Detached and Unsustainable:

Central Tensions in Teacher Research Capstones

and the Possibilities for Reimagined Inquiry

Ellie Fitts Fulmer and Jill Bodner

Ithaca College


With increased frequency, teacher education programs require candidates to engage in practice-based research capstones (e.g. Lattimer, 2012; Mule 2006). Yet, experience provides evidence that newly credentialed teachers regularly disregard the practice of teacher inquiry immediately after graduation, prompting the authors to ask, how can the teacher research thesis be better utilized to foster a career-long inquiry stance? This article highlights central tensions in the teacher research theses common in teacher education programs, and suggests a vision for change. Using narrative resonance (Conle, 1996), the authors articulate possibilities for transformed teacher research capstones that are rooted in practitioner inquiry. This argument connects with calls for reflective pedagogy of teacher education (Loughran, 2007), establishing quality in beginning teacher researchers’ work (DiLucchio & Leaman, 2012), and cultivating sustainable inquiry practices that teachers can easily draw upon (Beck, 2017; Massey, et al., 2009). Recommendations include, 1) grounding teacher research in a practitioner inquiry framework (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) as opposed to action research methodologies; 2) inviting practicing K-12 teacher researchers to be research guides; and 3) transforming expectations from an academia-oriented paper to participation in a network of teacher researchers. Through this reimagined practice of beginning teacher research, we suggest increased likelihood of cultivating life-long teacher researchers.



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