7 Taking Up Research for the Common Good
The following position paper concerns the “teacher-inquirer identity” (Badia et al., 2020, p. 865) and the taking up of research post-graduation for those who attain a doctorate and remain within the K-12 system. This topic of research literacy and teacher-inquirer identity speaks to the increasing expectation for in-service K-12 teachers and their leaders to read and engage in educational research (Alberta Ministry of Education, 2013; Alberta Teachers Association, 2020; British Columbia Teachers Federation, 2021). These expectations coincide with the increasing access of research studies freely available through open access journals. Evidence-based teaching demands and the ongoing availability of current research has been digitally amplified, and thus all levels of educators are needing to make sense of research and research processes.
There is exposure to research in pre-service education programs (Afdal & Spernes, 2018) but in graduate programs this exposure becomes a heavy emphasis – reading theory, reading research, and learning how to read theory and research for deep professional understanding. This reading of research by graduate students is also coloured through their individual teaching experiences, that is, praxis, whereby theory and practice comingle to make a blended understanding with theory informing practice and practice informing theory. From pre-service to doctoral studies in education, the teacher-inquirer identity evolves over time and through interplay and interactions among experiences comingling with professional learning and encounters with researchers and their outputs (Badia et al., 2020). Stretching toward the epitome of the teacher-inquirer identity, graduate studies pull students toward such an identity yet in professional contexts (i.e., K-12 teaching and leadership positions) this identity may not be fully embraced (Taylor, 2017). For many graduate student professional colleagues, the undergraduate experience with research has been as been as audience and with content, not as participants nor research processes (Healey & Jenkins 2009 as cited in Afdal & Spernes, 2018). These same colleagues may look to the doctoral graduate as a knowledgeable other because of their advanced degree and this tendency may be even more so with the rise of research availability and research literacy expectations.
Many education doctorate students will be in leadership positions and may be called upon to support research awareness and engagement in staff members. Because of such situations, does the graduate holder not have some scholarly obligation to model, show, and provide others who have not partaken of graduate studies the benefits of their additional studies? And does not a new grad have the obligation to also inform those with older graduate degrees that the academy has changed, research topics and methodologies have also changed, and that what made a graduate degree in the past has evolved? Are these new grads not unlike a traveller to foreign places, coming home and telling what is happening elsewhere and that perhaps those who stayed back can learn from those who encountered new learning elsewhere?
Is part of the education doctoral journey to support the uptake of research literacy not only for the graduate students individually, but also for their future selves as part of a learning community (e.g. they may be part of such communities contemporaneously during their graduate studies) and may be participating in or leading post-graduation? And that in the doctoral journey, their studies implicate them in future modelling of how one takes up research. This process may not always mean active research studies, however defined, and will frequently include the reading of research and theory informed by contemporary insights as part of their teacher-inquirer identity. When tasked with implementing an educational innovation, the graduate can articulate through their teacher-inquirer identity a critical understanding of what is being asked of the profession, individually and collectively, and navigate the innovation either as research audience or participating in research processes. The knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the teacher-inquirer (Badia et al., 2020) finessed throughout the graduate degree thereby help others make sense of the wealth of research that affects education and the constant pressure to solve educational problems.
As supervisors of doctoral students we are also tasked with articulating our own teacher-inquirer identity, as a stance and as a process (Badia et al., 2020). The expansion of research in both availability and as part of educational practice challenges the professorate to think of this extension and its implications for our own teaching and inquiring; to think again of our teacher-inquirer identity, of how, where, and when we model it and for what ends.
Alberta Teachers Association (2020). Professional development programs and services guide 2020-2021. https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Professional-Development/PD-78 PD Programs and Services Guide.pdf
Afdal, H. W., & Spernes, K. (2018). Designing and redesigning research-based teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 74, 215–228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2018.05.011
Badia, A., Liesa, E., Becerril, L., & Mayoral, P. (2020). A dialogical self approach to the conceptualisation of teacher-inquirer identity. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 35(4), 865–879. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-019-00459-z
British Columbia Teachers Federation, 2021. BCTF research. https://bctf.ca/research.aspx
Taylor, L. A. (2017). How teachers become teacher researchers: Narrative as a tool for teacher identity construction. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.09.008