Week 5 Action Research 5301 Part Two

At the outset of this course, I will admit I was pretty intimidated. It is one thing when “research” means going to the library or performing a query on a database and reading the findings of someone else. It is an entirely different matter when you are the one creating those findings and developing your own material that, in theory, could be published and then researched by someone else sitting in a library. However, in studying the concept(s) of action research, it became readily apparent that this “new” approach to research has far-reaching benefits. Imagine if staff development was facilitated via action research rather than something you have to sit through a few times a year? “Inservice education for school principals is often viewed by principals as something ‘done to’ them by others… A somewhat different approach…can be found in the concept of collaborative action research.” (Stevens, 2001)

As we learned more of the benefits behind action research as well as the way action research is differentiated from other types of research, I became more and more comfortable with the process we were undertaking. In my previous notions of research, which I learned fell under the categories of “process-product” (Shulman, 1986) and “qualitative,” there is a greater focus on outside practitioners, shaping the study according to a desired outcome, and/or explaining something that has already happened. (Dana, 2009) While this still has value (in most instances), it doesn’t lend itself to real, actual change. Action research, on the other hand, seems as though it were developed specifically for schools, particularly in the age of accountability and high-stakes, data-driven testing. I now know that I can leverage action research to investigate something that hasn’t happened yet, analyze data as it is happening, and be able to reflect and make changes in near real-time.

Once we were given the task of developing our own “wondering(s),” I was sure that I would struggle to develop a topic (let alone a list of topics) that would be worth researching. After all, I am only a classroom teacher! What could I possibly research that would actually mean anything? Even the book we are using assumes that you are already in administration. However, after delving a little more deeply into the concepts and principals of action research, I realized that while I may not have the leverage afforded administrators, the key to the success of the research rested in the fact that I am, in fact, a classroom teacher. Since classroom teachers are the practitioners themselves (Dana, 2009), I know that I have been given a great opportunity to make great changes that will ultimately lead to a more beneficial and relevant experience for our students.

I began discussing with my mentor about what type of research would be most appropriate and most feasible given all of the various restraints. For example, I would love to research the use of Twitter or Facebook, but would not be able to complete that research since it is blocked by our district. (Ironically, the reason it is blocked is because nobody has presented them with a scenario or set of research where it is used effectively in education. (Orbaugh, 2010)) We developed several “wonderings” that were all great ideas, but ultimately decided on one for me that would be the most relevant for my current assignment: What is the best way to implement an online learning environment with regards to three specific classroom environments (1:1 lab, 1:2 half-lab, 1:10 traditional classroom) (Garner, 2010)? Two of the other wonderings we developed may still be in effect, but not under my leadership or guidance. The first of which dealt with developing a positive relationship with community members in bringing relevant technology training to them through weekly meetings. The second wondering would investigate how technology trainings and other professional development opportunities for teachers could result in higher retention and implementation rates. These two both seemed to be geared more towards administration (according to my mentor) compared to “my” wondering and so it was decided that I would leave both of them to other administrators.

I have enjoyed the process thus far and have realized that I will be using action research for years to come, even if I don’t formally call it “research.” The process underlying action research is so beneficial and so valuable that I believe it should be utilized in a myriad of scenarios and something that all practitioners should be utilizing and implementing.

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