & Lytle). In TE, reports on inquiry tend to document tangible course designs and TI products instead of analyzing the inquiry process as it develops (Gore & Zeichner, 1991; Grossman, 2005; Price, 2001; Valli et al., 2006). Evidence of values and outcomes of inquiry in TE remains slim (Grossman, 2005), at best exploratory (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005).
The present study (from which Tracey’s remarks are drawn) addresses this dearth of attention, with process and product data from 80 ten-week TIs in secondary English language arts (ELA) and English language development (ELD) over a 6-year period. TI was a capstone in a TE program that infused attention to teaching CLD learners, focused especially on ELLs. TIs were conducted in highly diverse, mostly high-poverty urban and rural schools in Northern California. We asked this research question: How are STs learning about their CLD learners through inquiry?
THE CHALLENGE OF LEARNING TO FOCUS ON LEARNERS
Challenges of learning to teach CLD students add to a longstanding new-teacher pattern of focusing on self-image, procedures, and management, from self, to curriculum, to students (Fuller, 1969; Kagan, 1992). Though such stage models are challenged on many grounds (Athanases & Achinstein, 2003; D’all Alba & Sandberg, 2006; Levin, Hammer, & Coffey, 2009), they get invoked to argue that TE should focus on predictable concerns (e.g., Kagan) and less on instructional problem-solving and learner-focused issues. Focused early attention to students and their learning may disrupt the pattern, which is particularly important as STs with greater learner-centered orientation show greater interest in students and outcomes (Dunn & Rakes, 2009). In addition, students in learner-centered classes are more likely to be academically successful than those in traditional teacher-centered, lecture-oriented, one method-for-all classes (McCombs & Whisler, 1997).
However, challenges persist for new teachers in developing learner-centeredness. These include developing the ability to diagnose and respond to learning challenges, and providing a context and purpose for learning (Kilbourn & Roberts, 1991); mining moments for learning potential and gauging student time needed to figure things out (Tharp & Gallimore, 1989); and learning to scaffold to make course content accessible and meaningful (Grossman, 1990). Trying to meet learning standards—often with little guidance—leaves many new teachers feeling “lost at sea” (Kauffman, Johnson, Kardos, Liu, & Peske, 2002). New teachers also get caught in the challenge of navigating a climate of intimidation by assessment (Stiggins, 1999).
Despite these challenges, learner-centeredness can be developed. TE methods can help STs anticipate students’ challenges with course content (Grossman, 1990). Attention to student reasoning while teaching and analysis of student work can lead to a focus on student thinking (Levin et al., 2009). Mentoring can focus STs and new teachers on pupil learning (Parker-Katz & Bay, 2008), assessing individual student learning (Athanases & Achinstein, 2003), and equitable learning opportunities and achievement (Achinstein & Athanases, 2005).
KNOWLEDGE FOR LEARNING TO TEACH DIVERSE LEARNERS
In highly diverse schools, teachers need to focus on individual learners but also develop cultural and linguistic knowledge to foster learning. This requires general knowledge of learners (Shulman, 1987) and pedagogical learner knowledge (PLK; Grimmett & MacKinnon, 1992). PLK includes knowledge of cultural, social, family backgrounds; ability to interpret properly learners’ words and actions; and effective support for cognitive, social, physical, and psychological development (Darling-Hammond, 1998). PLK includes interacting “rigorously and supportively with learners” (Grimmett & MacKinnon, p. 387) and adapting and reconstructing contexts for specific learners and student groups (Athanases, 1993). Developing PLK is critical for work with ELLs, as U.S. teachers increasingly teach these students yet report inadequate preparation to do so (Darling-Hammond, Chung, & Frelow, 2002; Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005).
