Is empirical research
on teacher education really so bad? Critics decry its inconsistent quality and inability
to respond convincingly to some of the field’s most vexing problems. At the
same time, teacher education is a relatively new field of study. Those who have
traced its development observe that rigorous, large-scale research on teacher
education is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to conduct; thus, some of
the theoretical and methodological advances seen in more mature fields, for example,
research on student learning, are just beginning to emerge in research on
In an effort to broaden and stimulate the conversation, this editorial office offers an assessment of four genres that have been central in empirical teacher education research, namely (a) effects of teacher education, (b) interpretive, (c) practitioner, and (d) design.
"Effects of teacher education" research refers to a body of scholarship concerned with understanding the relationships between teacher education experiences and student learning.
Interpretive research is, at its core, a search for local meanings. Unlike effects of teacher education research, it aims for particularizability, not generalizability (Erickson, 1986). It seeks to describe, analyze, and interpret features of a specific situation, preserving its complexity and communicating the perspectives of participants.
In Zeichner’s (1999) assessment of scholarship in teacher education, he observed “research about teacher education [that] is being conducted by those who actually do the work of teacher education” as “probably the single most significant development ever in the field of teacher education research” (p. 8). This genre, which we label practitioner research, includes action research, participatory research, self-study, and teacher research. Like interpretive research, it aims to understand human activity in situ and from the perspective of participants; however, it differs in two critical ways—the role of the researcher and the overarching purpose for the research. Practitioner research examines practice from the inside; instead of research on teacher education by an outside party, it is research by teacher educators about their practice.
Intentionality refers to the planned and deliberate nature of practitioner research, which can be contrasted to other versions of reflective practice that are typically more spontaneous in nature.
Systematicity refers to organized ways of gathering information, keeping records of experiences and events, and analyzing the information that has been collected and recorded.
Design research is characterized by an intimate relationship between the improvement of practice and the development of theory: The research team works to simultaneously improve practice and contribute to theory by creating models of successful innovations and developing explanatory frameworks about the processes of learning and the tools that are designed to foster learning (Brown, 1992; Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003).