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Considerations for teacher education research activity prompted by the COVID-19 context

Thu, 01 Oct 2020

Professor Ann MacPhail, EHS Assistant Dean Research
As a teacher educator and Assistant Dean Research, I believe it is incumbent on me to examine, suggest and explore initiatives amongst teacher educator colleagues in helping in identifying and initiating how best to consider ‘spaces’ where teacher education colleagues can harness and pursue research-related activities in a national and international context. The onset of the COVID-19 heightened the urgency of the need to consider such ‘spaces’ given the undisputable effect that the pandemic was having, and is likely to have for some time to come, on teaching and learning experiences across schools and higher education institutes.
I share three considerations for teacher education research activity prompted by the COVID-19 context. There is a level of ‘rapid response’ necessary in addressing each consideration if we are to capture the realities, and ramifications, of COVID-19 to teacher education.
Firstly, teacher educators need to consider ways in which we can harness research related activities or opportunities (Breslin, 2020; Chamberlain, 2020) in the current COVID-19 context. This is likely to include consolidating how we legitimise the notion of opportunistic positioning that may arise from COVID-19. Such positioning is likely to be difficult to achieve, given that teacher education does not appear to be an area that those funding bodies releasing funds for COVID-19 related research are targeting. That is not to say, however, that as teacher educators we should not consider ways in which we could align ourselves with COVID-19 related research funding that is available. In doing so, we need to find a way in which to harness our collective skill-set and also reach out to colleagues in other disciplines who would more readily align with the COVID-19 specific funding calls.
Secondly, teacher educators need to contribute to the COVID-19 related discourse in the teacher education space and work together to understand the changes that are happening in teacher education, from a scholarly, and strategic, perspective. This leads to the need to examine what teacher educators continue to consider as important and central to teacher education and teaching given the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as acknowledging the necessary changes to teaching and teacher education initiated by the pandemic. In turn, this encourages teacher educators to consider, and re-assess, their philosophies, values and practices as teacher educators (MacPhail, 2020).
Thirdly, teacher educators need to consider the extent to which they have an obligation to explore, capture and, where feasible, address the effects of COVID-19 on teaching and learning in schools, teacher education programmes and on teachers and teacher educators. The respective impact of COVID-19 in these spaces should prompt us to consider our collective contribution to teaching, research and service and explore ways in which we can enact collective action strategies. Indeed, if teacher education is deemed to be best positioned to ‘service’ the effects of COVID-19 on teaching and learning in schools and the associated ramifications through communities, this may prompt us to consider ‘field’ research teams who conduct research in the field,  e.g., schools (teachers and students), home (parents and guardians; home schooling), school management (decision makers) and communities (health and wellbeing). It is anticipated that this would increase strong data sources that would educate, and in turn, convince people that teaching and teacher education matters (Cochran-Smith et al., 2018).
 
References
 
Breslin, T. (2020) Time for educational researchers to take their place in the sun? https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/time-for-educational-researchers-to-take-their-place-in-the-sun
Chamberlain, L. (2020) Opportunities missed: Then the rains came down and washed the writing away. https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/opportunities-missed-then-the-rains-came-down-and-washed-the-writing-away
Cochran-Smith, M., Carney, M.C., Keefe, E.S., Burton, S., Chang, W.C., Fernandez, M.B., Miller, A.F., Sanchez, J.G. and Baker, M., 2018. Reclaiming accountability in teacher education. Teachers College Press.
MacPhail, A. (2020) Time to really re-envisage teacher education. Research in Teacher Education, 10(1), 53-56.