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Research critique on ‘Learning on the job’


You are provided with an article related to education. You are encouraged to reflect on the reports/articles for their plausible and coherent arguments, adequacy of evidence and representation.

Research critique on ‘Learning on the job’



The purpose of this study is to provide a thorough review and critique on the qualitative research article entitled: ‘Learning on the job- An Analysis of the Acquisition of a Teacher’s Knowledge’ and to synthesize the findings to understand and evaluate the qualitative nature of the article.

The purpose or objective of the research was specified in the abstract as to analyse the criteria used by an experienced teacher to acquire the knowledge necessary to teach.

The researcher clearly described the research design as an interpretive analytic framework and case study methodology were used in this year-long project with a midcareer high school teacher. Data were collected using a variety of ethnographic techniques including: nonparticipant observations, artifact and document analysis, stimulated recall from videotapes, and formal and informal interviews. Data analysis followed the conventions described by Glaser and Strauss(1967).

The number and types of knowledge categories were identified in the article, each with unique selection criteria. The evidence is given in the article, these knowledge forms included: class organization and operation, teaching behavior, subject matter, pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986), and external conditions.

The researcher restated the major results and conclusions in the article. These statements can be found in the abstract, for examples: Bob (the teacher) looked to his experience for those things that worked, the acquisition of instructional behavior came largely from observations of other teachers (e.g., cooperating teacher, peers) or from experience, Bob selected subject matter knowledge based upon previous knowledge, current personal interests, resource availability, and student interest.



The background information on the research problem is presented in the article. This can be proved by contemporary literature on teaching lacks substantive information on the knowledge base teachers use in their professional practice. As Shulman (1986) noted, important questions such as “Where do teacher explanations come from? How do teachers decide what to teach, how to represent it and how to deal with problems of misunderstanding?” (p. 8) have gone unanswered. There has been a growing recognition in teacher education that the understanding of the knowledge used by teachers will lead to a better understanding of pedagogical practice.

The article indicated a particular focus of study which is the knowledge that the teachers have, and how they use that knowledge in their classroom. There is a statement of the problem or a qualitative topic of study in the introduction. Specifically, the case study examines the criteria one teacher employed in acquiring the knowledge he found necessary for his professional practice. This research problem is researchable and can be investigated through the collection and analysis of data by using a variety of ethnography techniques.

Review of literature

The researcher clearly described the nature of the review of the literature which is present in the school on a daily basis for the first month and made field trips twice a week on average after that.

Major issues were identified in the review of the literature, for examples: Bob does not consider the prior knowledge of students as he constantly repeats his practices, he does not take into account what the students want or is interested to learn and Bob focused on fulfilling the requirements of parents, students and administrators. He does not have any motivation to acquire new knowledge and improve student’s learning.

The references are cited completely and accurately in the article, for example: Bob, like many teachers (Clandinin, 1985; Clandinin & Connelly, 1986), relied on practical rules and principles, routines, and habits to guide classroom operation rather than inflexible standards or absolute rules.

Most of the sources are primary such as Carter, K. (I 990). Teachers’ knowledge and learning to teach. In W. R. Houston (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (pp. 291-310). New York: Macmillan, Grossman, P. (1990). The making of a teacher: Teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press and Clandinin, D. J. (1985). Personal practical knowledge: A study of teachers’ classroom images. Curriculum Inquiry, 15, 361-395.

Most of the references cited are relevant to the problem under investigation and the researcher explained the relevancy of each reference in the article, for example: the researcher identified one of the findings, subject matter as personal understanding and meaning of subject matter plays an important role in Bob’s acquisition and use of content knowledge. The researcher uses this as the reference: Teachers in other subject areas also appear to rely on Personal understanding in selecting content (Wilson & Wineburg, 1988), which is relevant to the article.

However, the article does not show a logically flow in such a way that the references least related to the problem are discussed first and the most related references are discussed last.

This article was written in 1995 but some of the references used were written in 1967, 1975, 1980, 1983. The researcher shall used current references to support this article.


The researcher clearly described the teacher selected, Bob in terms of his years of teaching experience, his current position, responsibility and daily routine in the school. The researcher also described the method of selecting the teacher. Bob was selected because he has taught physical education for the past 14 years at Hillcrest High School and therefore his is a suitable sample for this research which aims to analyse the criteria used by an experienced teacher to acquire the knowledge necessary to teach.

