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Exploring a way of respectively educating pre-service teachers

Mats Melvold Hordvik

Tailored around the relationship between teaching and learning, I argue that self-study of teacher education practices (S-STEP) offers a way of respectively prepare pre-service teachers for the reality of teaching, while developing teacher educators’ professional identity.

S-STEP is a form of practitioner research that aims to understand and improve teacher educators practice through careful examination of one’s own learning beliefs, practices, processes, contexts, and relationships (Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2009). While self-in-practice is central, S-STEP research has obtained criticism for just being a form of ‘navel-gazing’. Consequently, researchers are urged to constantly position themselves between two tensions, where they need to: (i) demonstrate rigour by explicitly build on previous work, while providing relevance for the self, and (ii) offer understanding of teacher education pedagogies, while developing the effectiveness of personal pedagogy (Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2015).

In my doctoral research, I investigate my own practice and subsequently how that practice influences pre-service teachers learning and their experiences. In undertaking the inquiry I have sought to deliberately align my work with a common set of characteristics that S-STEP researchers share (Ovens & Fletcher, 2014). First, as a former physical education teacher I had a ‘desire’ to understand my teacher education pedagogy while improving the alignment between theory and practice. Second, the ‘stance’ I adopted reflected a systematic inquiry-oriented position towards researching own practice. Thirdly, taking part in a ‘community’ I developed a network with practitioners who share, research and evolve their own practice as teachers and teacher educators. Data generation conveyed the pre-service teachers’ voice through focus groups, in-depth interviews and course work, while continuously reflecting on personal practice through a reflective journal and videoed lessons.

the process of unpacking the nature of teaching became an integrated component of teaching about teaching

The S-STEP approach developed consciousness for the two levels that pre-service teachers and teacher educators need to operate on: (i) the nature of the content being examined in the teaching and learning environment, and (ii) the nature of the teaching that is being employed (Loughran, 2006). First, it challenged me to make a radical change in my teaching practice, providing a means to develop a pedagogy of teaching that encouraged the pre-service teachers to ask questions about, analyse, and consider teaching and learning, while developing arguments for their teaching practice. Second, the deliberate reflection on self-in-practice developed awareness of how I was teaching offering access to the reasoning behind own pedagogy, while exploring the uncertainties and dilemmas of practice. Consequently, the process of unpacking the nature of teaching became an integrated component of teaching about teaching.

Furthermore, the S-STEP approach allowed me to question and consider my own assumptions, perspectives and practice in a way that displayed the appropriate attitudes, knowledge and skills of teaching. Positioning oneself in situations where pre-service teachers have the opportunity to discuss, question and criticize the practice of the teacher educator can be uncomfortable and sensitive, however, creating a unique and trusted environment that adequately form a shared teacher and learner community. I suggest that the illustrative and vulnerable stance a teacher educator exhibits through the scrutiny of their own pedagogy exemplifies a profound practice of the teacher-as-learner.

Acknowledging the absence of a formal training for teacher educators and the different paths one takes of becoming one, S-STEP can potentially offer teacher educators a purposive professional development that facilitates the personal professional identity as educator and researcher. It is a useful approach of research for practice because the interaction of the self with the experience connects the different and complex situations of teaching and learning.

S-STEP encourages teacher educators to interact with scholars and their work, while thoroughly and continuously investigating personal practice through the eyes of the teacher and learner. It offers a way of respectively preparing pre-service teachers for the reality of teaching and learning.



Loughran, J. (2006). Developing a pedagogy of teacher education: Understanding teaching and learning about teaching. London: Routledge.

Ovens, A., & Fletcher, T. (2014). Doing self-study: The art of turning inguiry on yourself. In A. Ovens & T. Fletcher (Eds.), Self-study in physical education teacher education: Exploring the interplay of practice and scholarship (pp. 3-14). London: Springer.

Pinnegar, S. E., & Hamilton, M. L. (2009). Self-study of practice as a genre of qualitative research: Theory, methodology, and practice. London: Springer.

Vanassche, E., & Kelchtermans, G. (2015). The state of the art in self-study of teacher education practices: A systematic literature review. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(4), 508-528.