Background to the Topic
There is increasing interest in the re-conceptualisation of the role of teacher educators and in particular, their developing research identities. This paper relates to the use of an innovative research methodology, living graphs, to capture and represent the life experiences of teacher educators in a case study of two universities in the UK.
Research Questions/ focus of the enquiry
This research builds on an earlier study which investigated the transition of early career teacher educators into higher education and research. The second phase, reported on here, looked at the professional and academic development of mid-career teacher educators using living graphs. Research questions included:
• What are the key landmarks in teacher educators’ professional and academic development and do these differ over time?
• How effective are living graphs as a methodological tool to illuminate teacher educators’ experiences and development?
The use of living graphs as a research method alongside qualitative interviews was adapted from a strategy often used in history teaching. A graph was created using a timeline as a horizontal axis and perceived highs and lows of research identity and professional development as the vertical axis. A case study approach was used with purposive sampling to identify six mid career teacher educators in each university. Participants were asked to map their personal biographies, academic and research highs and lows, career landmarks and barriers and successes using this graphic format. This was then used as a basis for discussion and exploration in the interviews.
Lave and Wenger's (1991) model of legitimate peripheral participation was used as the theoretical framework for studying teacher educators' development over time. Narrative analysis was used to examine the teacher educators’ own accounts of these perspectives and themes were identified which related to professional and academic identity and development. Participants were asked to reflect on the use of living graphs as a research tool.
Living graphs were found to be a rich data source to identify and explore landmarks, positive features and barriers to development. Enhanced verbal input resulted from using graphics to represent highs and lows of experience, including the visual representation of emotion. Questions have arisen about the most effective use of the graphs. This is a useful research tool but needs further clarification and guidelines for use.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.