The location, population, background and method of selection of the setting were clearly described in the research. The researcher selected Hillcrest High School because education was held in high esteem as evidenced by the town having one of the highest tax bases in the state. Hillcrest High School has approximately 470 students so the numbers of students are able to provide sufficient data to this study.

The other reason for the researcher to select Hillcrest High School is because of its excellent achievement in the academic. This can be proved that two years before this study, the United States Department of Education awarded this school an educational excellence award.

The design and procedures of the research are appropriate for examining the research problem. The data analysis began on the first of study and ended approximately 1 year later. The researcher collected and analysed the data concurrently in order to develop data summary themes and check the emerging themes against recurring field activities.

The instruments used in this research are appropriate for measuring the criteria used by an experienced teacher to acquire the knowledge necessary to teach. The researcher used a variety of qualitative techniques to collect and analyse the data such as: participant observation, artifact and document analyses, stimulated recall videotaped classes and both formal and informal interviews. Each instrument is described in terms of purpose, content, validity ad reliability.

Besides Bob, the researcher also interviewed Kathy and other school personnel (e.g., students, teachers, administrators) in crosschecking stories and events described by Bob. Kathy played an important role in cross checking stories and events described by Bob, in cases where discrepant information occurred, Kathy often provided valuable insights. The researcher has chosen Kathy as a cross checking person perhaps because she is also a physical education teacher who has taught in Hillcrest High School for 3 years. This strategy is used to strengthen the validity and reliability of the research.

The method used to record responses is described in the article. The researcher recorded field notes during and after observation and a summary statement was made off site after each day of data collection.

An initial draft of this report was sent for his review and comment. His comments were incorporated into subsequent drafts and used to validate the accuracy of the events and quotes reported. The findings were brought back to the case study teacher so that he could: (a) check the accuracy of the data (reliability), and (b) validate the findings of the report. This procedure was considered appropriate for establishing the validity and trustworthiness of the study’s findings.

The researcher defined his role in the study is to collect, analyse and interpret data. To insure data trustworthiness, the researcher used special strategies employed to insure data trustworthiness included triangulation of methods, member checks (particularly the use of key informants and the constant use of follow-up interviews to check consistency of responses), disconfirming case analyses (the investigation of responses and/or occurrences that were incompatible with emerging themes), and cultivating reactions from the case-study teacher to the themes, categories and events to be included in the final report.

However, there were no strategies used to minimize observer bias and observer effect in the research. The qualifications and special trainings of the observer are not described. This may affect the validity and reliability of the observation results. Was observer required to observe one behavior at a time? How were observer trained? And there is no description provided on how the observational data were analysed.

The interview procedures were not pretested and there is no description about the qualifications and special training of the interviewer.


The researcher made connection between results and the research question and the results are clearly described in the article. After the interpretive analytic framework and case study methodology were used to research the criteria used by an experienced teacher to acquire knowledge, the researcher identified that Bob acquired his knowledge from five knowledge categories:

1)    classroom organization and operation

2)    teaching behavior

3)    subject matter

4)    pedagogical-content knowledge

5)    external conditions

The researcher also described clearly his interpretation of the findings. Bob perceived the ability to organize and operate a class to be a fundamental and critical responsibility of a teacher.

The practices that defined Bob’s teaching behavior were largely composed of comfortable habits and familiar routines. Bob did not actively pursue knowledge that directly affected his instructional practices. He harbored a stronger concern for maintaining control over the collective social behavior of the students. Bob seeks curricular content that fits his teaching style. He selected new activities that fit his mode of operation than he is to look for new ways to teach old subject matter.





The data collected did not show how a teacher acquires knowledge necessary for his teaching but more to Bob’s daily practices.

The data analysis involved summarising data into themes and categories, which identified forms of knowledge as well as criteria Bob used in acquiring pedagogical knowledge. But when I review the data analysis, I found that topic was reformulated towards main issues and weaknesses of Bob’s practices in class organization and operation, teaching behavior, subject matter and pedagogical-content knowledge.

The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are not discussed in the article. The researcher did not recommend any future action.

The names of the school and participants such as Bob, Kathy were clearly stated in this study. There is no description of how ethical issues were handled.

Further recommendation

Data presentation and style of writing

The presentation of data in this article is well organized and the language used in this article is simple but convey information and ideas which could be easily understood.

Even though there is no tables or diagrams, the interpretation can be well understood with its rich, detail and relevant description.

The researcher used academic style of writing and provided evidence for his statements. The style of writing of the article by the researcher is logically flowing and well structured.

The outline format of this article is well adhered with title page, abstract, introduction, method, findings and conclusion.


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