Innovation in Preservice Teacher Preparation: Undergraduate Research in Special Education


  • Kymberly Harris Georgia Southern University
  • Meca Williams-Johnson Georgia Southern University
  • Dana Sparkman Capella University


undergraduate research,


Teacher preparation programs emphasize the connection between student outcomes in achievement and behavior, but the framework of teachers as researchers is rarely presented as a foundational basis of good instruction.  Teachers are aware of the need to consider scores and trends and alter their instruction based on the response of the students to their teaching, but the techniques involved are not explicitly taught as research methods in most preparation programs.

The initial purpose of including a research course in the undergraduate program of study was to provide preservice teachers with research skills to enhance their instruction. The long term goal is to provide the preservice teachers with the tools and techniques whereby they are encouraged to critically reflect on their own assumptions about the role of teachers. Through the implementation of the current research course which is included in their program of study, students examine ways teachers use single-subject design in the classroom as part of their daily routine in teaching and managing their classroom.  Encouraging preservice teachers to learn formal research methods not only prepares them for their classrooms but also serves as a introduction to graduate-level expectations. This essay explores preservice teachers’ views on the value of learning research methods as a transformative event in their understanding of what teachers can do with research in their classroom.

Author Biographies

Kymberly Harris, Georgia Southern University

Department of Elementary and Special Education, Associate Professor

Meca Williams-Johnson, Georgia Southern University

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, & Reading


Brakke, D.F., Crowe, M.L., & Karukstis, K.K. (2009). Perspective: Reasons deans and provosts (and presidents) should value, support and encourage undergraduate research. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 30, 10.

Brindley, R. & Crocco, C. (2010). Empowering the voice of the teacher researcher: Achieving success through a culture of inquiry. Rowman & Littlefield Education: United Kingdom.

Buehl, M. M., & Beck, J. S. (2015). The relationship between teachers’ beliefs and teachers’ practices. International handbook of research on teachers’ beliefs, 66-84.

Bullock, S. (2009). Learning to think like a teacher educator: Making the substantive and syntactic structures of teaching explicit through self-study. Teachers and Teaching, 15, 291–304.

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. (2003). Putting the critical back into critical pedagogy: A commentary on the path of dissent. Journal of Transformative Education, 1(2), 141-149.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2016). Research on teaching and teacher education and its influence on policy and practice. Educational Researcher, 45(2), 83-91.

DeVore, S., & Munk, D. (2015). Undergraduate research in teacher education: A rationale for broader engagement. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 35(4), 12-17.

Hatch, T., Eiler-White, D., & Faigenbaum, D. (2005). Expertise, credibility, and influence: How teachers can influence policy, advance research, and improve performance. Teachers College Record, 107(5), 1004–1035.

Hollingsworth, S. (1995). Teachers as researchers. In L. W. Anderson (Ed.), International encyclopedia of teaching and teacher education (2nd ed., pp.16–19). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ishiyama, J. (2002). Does early participation in undergraduate research benefit social science and humanities students? College Student Journal, 36(3), 380-386.

Kane, R. (2007). From naive practitioner to teacher educator and researcher: Constructing a personal pedagogy of teacher education. In T. Russell, & J. Loughran (Eds.), Enacting a pedagogy of teacher education: Values, relationships and practices (pp. 6–76). London: Routledge.

Kosnik, C. (2005). No teacher educator left behind: The impact of US policies and trends on my work as a researcher and teacher educator. Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, 1, 209–223.

Kasworm, C. E., & Bowles, T. A. (2012). Fostering transformative learning online. In E.W. Taylor and P. Cranton’s Handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 388-407). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lassonde, C. (2008). Looking “beneath the surface”: Authenticating research and inquiry for undergraduate teacher candidates. Teacher Education and Practice, 21(1), 33-46.

Levy, B.L., Thomas, E.E., Drago, D., & Rex, L.A. (2013). Examining studies of inquiry-based learning in three fields of education: Sparking generative conversation. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 387-408.

Loughran, J. J., Hamilton, M. L., LaBoskey, V. K., & Russell, T. (Eds.) (2004). International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

Marin, K. (2014). Becoming a teacher educator: A self-study of the use of inquiry in a mathematics methods course. Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, 10, 20–35.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In Mezirow, J. & Associates (eds.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress, San Francisco: Jossey-Boss.

Mezirow, J., Taylor, E. W., & Associates (Eds.) (2010) Transformative learning in practice: Insights from community, workplace, and higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Murray, J.L., Naimoli, P.H., Kagan, R. S., & Snider, B.R. (2004).

Reflections of the use of undergraduate research to support student affairs assessment. Journal of College Student Development, 45(2), 243-252.

Rhodes, 2013. The transformation of educational practitioners into educational researchers: A view through a different lens. International Studies in Educational Administration, 41(3), 3-18.

Taylor, E. (2000). Fostering Mezirow’s transformative learning theory in the adult education classroom: A critical review. The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 14(2), 1-28.

Vittek, J.E. (2015). Promoting special educator teacher retention: A critical review of the literature. Sage Open DOI: 10.1177/2158244015589994