Many TE programs prepare teachers to teach CLD students. Efforts include recruiting and supporting teachers of color (Bennett, 2002; Irvine, 2003) and fostering a social justice stance (Cochran-Smith, 1995; Darling-Hammond, French, & Garcia-Lopez, 2002; McDonald, 2005; Quartz & TEP Research Group, 2003). Others include culturally competent pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 2001), linguistically responsive pedagogy (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008), and advocating for ELLs (Athanases & de Oliveira, 2011). Efforts also include book groups (Florio-Ruane, 2001); increasingly diverse yearlong teaching placements (Darling-Hammond et al., 2002); and work with CLD youth in out-of-school settings (Irvine). Efforts have achieved mixed results. A mismatch in teacher and student background may impede work for those adopting deficit perspectives on lower-SES and non–native English speakers (Garcia, 1996). Impediments include dysconscious racism (King, 1991); inadequate critical reflection on biases (Irvine); uneven preparation to enact a social justice stance with CLD students (McDonald); and teaching placements with few opportunities to teach ELLs (Lucas & Grinberg, 2008; Merino, 1999).
TEACHER INQUIRY AND DATA LITERACY TO PROMOTE LEARNING TO FOCUS ON DIVERSE LEARNERS
Among promising methods, TI may facilitate a sharpened focus on learners within specific contexts (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Darling-Hammond & Hammerness, 2005). TI typically includes positioning practitioner as researcher rather than object of study, collaboration of participants in formal or informal inquiry communities, systematicity in gathering and analyzing data, and development of an inquiry stance (Cochran-Smith & Lytle; Fecho & Allen, 2003; Gore & Zeichner, 1991; Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, & Waff, 2009; Valli et al., 2006). TI begins in “problems and contexts of practice . . . and in the ways practitioners collaboratively theorize, study, and act on those problems in the best interests of the learning and life chances of students and their communities” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, p. 123). New teachers need facilitated activity to understand and act on context-specific needs of diverse learners (Shulman, 1987; Putnam & Borko, 2000). TI offers the opportunity to jump-start STs’ capacity to observe patterns in performance, ask questions about learning, and attend to CLD learners’ needs.
Stage models of teacher learning and mechanistic models of TE cast the ST as unprepared to conduct rigorous student-focused inquiry. However, activity theory provides a framework of tools that support learners in social contexts of learning. These include conceptual tools, such as principles, frameworks, and heuristics that organize a learner’s understanding, and practical tools, such as strategies, methods, and practices that support the learner through immediate utility (Grossman, Smagorinsky, & Valencia, 1999; Grossman et al., 2000). This activity framework relates to arguments that professionals learn through abstract generalizations from practice but need opportunities to develop embodied understanding through deep engagements with the richness and nuances of particular learning situations (D’all Alba & Sandberg, 2006). TI may promote such embodied understanding of teaching CLD learners. Inquiry during TE is conducted in activity settings of TE coursework and a student teaching placement class, is guided by a TE instructor, and may be mediated by conceptual and practical tools to guide and support the inquiry process. In addition, inquiry often is situated in cohort structures, supported by ST peers.
TI is grounded in perspectives on learning through action and reflection (Dewey, 1934/2005; Schön, 1983). As teachers conduct inquiry, tools and the data they generate can prompt reflection on teaching and learning. Attending closely to student learning includes pattern-finding. This is a process not altogether natural to teachers, who may need analytic tools to promote conscious understanding that fosters logical ordering and coherent framing to deeply understand a variety of similar situations (Korthagen, 2010). STs in particular need scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) to increase success with attending to pattern-finding and the learning of CLD students. The structure of conducting inquiry may serve as one such scaffold.
Inquiry may, in part, support such learning through development of data literacy, the capacity to understand how to generate, interpret, and use data in teaching (Earl, 2005; Popham, 2008; Schield, 2004; Stiggins, 1991). Standardized test scores typically are the primary data set used to evaluate students, schools, and districts, but data-literate educators recognize that multiple data sources enable a more balanced understanding of student achievement, including “student work, teacher anecdotal notes, student projects, demographic data, criterion referenced tests, portfolios, progress monitoring, intervention data, and so forth” (Jacobs, Gregory, Hoppey, & Yendol-Hoppey, 2009, p. 42). A data-literate educator can generate data-based questions, select and evaluate data to answer questions, and develop inferences and explanations based on interpretations of data. The range of forms of data also reflects the TI data collection toolkit.
