Teacher candidates completing their senior year student teaching practicum as part of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University are expected to graduate as professional, high-quality teachers who are classroom-ready and dedicated to the profession. One lacking component of the program is the opportunity for teacher candidates to have personalized learning experiences that develop professional teacher identity in addition to the development of enhanced teaching skills. To address this, an intervention of an Action Research Project (ARP) was added to the final semester of the student teaching practicum. The goal of the project was to increase professional teacher identity, which would lead to increased teaching practices and a more favorable outlook on real-world problem solving in teaching elementary students.
This mixed methods action research study included data collection methods to measure how integrating action research into a cohort-based student teaching experience improved teacher candidates’ teaching practices, how it affected their professional teacher identity and how they perceived the project contributed to the formation of their professional teacher identity. Frameworks that guided the study included principles from the Theory of Self-Organized Learning and Social Identity Theory.
The participants of the study were seven teacher candidates completing their student teaching experience in an Arizona school district. Data gathered included teacher evaluation scores, results from a “Teacher Candidate Experience Questionnaire,” narratives collected from Teacher Learning Conversations and written responses on a Final Reflection.
Results suggested that teacher candidates’ teaching scores either slightly improved or stayed the same following the intervention. Professional teacher identity increased through the integration of the project, while student identity decreased. Through narratives collected from the participants, observations of other teachers and classrooms emerged as the most impactful component of the intervention. Participants perceived that observations contributed to their growth as teachers by providing exposure to more diverse situations, prompting them to feel engaged and inspired, encouraging high expectations and fostering ways for them to make personal connections. Observing in other classrooms did not always provide the examples and structures the participants had hoped for, yet this disappointment also added value to their growth as teachers.