Teacher Educators as Researchers: Two stories

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Teacher Educators as Researchers: Two stories

Teacher educators increasingly become involved in research as research is considered an important way to develop professionally as a teacher educator. However, teacher educators struggle to integrate research with their work as teacher educators. In this blog, we want to share three insights with regard to this challenge based on our own experiences as teacher educators.


The development of an identity as a teacher educator-researcher

Teacher educators enter teacher education via different routes. Davey (2013), for example, distinguishes between an academic and a practitioner pathway. The route teacher educators take partly determines the way they see and value the research. In our case, Anja took the practitioner pathway and studied both Dutch and English language and literature, worked as a school teacher and after some years started working in teacher education. "The teacher education institute where I started work in 1989 was quite traditional. This meant that literature education, grammar and essay writing were the main points of focus. Fortunately, nobody was interested in what I did in the classroom and I was able to follow my own path." At that point in time she mainly felt a teacher and a teacher of teachers. Helma took the academic pathway and received her PhD before entering teacher education. She felt a researcher and struggled to acquire a teacher educator identity.

During my PhD trajectory, I worked in a teacher education institute, where I occasionally provided workshops for the students, especially in the research area. I also participated in consultations but did not really feel part of the teacher education department, because I had no experience as a school teacher.


Searching to combine research and teacher education

As teacher educators we all search for the meaning of research in relation to our practice as teacher educators. A study from Tack and Van der Linde (2014) shows that the scholarly position of teacher educators has three dimensions: a cognitive, an affective and a behaviour dimension. Based on these dimensions, teacher educators can be ‘typified’ as ‘the enquiring teacher-educator’, ‘the well-read teacher educator’ and the ‘teacher educator-researcher’. In both our stories as teacher educators these ‘types’ seem to change over time. We both had a positive attitude towards research but the way we were involved in (doing) research changed over time. Anja stated:

During the first years after my move to VU University, my research activities were mainly passive, but that changed when I started with a study on congruent teaching of teacher educators (Swennen, Lunenberg & Korthagen, 2008). That research did not only affect my own work as teacher educator, but was also one of the publications that influenced how we now, ten years later, at my institution find it quite normal to speak about modelling, congruent teacher education and Teach as you Preach.


We both searched for ways to connect research and practice: sometimes by ‘consuming’ research, sometimes by taking an inquiry stance, sometimes by studying our own practice and sometimes by doing research on other teacher education subjects. Helma indicates: “An important moment in the second or third year of my instructorship was being busy with collaborative reflection meetings of students. I could not get a grip on that, while students often indicated that they thought it useful. Through research in which I was involved by a colleague, I discovered the deeper layers in collaborative reflection meetings. This research strengthened my knowledge base as a teacher educator and led to more confidence (Meijer & Oolbekkink-Marchand, 2012).” Developing an identity as a teacher educator-research within networks

Working in communities is important for professional learning and for the development of a professional identity, in our case as a teacher educator-researcher. Although finding a fitting community is not always easy, growing into a community is important among others to learn the language of research and teacher education. In both our stories, networks play a different role. Anja participates as a teacher educator in different networks: “In 1995 I visited my first ATEE conference in Oslo and then I went to the ATEE almost every year. In 2004 I founded the RDC PDTE together with Marcel van der Klink and within that community I did my first international research that was also published. Several members of this group still play an important role in my 'research' life.” Helma is only beginning to fully participate in both nationally and internationally networks. “This also has repercussions on my practice where I now re-set up a self-study with renewed energy to gain more insight into the role of research in my educational practice.”



Davey, R. (2013). The professional identity of teacher educators: Career on the cusp? London: Routledge.

Meijer, P. C., & Oolbekkink-Marchand, H. W. (2012). Critical moments as heuristics to transform learning and teacher identity. In M. Kooy & K. van Veen, Teacher learning that matters: International perspectives (pp. 143-157). New York: Routledge.

Swennen, A., Lunenberg, M., & Korthagen, F. (2008). Preach what you teach! Teacher educators and congruent teaching. Teachers and Teaching, Theory and Practice, 14(5-6), 531-542.

Tack, H., & Vanderlinde, R. (2014). Teacher educators’ professional development: Towards a typology of teacher educators’ researcherly disposition. British Journal of Educational Studies, 62(3), 297-315.

Helma Oolbekkink-Marchand & Anja Swennen
Helma Oolbekkink-Marchand & Anja Swennen

Helma Oolbekkink-Marchand is both a Lecturer at Han University of Applied Sciences and an assistant professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen. Her research interests include teachers’ (collaborative) practitioner research, (the development of) teacher’s professional identity and agency in professional development initiatives and teacher educators’ professional learning.


Anja Swennen is teacher educator and researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her main research interest lies in the development of the profession, the autonomy and identity of teacher educators.

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