Teacher Educators as Agents of Change? A Critical Realist Study of a Group of Teacher Educators in a Kenyan University

Stutchbury, Kristina (2019). Teacher Educators as Agents of Change? A Critical Realist Study of a Group of Teacher Educators in a Kenyan University. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000105cd


This study focuses on the professional identity of a group of teacher educators in a Kenyan university. In order to improve student outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, the quality of teaching and therefore the quality of teacher education (TE) needs to improve. Policy aspirations across the region call for a greater focus on the teaching and learning of skills, attitudes and values, with many making specific reference to learner-centred education (LCE); teachers need to change their practice, which means that teacher educators need to change as well. The study concludes that these pedagogic changes require a public consensus around the nature of knowledge about teaching, alongside conscious efforts to create opportunities for collaboration amongst teacher educators.

The context for the study is the Teacher Education in sub Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme of activities, run by The Open University alongside African partners, designed to support improvements in teaching and in teacher education. At the heart of the programme is a bank of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Experience gathered over the last ten years, suggests that achieving pedagogic change in teacher education is challenging; many will mediate the OERs for teachers, but do not see them as being relevant to their own practice. This study set about to determine why this is the case.

Working within a critical realist framework, the perceived agency of five teacher educators was investigated, alongside the nature of the social structures in the institution in which they work and the way in which the structures interact to constrain and empower agency, with respect to pedagogic change.

Analysis of data from documents, observations and interviews revealed a number of disconnections between theory and practice, and led to the identification for two underlying ‘causal mechanisms’ concerning the nature of knowledge about teaching and the importance of collaborative spaces. TESSA is identified as a causal mechanism that has not been fully activated in this institution. This has highlighted ways in which we can work more effectively with this professional group. The study has also demonstrated that critical realism can provide a robust theoretical framework for small-scale qualitative research.

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