STUDIES OF TEACHER INQUIRY TO FOCUS ON DIVERSE LEARNERS
Experienced teachers have documented ways that TI enabled them to learn about their CLD students. Prompted by African American students’ belief that a poem by an African American poet presented stereotypical dialect and made fun of African American speech, Fecho (2004), a White educator, engaged students in inquiry on language and power. Ongoing inquiry enabled him to learn about language and diversity through students’ perspectives. Teachers in U.S. urban settings conducted mentored inquiry on diversity issues in teaching as part of a group project (Freedman, Simons, Kalnin, Casareno, & The M-CLASS Teams, 1999). Project reports featured, for example, learning about an ELL student’s writing needs and development (Lew, 1999) and learning ways that Black males felt their knowledge was not honored in school and how Black teachers pushed them harder, whereas White teachers coddled them with low expectations (Shakespear, 1999).
Recent work documents parallel attention in TE. Dana, Yendol-Hoppey, and Snow-Gerono (2006) found that a “focus on a particular child may be a developmentally appropriate place to begin cultivating an inquiry stance toward teaching” (p. 64). In their study, one ST, Amy, focused on the rapidly developing oral language of an energetic ELL whose activity level often exhausted her. She studied how peer interaction might facilitate this ELL’s writing development, capitalizing on his interpersonal skills and peer interactions as a writing resource. Quinn, another ST, struggled with a defiant student who repeatedly ignored directions and struck Quinn. Quinn’s inquiry focused on how her classroom management choices impacted the behavior of her defiant student.
In another study of TE inquiry focused on CLD learners, STs targeted three to five ELLs with academic difficulties, gathered baseline data, taught specific strategies, collected evidence on intervention results, and reflected on the process (Dresser, 2007). TI helped STs “better understand and serve the linguistic and academic needs” of ELLs (Dresser, p. 64). Price (2001), in a study of 11 STs, found that STs explored intellectual and cultural dimensions of students’ learning, synthesizing inquiries through experiences of students because TI provided a framework to understand teaching practices in relation to children’s lives. These studies offer early evidence of TI’s potential to promote attention to CLD learners, even during preservice. They provide accounts of work requiring STs to move far beyond resource-gathering, classroom management, development of routines, and clarification of a teaching identity. Nonetheless, more research is needed to delineate how TI offers potential to focus STs on CLD learners in depth.
MODEL AND PRACTICE OF PRESERVICE TEACHER INQUIRY IN THE FOCAL PROJECT
PROGRAM OF RESEARCH AND STUDY CONTEXT
This study is part of a program of research on the potential of TI to support effective teaching. We studied 80 secondary ELA STs’ inquiry processes and products collected over 6 years in a California university TE program. The program annually enrolls 150+ students with bachelor’s degrees to earn a credential, with an optional second year to complete an MA.1 Students complete a cross-cultural language and academic development or bilingual cross-cultural language and academic development credential—designed to increase knowledge of culture and diversity and to prepare teachers to work effectively with students developing English proficiency.
Prior studies of the program found coherence in preparing teachers to teach and advocate for ELLs (Athanases & de Oliveira, 2011). Graduates reported advocating for equity for CLD learners, especially ELLs, tracing practices to TE coursework and supervision (Athanases & de Oliveira, 2008; Athanases & Martin, 2006; de Oliveira & Athanases, 2007). One study featured a case of a first-year teacher from the MA year doing inquiry supported by peers and mentors (Merino & Ambrose, 2009). Against this backdrop, we sought to understand ways in which the TI series in particular may be associated with STs’ focused attention to the learning of CLD youth.
OVERVIEW OF TEACHER INQUIRY IN THE PROGRAM
During preservice, STs enrolled in a pair of inquiry classes. The first introduced fieldwork using data collection and analysis with tools such as observation field notes, surveys, interviews, and assessments of student work. The second worked to develop TI in a student teaching placement class, with more extended data collection and analysis. For this course, ELA STs met as a cohort for 3 hours 8–10 times for 10 weeks, supported by conferences with instructor and teaching assistants. The optional second MA year included additional TI coursework, workshops, and cohort support to complete a longer TI. The present study focused especially on work from the credential year second course that serves as the site for the first full TI, the template for longer term inquiry in the MA and beyond, and the door between preservice and in-service at the close of the credential year.
