By: C.J. Rauch, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Graduate students learn very quickly how to perfect their elevator-pitch, the generally accessible, succinct description of their research. It is employed at conferences, social situations in college, and even family gatherings—Aunt Muriel always seems to ask, “Remind me again what exactly it is you do?” I usually say that I look at pre-service teachers’ (i.e. students studying to become teachers) epistemology (philosophy of knowledge, knowing, and learning) and beliefs about teaching. Aunt Muriel tends to respond by inquiring, “And how exactly did you decide to do that?”
My research interests grew out of my own personal background as well as prior research. In undergrad, I studied education and completed my teacher training; I then went on and taught high school social studies and history in my home state of New Jersey. There, I came to see the many different paths my colleagues took into teaching. Some, like me, studied education as part of their undergraduate degree—in programmes with a variety of sizes, structures, and emphases. Some earned a postgraduate teaching certificate. Still others entered via alternate teacher education programmes. For some, teaching was a second or third career. I began to wonder how these different experiences may have led to differences in teaching styles or educational philosophies.
As I embarked on my master’s research at the Faculty of Education, I took this interest and honed in on one particular philosophy. I was on the then-named Politics, Development, and Democratic Education MPhil route, so I was naturally curious about beliefs about democratic education. In studying pre-service teachers’ beliefs about democratic education, I stumbled upon a chapter that discussed a little bit about epistemology. It quickly led me down a rabbit-hole that would become the crux of my doctoral research.
It was not long before my readings led me to the works of William Perry, Marlene Schommer-Aikins, and Barbara Hofer and Paul Pintrich. I was fascinated! I had some exposure to political and education philosophy in undergrad, but never would have thought much epistemology at the time. I felt it was a crucial element of teacher education, but quickly came to realise that there was a significant gap in understanding teachers’ epistemological development. It is in this gap that I attempt to situate my research.
I have no idea what future research interests may crop up as I continue my academic career. I have found drawing from my experience and my past research to be particularly helpful. It keeps my work interesting to me, as well as connected to the larger corpus of work. Plus, an appreciation for the element of chance adds an element of excitement!
C.J. Rauch is a third year PhD student at the Faculty of Education researching pre-service teachers in undergraduate teacher-education programmes in the United States. He is the former president of the Jesus College MCR. You can follow him on Twitter at or read his research blog at