Research attitudes among pre-service teachers: unexpected outcomes emerging from a natural experiment

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Purpose: The study assesses pre-service teachers' attitudes, confidence in research and intentions to use research by comparing the effectiveness of practical versus theoretical training in research methods courses. Design/methodology/approach: This natural experiment examines the impact of the adaptations made to a research methods course for 848 pre-service teachers, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants were naturally divided into two cohorts, each attending either the applied version, which required the completion of a whole research study, or the theoretical version, which did not require data collection and analyses. The data were collected through three questionnaires measuring attitudes, confidence and intentions toward research. Findings: Inferential statistics revealed that pre-service teachers in the theoretical course (1) had more positive attitudes toward research and less anxiety, (2) had more intentions to integrate research in their daily practice and (3) had more confidence in engaging in educational research, compared to the pre-service teachers who completed the applied version of the course. Originality/value: This study uniquely capitalizes on course adaptations, imposed due to the pandemic, to compare attitudes toward research. This is an ideal comparison because comparing attitudes of participants from different contexts involves many confounding variables. The study’s significance is amplified as, it not only elucidates the variances in attitudes, but also underscores the intricate relationship these attitudes share with the design of research courses. The insights yielded by this study offer substantial potential for reshaping pedagogical strategies in research methods instruction, thereby serving as a cornerstone for future educational innovations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Experimental study
  • Pre-service teachers
  • Research attitudes
  • Research confidence
  • Research literacy


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