Rock & Levin Collaborative action research projects: Enhancing preservice teacher development in professional development schools

Rock, T. C., & Levin, B. B. (2002). Collaborative action research projects: Enhancing preservice teacher development in professional development schools. Teacher Education Quarterly, 29(1), 7-21.

Summary: This qualitative, multiple case study examined five preservice teachers and their collaborating teachers conducting collaborative action research in their yearlong internship in a professional development school context. This study found that preservice teachers focused on student concerns sooner than research may have predicted.

Research Questions: None listed, but they did state the purpose: “Our purpose is to describe how engagement in collaborative action research projects affected the professional development of five preservice teachers, each working with their on-site teacher educator (OSTE) mentor, during an internship in PDS sites” (p. 8).


Participants: 5 preservice teachers and their mentors in a yearlong internship in a PDS


Methodology: qualitative multiple case study


International: United States


Methods: pre & post individual interviews, midterm individual interview, audiotapes of planning, midterm evaluation, and final evaluation action research conferences, research/dialogue journals, action research plans, preservice teacher reflections, final action research reports, in class writings, field notes


Key Findings:


  1. “Preservice teachers in this study:

    1. clarified their personal teaching theories in a supportive, collaborative, environment,
    2. explored their sense of self as teacher within an elementary classroom context,
    3. gained awareness of their students, including knowledge of their students’ perspectives and needs within the classroom,
    4. acquired [a variety of unique knowledge about teaching and curriculum, contingent on the nature of the inquiry, and
    5. gained awareness and appreciation for the processes of inquiry, reflection, action, and change as important roles of a professional teacher” (p. 12).
  2. Through collaborative action research, the preservice teachers started focusing on students.
  3. There were inconclusive findings for understanding the relationship between collaborative action research and curriculum and teaching.
  4. Engaging in collaborative action research altered the way preservice teachers and their mentors thought about their roles and responsibilities as teachers.
  5. Engaging in collaborative action research permitted the preservice teachers to explore their understanding and images of themselves as teachers.


Additional key quotes:

  • “Yet, there is also a substantial amount of evidence to indicate that the concerns of the preservice teachers’ in this study were focused on their students’ needs earlier on than the research to date would predict” (p. 18).
  • “A rival explanation as to why these students may be focusing on student concerns this early in their preservice teacher program is that they have acquired an experience level beyond that of many preservice teachers due to the extensive number of hours of field work they have experienced through the PDS model of their teacher education program” (p. 18).
  • “However, even if this is so, collaborative action research, operating in conjunction with extensive field experiences, appears to have the potential to provide a professional development experience for preservice teachers that leads to greater understandings of their students earlier on” (p. 18).