I recently tweeted about the successful outcome to a research funding application that will bring together a group of researchers to carry out an intervention study in the teacher education setting in Norway (a study we’re calling ‘LAB-Ted’). Here is some more information about the study, its background and the funding.
Reforms of teacher education in Norway from 2010 have emphasized the development of methodological competence for student teachers when working on research and development (R&D) assignments designed to improve their own practice. Subsequently, from autumn 2017, further reforms required all students undertaking upper primary/lower secondary teacher education to follow a Master’s degree programme culminating in a research-based thesis. Crucially, however, the research for this Master’s thesis had to be practice-based and professionally-oriented, developmental in intent and take as its starting point the formulation of a research problem connected to existing practice in the school setting. The overall aim was that teachers improve their teaching by developing deeper and more sophisticated R&D competence; by focusing on student teachers improving their methodological competence for the thesis, the expectation was that, eventually, higher methodological expectations would contribute to improved processes for developing teaching practices in schools on a continuous basis.
The aims of LAB-Ted
The overall aim of the project is two-fold: first, to develop collaboration between universities (teacher educators), schools (teachers and school leaders) and student teachers in order to build capacity for practice-based, professionally-oriented research in teacher education of the kind required by the 2017 reforms; second, to research these processes using an innovative methodology that will uncover obstacles and barriers to change that will be more widely useful across the system in Norway and, potentially, internationally. Overall, therefore, the project itself is conceptualized as R&D in the tradition of formative interventions (specifically, the variety known as Developmental Work Research [DWR] elaborated by the leading Finnish researcher Yrjӧ Engestrӧm, an advisor to the project). The professional context for the intervention will be teachers’ practices in five school subjects: English, social science, natural science, mathematics and physical education.
Additionally, LAB-Ted will seek to understand the distinct challenges in creating assessment criteria for Master’s level academic work that is practice-based and professionally-oriented, challenges often unaddressed even if frequently recognized in the development of Master’s-level teacher education systems globally. In developing such criteria, the project will also explore new potential new models of supervision towards the thesis. Further, LAB-Ted will seek to test and explore the specific methodology it deploys – DWR, informed by cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). It is often claimed that DWR is uniquely well-equipped to stimulate and study change in practice settings through processes of historicisation and participant conscientisation and so the study will aim to understand the usefulness of a theory (CHAT) in stimulating change in practices in the contexts of educational reform.
Research team and funding
LAB-Ted is led by Rachel Jakhelln (University of Tromsø) along with Co-Principal Investigators May Britt Postholm (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and Viv Ellis (King’s College London). LAB-TEd is funded by the Norwegian Research Council (FINNUT) to the value of 12 million NOK (£1.15 million) with additional funding of 5 million NOK from key stakeholders. The project will begin in August 2019 and continue for four years.