An Investigation of Teacher Research Engagement and Sustainability in Higher Education

Sakarkaya V., Bümen N.

7th International Congress on Curriculum and Instruction, Ankara, Turkey, 9 - 12 October 2019, pp.213-214

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Ankara
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.213-214


For years, staff development or in-service training, including short-term workshops/seminars criticized for being ineffective and

unrelated to the context and reality of the classrooms, was the only form of professional development activities for teachers

(Villegas-Reimers, 2003; Guskey, 2000; Borg, 2015; Bümen, Ateş, Çakar, Ural & Acar, 2012). Recently, professional

development of teachers has been considered as a long-term process including systematically planned regular opportunities

to promote growth and development in the profession (Villegas-Reimers, 2003). Kayaoglu (2015, p. 148) suggests structural

weakness of many in-service training programmes is that they ignore the inquiry research skills critical for teachers to explore

both themselves and their classroom. Teacher research, which is based on the combination of scientific knowledge and

knowledge from practice, is considered as a powerful form of professional development activity for teachers and carrying out

systematic inquiry about their own practices has similar motives with the principles of continuous professional development.

Teacher research is considered to be a valuable professional development activity and contributes significantly to the

development of teachers. Yet, despite its potential, teacher research as a professional development activity still remains as a

minority activity (Borg, 2006; 2010; Kayaoglu, 2015). Borg (2006) states that if teacher research is to be a sustainable feature

of foreign language teaching profession, it is necessary to analyze what kinds of support structures are needed to promote it

and what conditions hinder teachers from doing it. Also, Edwards & Burns (2016) indicate that although the popularity of teacher

research is increasing as a professional development activity, whether its immediate effects are sustained over time, and if so,

how they are sustained is an issue that needs to be studied more. In the light of the issues stated above, in this study, with the

intention of overcoming the barriers to teacher research engagement and sustainability, it is aimed to find out the factors that

facilitate and hinder teachers’ engagement into teacher research, whether the impacts of doing teacher research and teachers’

efforts to do research are sustained over time, and, if so, how those are sustained.In this study, an embedded single case

study has been carried out with 33 EFL instructors at a state university. In order to provide in-depth data for different research

questions, different study groups have been formed. The study started with a relatively larger group (n=33) formed with

maximum diversity sampling method, which included both instructors who carried out teacher research before and instructors

with no experience of it to describe the case in detail. Then, the group gradually narrowed into a group (n=10) with extreme

case sampling to carry out interviews to gain in-depth understanding of the motivators, demotivators and conditions for

engaging in teacher research, then into another group (n=7) with homogeneous sampling to gain in-depth understanding of

the experiences of instructors who carried out teacher research. Finally, with the criterion sampling method, the final study

group (n=4) was formed to question the sustainable impacts of teacher research and what contributed to the sustainability of

these. Two questionnaires consisting of closed and open-ended questions and interviews carried out with semi-structured

forms have been used as data collection tools. The qualitative data have been analyzed by content analysis, while frequency

analysis has been carried out for the quantitative data.The results of the study have shown that workplace conditions, limitations

in instructors’ awareness, beliefs, skills and knowledge about teacher research and economic matters contribute to the mostfrequently-

mentioned barrier, the lack of time to do research. Instructors’ individual characteristics, project conditions, and a

number of workplace conditions (opportunities for teacher research, expert support and colleagues with teacher research

experience or postgraduate degrees) are the factors triggering teacher research engagement. The conditions for teacher

research are intrinsic motivation, time, institutional encouragement and support, and knowledge and skills in conducting

research. It is concluded that the sustainable impacts of teacher research on the instructors are substantial and these have

persisted despite the four-year-period. Instructors’ need for professional development, positive experience with teacher

research, conducting projects relevant to their goals, concerns and context, and having the opportunity to share their research

results through various dissemination forms have facilitated the sustainability of instructors' efforts to conduct teacher research

and the impact of former research projects. Lack of time, managements’ lack of expectation from instructors to engage in

professional development and management’s lack of support for their efforts to be research engaged have hindered the

sustainability of those efforts and impacts.