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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 4, January/February 2006

Teachers seeking teachers

by M. Louise Herle

Sleepless in BC looking for a rare find!

PQT, 20 something, seeks motivated, young-at-heart, fun-loving partners to share adventures in AR, should enjoy energetic conversation, talks on the beach, reflective dialogue, reading, and writing. An attractive PD opportunity for hardworking, good-humoured teachers. Looking for like-minded professionals? Call... Let’s see what happens!

Intrigued by this notice? You may wish to participate in Action Research. Action research (AR) projects with the BCTF Program for Quality Teaching (PQT) represent a growing trend in the education profession. Action research provides opportunities for teachers to direct their professional development, investigate innovative strategies to meet their needs, and develop research skills.

Originally formulated by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1947, action research is a disciplined method for intentional learning from experience. The last decade has shown a shift in educational research away from quantitative research methodology and toward qualitative social research. As educational inquiry designed and implemented by and for teachers, AR provides a framework for experiential investigations in classrooms.

Action, growth, change, and engagement in practice, implies that participants including teachers contribute to the research, investigation, or study, by being actively involved in the project. AR occurs in a cycle that has four key components: plan, act, observe, reflect (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988).

Action researchers develop a plan, the key part of which is a focused question. The following are examples of action research questions that have been addressed in BCTF projects:

  • What techniques support at-risk learners in the classroom?
  • Do students who listen to Baroque music while writing produce higher quality journal entries?
  • How can students safely and promptly arrive at school without assistance?
  • What reading instruction methods are most effective for Grade 4 boys?
  • Are students who leave the classroom during core hours for extra instruction stigmatized, and if so, how could this be reduced?
  • How can physical education be taught in ways that improve middle school girls’ self esteem?
  • How can teachers help parents support their child’s reading?
  • Do reading incentives help?
  • How can teachers support gender equity in the classroom?
  • What are effective teacher adaptations to an open-area learning environment?

Once the plan is decided, teacher-researchers act, implementing data collection techniques such as student profiles, inventory, documents, journals, questionnaires, surveys, interviews, photographic evidence, checklists, running commentary, anecdotal records, diagnostic assessment, attendance records, pre-and post-tests, standardized test scores, video and audio recording, and transcripts.

The next stage in the cycle provides the teacher-researcher an opportunity to analyze the data and observe the effects of action in context. Interpretation at this stage incorporates looking for patterns and surprises, as well as organizing the data to reveal the story. The fourth element in the cycle, reflect, prompts writing, conversation, dialogue, and sharing about research findings. AR can be presented in a variety of ways: publications, descriptive narratives, quilts, recordings, and poetry. Subsequent plans and action begin the cycle anew.

Through the Program for Quality Teaching, and many other initiatives, the BCTF has been committed to teacher professional development since 1983. The BCTF defines professional development as a process of continuous growth through involvement in programs, services, and activities designed to enable teachers, both individually and collectively, to learn and grow professionally in order to enhance teaching and learning. Professional development incorporates a wide repertoire of teacher collaboration, mentorship, action research, workshops, course work, reading, peer coaching, and reflection. (Members’ Guide to the BCTF, 2005)

Action research participants benefit from increased job satisfaction due to access to current, relevant skills and resources to perform duties, and supportive professional relationships in a collegial environment. Emphasis on the sharing of ideas results in greater respect for colleagues and each other’s abilities. Action research may well be considered one of the most rewarding teacher professional development opportunities.

For further information about Action Research, PQT training, and grants, please contact Nancy Hinds, nhinds@bctf.ca or 1-800-871-2283.

Louise Herle teaches at Davis Bay Elementary School, Sunshine Coast.

Hopkins, D. (1985). "A teacher’s guide to classroom research." Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Kemmis, S. (1982). "The action research planner." Geelong, Vic.: Deakin University Press.
Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (Eds.). (1990b). "The action research reader." Victoria: Deakin University.
Newman, Judith M. (1992). "Practice-as-Inquiry: Teachers Reflecting Critically." English Quarterly, 24 (1), 1.
North, Stephen (1987). The Practitioners. In The Making of Knowledge in Composition.

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