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Research methods (Moira Hulme)

lA review of the content of the TEG resource suggests that research undertaken in the field of teacher education in the UK is more likely to be small scale, qualitative and practice-based . A high proportion of authors contributed to only one article over the nine-year period of the review (2000-08). Single authors or pairs of authors working within the same institution, commonly without external funding, undertook most of the practice-based studies reported.

Interviews are the most common method used in teacher education research included in the TEG bibliography. In-depth and semi-structured interviewshave been used in studies exploring the professional identities of teacher educators, key informant perspectives on policy, the developing expertise of beginning teachers, reasons for becoming a teacher and the influence of gender, ethnicity and late entry to the profession on teachers’ professional experience and identity Case studies are common among the interpretive research strategies in teacher education research. Multiple methods and sources of evidence are a feature of action research/participatory action research and self-study by teacher educators . Practitioner enquiry by teacher educators raises a number of ethical issues. These include the issue of informed consent and possible tensions when occupying the roles of tutor, assessor and researcher in collaborative practitioner enquiry. See also BERA walkthroughs on Educational research and policy: action research and participatory action research.

Large-scale surveys and advanced quantitative data analysis techniques appear less common in teacher education research in the UK . The TEG bibliography contains two examples of major longitudinal studiesconductedin England: Variations in Teachers’ Work, Lives and their Effects on Pupils(VITAE) (2001-2005) and the Becoming a Teacher Project (BaT), which tracked the experiences of teachers who entered the profession via different routes during their initial teacher preparation, induction and early professional development. Questionnaires have been used to examine reasons why minority ethnic trainees withdraw from initial teacher education programmes, the impact of age, disability, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation on teachers' career aspriation , and the impact of Continuing Professional Development.

There is little evidence of large-scale systematic research being undertaken to directly inform the on-going development of particular teacher education programmes in the UK . One exception is the Scottish Teachers for a New Era project (STNE) at Aberdeen University, funded by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation, which proposes a six-year model of teacher education and is supported by the work of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners.

Few experimental designs appear in the TEG bibliography. North American models of ‘scientifically-based’ or ‘scientistic’ research (Cochran Smith and Lytle, 2009) are not well established in the UK.

Consideration of the research methods used in teacher education research in UK, according to the protocol of the TEG search (2000-2008), raises a number of issues.

  • Much teacher education research remains small-scale, qualitative and practice-based. The high volume of single studies and the paucity of large-scale, longitudinal studies reduce the potential cumulative and developmental impact of research on and for teacher education in the UK. This is not an issue isolated to the UK. Similar conclusions were reached in a review of teacher education research in Australia (Murray et al, 2008).
  • There is little evidence to suggest a shift towards multiple methods that include quasi-experimental designs in teacher education research in the UK.
  • Given the high volume of small-scale, practice-based studies undertaken by teacher educators, the ethics of conducting practitioner research in teacher education is a neglected area.


For an overview of the content of the TEG bibliography see Ian Menter, Moira Hulme, Marion Jones, Jean Murray, Anne Campbell, Ian Hextall, Pat Mahony, Richard Procter and Karl Wall (‘The Teacher Education Group’, TEG)  (2010, forthcoming) Teacher education research in the UK: the state of the art. Swiss Revue of Educational Research.

For studies exploring the professional identities of teacher educators see Murray, J. and Male, T. (2005) Becoming a teacher educator: evidence from the field, Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 125-142.

Kennedy, A., Christie, D., Fraser, C., Reid, L., McKinney, S., Welsh, M., Wilson, A. and Griffiths, M. (2008) Key Informants' Perspectives On Teacher Learning In Scotland, British Journal of Educational Studies, 56(4), 400-419.

Burn, K., Hagger, H., Mutton, T., & Everton, T. (2003) The complex development of student-teachers' thinking, Teachers and Teaching, 9(4), 309-331; and

Younger, M., Brindley, S., Pedder, D., and Hagger, H.(2004) Starting points: student teachers' reasons for becoming teachers and their preconceptions of what this will mean, European Journal of Educational Research, 27(3) pp 245-264.

Basit, T. and McNamara, O.(2004) Equal opportunities or affirmative action? The induction of minority ethnic teachers, Journal of Education for Teaching, 30(2) pp 97-116.

Quintrell, M. and Maguire, M.(2000) Older and Wiser, or Just at the End of the Line? The Perceptions of Mature Trainee Teachers, International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 23(1) pp 19 – 30.

Harrison, Lawson and Wortley (2005) Action Research and the Professional Development of Induction Tutors: some unforeseen impacts and pitfalls. What Do We Learn? Journal of In-Service Education, 31(1), 83 - 104.

For an example of quantitative studies using official statistics, see White, P., Gorard, S., and See, B. H. (2006) What are the problems with teacher supply? Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(3) pp 315-326.

Sammons, P., Day, C., Kington, A., Gu, Q., Stobart, G., and Smees R. (2007) Exploring variations in teachers' work lives and their effects on pupils: key findings and implications from a longitudinal mixed-method study, British Educational Research Journal, 33(5), 681-701.

Hobson, A. J., Malderez, A., Tracey, L., Giannakaki, M., Pell, G., and Tomlinson, P. D. (2008) Student teachers’ experiences of initial teacher preparation in England: core themes and variation, Research Papers in Education, 23(4), 407-433; and,  

Wilson, V., Powney, J., Hall, S. and Davidson, J. (2006) Who wants to be a teacher? The impact of age, disability, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation on teachers' career aspiration, Scottish Educational Review, 38(1), 92-105.

The TEG literature search (2000-2008) did not identify research with a similar scale and scope to the Modes of Teacher Education (MOTE) project, which studied the origins, nature, and effects of reforms of initial teacher education in England and Wales between 1991 and 1996 (Furlong, J., Barton, L., Miles, S., Whiting, C., and Whitty, G. (2000). Teacher Education in Transition. Buckingham: Open University Press).

For further information on Scottish Teachers for a New Era see Gray, D. et al (2009) A research led model of pre-service education in Scotland. Journal of Education for Teaching. 35(4), 425-440.

For articles from an education science perspective, including systematic reviews and quasi-experimental methods, see Effective Education.

Brooks (2006) used a quasi-experimental design, involving a naturally occurring ‘treatment’ and control group, in her evaluation of the impact of a Training School in England.

For a critical discussion of the ‘education science movement’ see St. Clair, R. (2009) (Ed.) Education Science: Critical Perspectives. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers.

Murray, S., Nuttall, J. and Mitchell, J. (2008) Research into initial teacher education in Australia: A survey of the literature 1995–2004, Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 225–239.
































How to reference this page: Teacher Education Group (2009) The Teacher Education Bibliography. London: TLRP. Online at (accessed )

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