MODEL: RESPONSIVE TEACHER INQUIRY
Although foci and practices overlapped across subject areas and grade-level ST placements, the model described here refers specifically to the secondary ELA coursework on teacher inquiry. The framework that shaped the ELA inquiry course called for TI that is responsive to issues situated within particular contexts, and responding to, reacting to, engaged with, and flexible about a set of concerns. The course instructor demonstrated through multiple means evidenced in data that this meant more than conducting inquiry that merely explores areas of an ST’s personal or professional interests or that follows a pathway isolated from context, sources, and inputs.
Content Focus TI in this model features subject matter content learning. The instructor noted the importance of this especially in ELA, given evidence of inadequate preparation and supervision of ELA teachers for challenges of ELA teaching (Grossman et al., 2000; Valencia, Martin, Place, & Grossman, 2009). Content-focused TI may help develop pedagogical content knowledge (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008; Grossman, 1990; Shulman, 1987). STs convened in ELA cohorts to explore content-specific issues in full- and small-group work. Instructors, TAs, and guests over the 6 years all were, or had been, K–16 teachers (mostly secondary ELA) who tapped their own expertise and experiences. The instructor noted that although issues of structuring group work, classroom management, and other more generic concerns could make for viable TI work, TI in this model needed to focus on ELA/ELD concerns. However, STs could choose foci, guided by evidence justifying a particular ELA learning need that warranted inquiry attention.
Context Specific Aligned with our framework, in ELA coursework, TI was designed, in part, to promote STs’ early-career capacity to attend to CLD learners’ needs. Responsive TI was grounded in challenges of student learning. Some authors referred to these as puzzling events, moments, or students (Ballenger, 2009; Gallas, 2003). The present model, then, features inquiry situated in specific contexts with specific diverse learners. The model guided use of evidence of student work, from which STs could document patterns, particularly important for novice teachers, and clarified that responsive TI responds to and taps students’ worlds in instruction and inquiry—the cultures, languages, and out-of-school literacies of youth as resources. TI in the present model and study worked to foster attention to understanding that good teaching is teaching in a particular context, not context-free. TIs needed to be student-learning focused. Although attention to instruction was integral, focus was on students and their learning, not on the instructor and his or her practices, or other more teacher-focused concerns that often are the focus of self-study.
Professional Community TI included ST collaboration in topic-alike groups of 3–5 who met on an ongoing basis for mutual support, feedback on emerging foci, and critical scrutiny to minimize questionable analyses. K–12 teacher guests presented TI models and offered resources, lessons, and ways to reflect on student progress. The model also encouraged STs to enter into a larger community of researchers, collapsing hierarchical structures of knowledge generation. The model and practice clarified that TI knowledge construction may reach beyond conventional academic research, but sources remain key to providing ideas and tools to shape practice, inform inquiry, frame issues theoretically, and provide explanatory power for findings (Athanases, 2011). The instructor and a librarian led an interactive literature search workshop that included ELA, ELD, and literacy research journals, books, handbooks, and Web sites and featured discussion of research elements and genre features of articles, full-group searches for topic-based sources, swapping of resources to support each other’s TIs, and one-on-one instructor and librarian support. STs were guided to focus on relevant features of the research, to raise critical questions about the work, and to articulate how it might inform one’s inquiry. The instructor included (a) guidance to manage complexities of reporting; (b) exhortation to neither idealize work of academic researchers nor dismiss it as irrelevant; and (c) motivation to find value in research resources and to see themselves as part of an ongoing conversation of ideas about effective ELA/ELD teaching.
