As a qualitative research methodology, the self-study methodology has recently been extended and has been accepted as a prestigious research methodology by the academic world. This methodology helps teachers and candidate teachers to explore and analyze their practices.
In self-studies, professors and candidate professors propose a continuous inquiry of their individual practices based on reflection and determine themselves as a research topic. Through systematic data collection, researchers develop a better understanding of their own teaching practices. The researchers’ purpose is also to help readers link the study to their own worlds and imagine the context of the study in their minds and thus draw lessons from lived experiences.
Benefits of Self-Study
The conviction that professionals should be able to improve their practices through systematic research was proposed by Stenhouse in 1975:
“the most outstanding characteristic of the extended professional is the capacity for autonomous professional self-development through systematic self-study, the study of the work of other teachers and the testing of ideas through research procedures in the classroom” (1975:144).
Since then there has been a growing interest in professional research, and the development of a whole range of research approaches – for example, action research, reflective learning, pragmatic evaluation of practice and study of lessons (Boyd & White, 2017).
Characteristics of the Self-study
Self-study connects with these approaches, but is characterized by focusing on one’s own practice and one’s own role in it, and by deepening the identification of motivations, beliefs, and concerns around one aspect of the practice.
The characteristics of self-study are: the participation of critical friends; the use of theory to help gain broader perspectives on practice; and methodological rigor. Self-study aims not only to improve the quality of practice, but also to open up self-study to public debate in the academic community, contributing to the knowledge base of teacher training.
Interestingly, self-study has not been used to the same extent in Europe as in North America or Australia. The name may suggest an approach to the within oneself and one’s own concerns, rather than on the role of the teacher trainer, teacher or other professional, in practice. This understanding of the concept could lead professionals to discard this approach when choosing how they will participate in professional research.
Why choose self-study?
One of the reasons for choosing self-study as an approach to the study of practice is related to the view of the role of the professional in practice. Approaches under the umbrella of the professor’s research/self-study may have different areas of focus. These include, for example, research in which an aspect of the researcher’s practice is identified, examined, changed, and then evaluated. The goal is the practice itself.
This seems logical if the intention is to change the way in which something is carried out. So, for example, a group of colleagues could explore how feedback is given on college assignments, collect data from students and colleagues, undertake a change in light of this evidence, perhaps using audio feedback instead of written feedback, and then evaluate this new way of working through the collection of additional data.
The results could serve as a basis for feedback on the tasks in this particular program, with suggestions on how it could be transferred to other contexts. Critical action research can follow a similar research trajectory. However, it focuses on the growth and emancipation, through the development of critical understanding, of students or clients participating in research, rather than being its subjects. Self-study research focuses on professional-researcher learning.
The Wisdom of Practice
Through self-study research, the professional can develop their “wisdom of practice” or the “touch of teaching”, which is the sensitivity to act educationally in the context. Continuous professional learning of the teacher is essential because of the contextual nature of teaching, where every decision to act has to be made in relation to a wide range of considerations and in a complex context with many students.
In leadership development, and teaching could be thought of as learning leadership, a complex context requires leaders to develop their “decision-making, reflectiveness, and judgment-practical” skills. Self-study may be suitable for teachers and teacher trainers in schools or universities, or even for other professionals. The researcher should identify what he wants to change, and if it is himself as a professional, a self-study approach might be appropriate.
Characteristics of Self-Directed Students
Self-directed students have the following characteristics:
– Clear objectives are set.
– Their learning process according to their objectives and plans.
– They control their own learning process.
– They evaluate the results of their own learning.
– They are open to learning.
– They are willing to learn.
– They value learning.
– They take the initiative to learn.
Competencies to develop self-learning
Self-directed learning enables individuals to improve their self-confidence, autonomy, motivation and lifelong learning skills. It makes students active participants in the learning process and encourages them to become deep learners. However, there are several competencies that self-directed learning requires:
– Establish a close, respectful and favorable relationship to learning with students
– Establish a physically and psychologically comfortable environment, open to interaction, based on cooperation, open and safe
– Take responsibility for determining one’s learning needs
– Set goals
– Plan, execute and evaluate learning activities
– Help students self-direct their learning
– Be a facilitator and a source
– Make effective use of small group processes
– Evaluate learning processes and outcomes
Effects of self-directed learning
Self-directed learners are actively involved in the learning process and can adopt appropriate learning strategies depending on the learning environment. A technology-rich learning environment can provide students with great opportunities and skills to be self-directed in their learning.
The blended teaching context offers students opportunities to interact with instructors and classmates face-to-face through discussion and self-directed access to multimedia learning content. The self-directed aspects of learning (the choice of what, when and how long to study) have a significant impact on the effectiveness of users’ learning efforts.
When faced with uncertainties in the context of online learning,students have to adjust or formulate their own more appropriate learning strategies. Highly self-directed students are expected to engage in online learning activities more actively by asking questions and participating in discussions, so they have a greater sense of CoI than students with low self-direction. Self-directed students are also more willing to achieve learning goals.
Effects of technological readiness
Students with higher levels of technological preparation have a positive attitude towards technological means of learning and innovative communication platforms. Students with a sense of discomfort and insecurity in adopting technologies may take longer to become efficient users of online learning platforms.
The mixed learning context requires students to complete online learning tasks along with classroom learning activities. Student factors such as self-efficacy in using the computer, motivation towards t-learning are efficient to meet the prerequisites of the online course. Previous studies have evaluated students’ readiness towards specific learning technologies or platforms.
Students’ attitude towards the wide collection of new technological products includes optimism, innovation, discomfort and insecurity. Students with optimism and innovation towards learning technologies are more willing to adopt the online learning strategy than students with discomfort and insecurity.
Impacts of motivation for learning
It is believed that motivation for learning can influence student attitudes and behavior in educational settings (Fairchild et al., 2005). In the context of online learning, highly motivated students are more likely to watch videos and read online learning material compared to less motivated students. Therefore, motivation is mainly related to the effectiveness of student learning in the context of blended teaching.
Relationships between the three presences
Students who behave more socially and emotionally in mediated communication can interact with group members more effectively. This increases the cohesion of the group. Social communication can also facilitate communication between teachers, platforms and students. In interactions, students can develop critical thinking skills to deal with various types of opinions and reflect on the content of learning.
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Boyd, P. & White, E. (2017). Teacher Educator Professional Inquiry in an Age of Accountability. In: Boyd, P. & Szplit, A. (eds.) Teacher and Teacher Educator Inquiry: International Perspectives. Kraków: Attyka, 123-142.
Fairchild, A. J., Jeanne-Horst, S., Finney, S. J., & Barron, K. E. (2005). Evaluating existing and new validity evidence for the academic motivation scale. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30(3), 331e358.
Stenhouse, L. (1975). An introduction to curriculum research and development. London: Heineman.
Schuck, S. & Russell, T. (2005). Self-Study, Critical Friendship, and the Complexities of Teacher Education. Studying Teacher Education 1 (2):107-121.