Landmarks in the professional development of teacher educators in the UK and Greece: living graphs as a methodological tool

Griffiths, Vivienne and Kaldi, Stavroula (2013) Landmarks in the professional development of teacher educators in the UK and Greece: living graphs as a methodological tool. In: European Conference on Educational Research, 10-13 September 2013, Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul,Turkey.

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Abstract

This paper will present the use of an innovative research methodology, living graphs, to capture and represent the life experiences and professional development of teacher educators in two universities in the UK and Greece. The objectives of the study were to analyse and compare the career experiences of teacher educators; in particular, to identify stages of development, landmark events and contextual factors affecting professional learning and academic identities. The study compares two European countries, is contextualised within European literature and uses a European theoretical framework.

Research questions included:
• What are the key landmarks in teacher educators’ professional and academic development?
• How effective are living graphs as a methodological tool to illuminate teacher educators’ experiences and development?

There is increasing interest internationally in the re-conceptualisation of the role of teacher educators and in particular, their developing research identities (Korthagen et al., 2005; Swennen et al., 2010). Several researchers (e.g. Harrison and McKeon, 2010; Murray, 2008) highlight the dual transition that teacher educators make into university life and lack of induction into new roles. Swennen et al. (2010) identify four main roles or sub-identities which teacher educators may adopt, but these may differ across country contexts. They argue that teacher educators often have to transform themselves in order to take on certain identities, especially the researcher role.

The overarching theoretical framework used in the study is socio-cultural learning, in recognition that the specific contexts in which teacher educators work are of vital importance in the process of learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Eraut’s (2007) research on contextual and learning factors in the workplace is used to identify key factors affecting teacher educators’ professional learning and differences between contexts. Lave and Wenger's (1991) model of legitimate peripheral participation was useful for studying teacher educators' development over time.

Visual research methods are a rapidly developing area of social enquiry and an evolving tool in research (Bagnoli, 2009; Iantaffi, 2011). The use of living graphs as a research method alongside qualitative interviews was adapted from a strategy often used in history teaching (Dawson, undated). A graph was created using a timeline as a horizontal axis, with perceived highs and lows of research identity and professional development as the vertical axis. Participants were asked to map their personal biographies, career landmarks and academic highs and lows, using this graphic format.
An embedded case study approach (Cohen et al., 2007; Yin, 2002) was used with purposive sampling to identify six teacher educators in each university. The teacher educators ranged from those in early academic careers to more experienced participants.

Narrative analysis was used to examine teacher educators’ own accounts and themes were identified which related to professional/academic identity and development. Interviews were coded and cross-checked across the two universities. The living graphs were analysed alongside the interviews to see if narrative accounts matched or differed, as well as to identify any similar or differing patterns between and within country contexts and in terms of teacher educators’ gender and experience.

Clear landmarks were identified in both contexts, with development in teaching seen as largely positive, while research development was much more varied. Teacher educators who were further on in their careers saw research development as transformative personally as well as academically. In analysing the findings, we drew in particular on Swennen et al.’s (2010) identification of teacher educators’ sub-identities. Living graphs were found to be a rich data source to identify and explore landmarks, positive features and barriers to development. Enhanced verbal input resulted from using graphics to represent highs and lows of experience, including the visual representation of emotion.

Questions have arisen about the most effective use of the graphs. This is a useful research tool and we argue that it is particularly suitable for researching teacher educators’ identities, but it needs further clarification and guidelines for use. The study makes a useful contribution to research on visual methodologies. The findings also contribute strongly to the growing body of European and wider international research on teacher educators’ professional development.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: Teacher educators; professional development; living graphs; Greece; UK
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education
Depositing User: Vivienne Griffiths
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2015 12:41
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/52537
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