TEACHER INQUIRY SCAFFOLDS AND TOOLS
Much TI features experienced teachers in facilitated professional development or collegial groups; in contrast, work of the present study included instructor guidance and evaluations in university-based TE. Although routines can constrain TI and swamp deeper purposes (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), the present model used scaffolding and routines for support. Practical tools linked to conceptual tools for grasping TI purposes and processes. These included supports such as one-on-one conferences, workshops on pattern-finding in both qualitative and quantitative data, and field memos to foster data analysis and aid pattern-finding. Memos featured understanding things that STs observed, noted, and learned about, or things emerging from data. Memo writing served to push thinking, help STs identify areas to be explored in next steps, enable recording of fresh insights, and pave the way for more detailed analyses. Other tools were a PowerPoint presentation template to guide construction of a research presentation, TI scoring rubrics, and ongoing installments of PowerPoint slides and notes receiving critical feedback for revision. Notions of baseline and exit data were clarified and illustrated, with comments that some STs might do more descriptive studies, documenting evolving learning, and others would target areas of need in a kind of “intervention,” or a process of ongoing data analyses informing next-steps actions. STs mapped designs but were encouraged to respond to emerging information, data trends, and new insights.
SUMMARY OF INQUIRY ELEMENTS LINKED TO STUDY FOCUS AND RESEARCH QUESTION
Concepts of the model (content, context, and community) interact, but the present study features context—ways in which STs used TI to attend to CLD learners. The TI model and scaffolding provide a foundation for developing attention to CLD learners. Elements of the model and supports, then, link to the study’s focus on how STs used inquiry to focus on CLD learners. STs’ voices, through questionnaire and interview data, also helped shed light on elements of the model, scaffolding, and tools that did and did not support developing attention to CLD learners.
STUDY GOALS AND HYPOTHESES
Although our study did not pursue hypothesis testing in an experimental and statistical sense, we outline here our study goals and informal hypotheses that shaped methods. Our study was guided by the question, How are STs learning about their CLD learners through inquiry? Embedded within this question was the hypothesis that, by participating in a learner-focused TI, STs would learn to focus attention on special needs or concerns of CLD learners. This hypothesis was grounded in knowledge that (a) STs were required to complete a scaffolded TI on teaching ELA as part of their coursework, and (b) STs were purposefully placed in classrooms for their preservice teaching that contained a majority of CLD learners, including ELLs.
The overarching question and hypothesis had underlying questions with connected hypotheses. First, several levels of student focus may be possible through TI: individuals, groups, or full class. Doing well at one level does not mean an ST is good at others. Different data yield different information on student performance. Our analyses needed to explore this variation. In addition, TI required STs to report community, school, and classroom demographic data. We hypothesized that by engaging in TI, STs would move beyond essentializing CLD learners (as reported in our framework) and show evidence of using knowledge about their CLD learners to guide instruction. However, we maintained a necessary open-ended stance to inquire into ways in which STs used such data.
We also hypothesized that despite scaffolded instruction, TIs would evidence variation in ways of attending to CLD learners. We sought to uncover these, hypothesizing that TIs would vary widely in number of indicators of attention to CLD learners. We assumed that questionnaire and interview data that included STs’ own voices would shed light on these variations. We further hypothesized that there would be nuances to explore beyond coding, that STs might demonstrate attention to CLD learners in ways that would require deeper examination. For example, a TI might reveal attention to learning about students’ lives and interests yet not demonstrate high challenge for CLD learners (an indicator of attention to CLD students’ learning). In addition, we hypothesized that the collaborative and mentoring dimensions of TI in a professional community of TI were needed to help check assumptions and biases and to uncover low-challenge or inequitable teaching practices. These various hypotheses shaped data analytic procedures and reporting of results.
The 80 secondary ELA STs whose work is the focus of this study (averaging 13.5 STs annually over 6 years) consisted of 46 White females (57.5%), 15 White males (18.8%), and 19 women of color (23.8%). These 19 women were divided almost evenly among 7 Latinas, 6 East Asian Americans (5 Chinese, 1 Filipina), and 6 Middle East/South Asian Americans. Many STs, including some White STs, reported being bilingual.
The team had three researchers, all former K–12 teachers with experiences and interests in ELA and TE, and all White educators who have worked with students and teachers on issues related to CLD learners. The ELA inquiry instructor all 6 years is first author of this article. The other authors recorded inquiry class field notes, wrote memos on themes in STs’ TI processes and products, and conducted some analyses of STs’ work independent of the instructor/first author.
