Clift & Brady Review of Research on Methods Courses and Field Experiences

Clift, R. T., & Brady, P. (2005). Research on methods courses and field experiences. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education, pp. 309-424.

Summary: These authors examined studies from 1995-2001 from peer-reviewed journals. Those journals included: Action in Teacher Education, Curriculum Inquiry, International Journal of Science Education, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Journal of Education for Teaching, Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Journal of Research and Development in Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Journal of Teacher Education, Research in the Teaching of English, School Science and Mathematics, Science Education, Teaching and Teacher Education, The Teacher Educator, and Theory and Research in Social Education. They found that many of the studies were atheoretical. They called for more description in studies regarding methodology, method, and data analysis. Moreover, they felt that the research is dominated by a white male, university perspective; therefore, they called for research from multiple perspectives. They found that many of the studies did not disclose the relationships in the research and therefore did not recognize the power dynamics present in research. They called for this kind of disclosure in future research. They also recommend funding to support large scale, longitudinal research studies that would include both insider and outsider researchers. They claim that research in teacher education is progressing, but that it has a long way to go.

The main questions they addressed:

  1. “Who is conducting research on or within methods courses, field experiences, and student teaching? How was the research designed? What claims of impact were made?
  2. What are the contributions and the limitations of this research, within and across content areas?
  3. What does this research suggest for future research agendas? (p. 311).”


Research on Methods Courses and Field Experiences 1995-2001

  • Common nomenclature in the studies existed. “The authors who research we included often assumed common agreement on definitions of terms such as methods course, methods instructor, early field experience, student teaching, student teachers, intern, cooperating teacher, and supervisor (p. 312).”
  • They found that studies in field experiences and supervision showed that evaluation of preservice teachers in the student teaching placement can be a collaborative effort between the supervisor and the cooperating teacher. They say, “The evaluation of student teachers is sometimes a joint effort between the supervisor (a university representative) and the cooperating teacher (the teacher to whose classroom a preservice teacher, referred to as student teacher or intern, is assigned with the goal of assuming a major responsibility for designing, implementing, and evaluating children’s or adolescents’ learning (p. 313).”
  • “The supervisor is seldom the methods instructor and may or may not know what occurred in the methods course (p. 313).”
  • They then examined the research in the content areas of methods coursework.

Selected Research on Professional Development Schools and Supervision

  • They found 29 studies were published in their reviewed journals in the six-year span between 1995-2001 under this category of PDS and general supervision.
  • What Impacts Do Supervision and Professional Development School Settings Have on Preservice Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices?
  • What Is the Impact of a Professional Development School on University-Based Faculty?

    • “Finally, the studies on supervision addressed the importance of relationships among institutions and role groups outside PDS settings (p. 328).”
    • The studies in supervision seem to talk about the role of supervisor and not the function of supervision. (My words and assessment from reading the studies).
    • Contributions and Limitations

      • “These studies are largely atheoretical, and most of the research was done by university-based faculty who were stakeholders in the PDS they studied (p. 329).”
      • “Detailed case studies of prospective teachers’ practice and beliefs in PDS settings or in studies of general supervision were not as prevalent as those in the content areas (p. 329).”
      • “Surveys and interviews were the dominant methods used to collect information about perceptions of participants, and most data are limited to perceptual outcomes  (p. 329).”
      • Research on supervision has decreased since the last review in 1996.
      • “We have no insight into how PDS environments impact supervisors (p. 329).”

Across the Studies

  • “Research within these contexts has the potential for encouraging collaborative reflective practice – or for harming the fragile partnership between educators not accustomed to public self-examination or professional debate surrounding practice (p. 330).”


  • “We also argue for funding for teams of researchers – possibly located in centers that cross university, school district, and other organizational lines (p. 335).”