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Editorial: Trainee teachers and educational research - an inevitable combination

I would like to welcome readers to the Journal of Trainee Teacher Educational Research ('JoTTER'): an on-line, open access, journal reporting working carried out by graduate students as part of their professional placements on courses of initial teacher education.

The publication of the journal might immediately raise two questions:

  1. Given the proliferation of journals for teachers and other educational professionals to consider: do we really need yet another new journal?
  2. Given the pressures of preparing to be a classroom teacher, and the limited amount of time available on a one year course such as the PGCE (Post-graduate Certificate in Education), is it reasonable to invite trainee teachers (pre-service teachers, beginning teachers, or whatever term is preferred) to write for publication alongside all the other demands placed upon them?

Postgraduates developing professional (research) skills

In explaining why the answer to both questions is 'yes', it is helpful to first consider the second question, and in particular explain the nature of the papers presented in this volume. The papers published here represent work that students have undertaken as part of their PGCE course. During their major professional placement in partner schools students undertaking the secondary PGCE at Cambridge (and all the papers in this first volume were submitted by those who trained for secondary phase school teaching) plan, carry out, and report a small scale classroom based research project. The report comprises an c.8000 word account that sets out the conceptual background of the focal topic; presents a focus of interest/research questions; justifies a research approach; and reports the analysis of data collected and conclusions drawn. As the PGCE is a post-graduate qualification, all the students are expected to engage with the research process and the development of new knowledge in their discipline (i.e. education) at Master's level. This is something taken very seriously within the teaching team at Cambridge: to the extent that PGCE teaching staff have written two books especially designed to support new teachers learning about research that has a special focus on the work of the classroom teacher: an introductory account aimed at PGCE students (Taber, 2007) and a more comprehensive text to support those progressing to complete a Master's thesis (Wilson, 2009).

As well as ensuring academic quality, this also provides these new teachers with the intellectual and practical skills needed to enter teaching as full professionals: i.e. as someone able to identify issues in practice where development is indicated, and then investigate (both through reading and action) and evaluate potential responses to improve practice.

The outcome of this rigorous introduction to classroom research is a set of studies of high quality, and often representing much of potential interest to other educational professionals. However once their assignments are marked and the course completed, most of the PGCE graduates are (naturally enough) heavily focused on preparing for their first teaching post. Whilst many of the studies would be suitable for reworking for professional journals, this is seldom a high priority on becoming a newly qualified teacher with new professional responsibilities.

Celebrating and sharing professional knowledge

JoTTER has been developed to provide a potential outlet for this work, to not only recognise the achievement of students, but also to make interesting and insightful studies available to the wider educational community. The journal is peer-reviewed, but as all submissions are based on assignments already examined for the PGCE, the intention is for such peer-reviewing to be primarily concerned with helping authors give their work polish and finesse, rather than asking for major re-writes or further empirical work. Reviewers have been conscientious in suggesting how work could have been improved (which provides valuable feedback to authors): but our aim in JoTTER is to showcase the level of work possible in the context of a trainee teacher's professional school placement. Published papers may be tidied, and streamlined (e.g. to remove any material allowing schools, teachers, or individual pupils to be identified) versions of student assignments: but they are substantially the work submitted on the course.

So, to summarise, PGCE students are already required to produce classroom research as a requirement of their preparation to become fully engaged professional teachers, so in asking them to consider submitting work to JoTTER we are simply suggesting they share their work with peers; and JoTTER provides the mechanism for facilitating the sharing of these reflective accounts of classroom enquiry with the wider educational community. I hope you will agree that these papers are both of intrinsic interest, and a testament to what trainee teachers can achieve when asked to consider their teaching through the lens of classroom enquiry.

Keith S Taber
Cambridge, 2010


Taber, K. S. (2007) Classroom-based Research and Evidence-based Practice: A Guide for Teachers, London: Sage Publications.

Wilson, E. (2009) School-based Research: A Guide for Education Students. London: Sage Publications.