Our work seeks to describe and understand STs developing understanding of CLD students through TI. Our methods draw on two theoretical perspectives: (a) constructivism, or describing participants’ perspectives, experiences, and meaning-making processes; and (b) hermeneutics, or striving to holistically understand and interpret these experiences, perspectives, and meaning-making (Koro-Ljungberg, Yendol-Hoppey, Smith, & Hayes, 2009). We acknowledge the situated, contextual nature of human experience and the transactional impact of behaviors on both the inquirer and respondent (Guba & Lincoln, 1982). Guba and Lincoln advised a qualitative researcher to capitalize on “inquirer-respondent interactivity” to sharpen focus on relevant issues and ideas within a particular context. The “insider status” of the member of our research team who also served as ELA inquiry instructor added additional potential to illuminate nuances of STs’ learning.
The study aligns with a TE research tradition of instructors’ studies of their students’ learning and program processes as the modal study (Grossman, 2005). In such work, researchers frequently fail to identify the relationship they have with those they study (Clift & Brady, 2005). In contrast, we make transparent the roles the instructor did and did not play in data analysis. Advantages to such insider studies are various. First, against a reality of poor funding for studies of TE processes and outcomes, faculty who wish to improve their own practices and contribute to larger knowledge production can focus on their contexts as opportunities for empirical study. Second, as noted, faculty researching their own practice and students’ learning can provide rich insider perspectives on STs and their goals, often more fully than an outsider can (Grossman, 2005). Third, personnel involved as both faculty and researcher increase the possibility that data can be collected and archived over time, particularly in the case of multiyear projects such as the one in the present study. Collecting and managing data over time can pose challenges for an outside researcher, especially in collecting forms of qualitative data, such as student work, questionnaires, observation field notes, and interviews. These forms of data seldom can be accessed retroactively through databases such as those that store test scores or survey data.
That a course instructor can have deeper knowledge of what occurs is both a blessing and a curse in writing about practice (Lampert, 2000). There is the possibility of uncovering “invisible, relational aspects of the work that have not been recognized by others” (Lampert, p. 91). However, there are also responsibilities to select among countless details the material needed to adequately and effectively contextualize practice and to tease out complexities of teaching and learning to teach (Borko, Whitcomb, & Byrnes, 2008). Researchers who have been insiders may need research partners to assist in uncovering complexities of context by raising critical questions and collecting and analyzing context data. No single method can capture the full complexity of TE processes, so teams must articulate both affordances and limitations of particular methods (Florio-Ruane, 2002). Research on preparing STs to work with CLD learners particularly needs a full account of program context, especially the degree to which attention to diversity issues permeates a program (Hollins, 2005). We address this concern with new data and published studies.
When instructors and researchers are the same, classroom contexts need rich descriptions of processes and course dynamics, with inclusion of TE students’ voices (Clift & Brady, 2005). To address this, we described course processes in the previous section and sample ST voices related to themes in the results. Additionally, accounts of data collection and analysis need attention to dual roles played as researcher and instructor (Grossman, 2005). This may include treatment of power dynamics of an instructor researching students, or additional data collection, analysis, or critical review of course processes and STs’ work by outsiders “to interrogate findings and challenge the possibilities of self-fulfilling findings” (Clift & Brady, p. 333). Following this principle, research team members who were not program or course insiders at the time of the study conducted portions of research methods independent of the instructor. These included developing, testing, refining, and using analytic tools and drafting related results reporting.
Table 1 provides an overview of data purposes, sources, and analytic methods. Core data included 80 TIs (collected 2004–2009) as PowerPoint presentations replete with detailed notes for slides (18–35 slides). Slides and notes documented inquiry focus; community, school, and class contexts; research question(s) (RQs); and evidence justifying need for a study focus and plan of action. Components also included literature source documentation, including abstracts and how sources informed the TI and provided explanatory power for results; visual representation of TI overview; methods for data collection and analysis; results and commentary; synthesis of learning through the inquiry; and next steps if one extended the study to future work.