Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)


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The focus is on bringing about change in practice, improving student outcomes, and empowering teachers Mills, Following a cycle of inquiry and reflection, action researchers collect and analyze data related to an issue s of practice.

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By situating teachers as scholars and knowledge producers, action research fundamentally shifts the culture of contemporary school reform and offers an antidote to educational reform efforts that de-professionalize teachers Elliot, ; Kincheloe, ; McNiff, This review explores action research literature focused on changing teaching practice to answer the following:. How has change in teaching practice been conceptualized, evidenced, and analyzed in action research?

What are the key barriers affecting intentional, coordinated, and sustained change through action research? To conduct this review of the literature, I engaged in an iterative process to identify relevant studies beginning with major databases. The results contribute to the scholarship of teaching, especially with regard to improving pedagogical content knowledge PCK , integrating disciplinary inquiry into instruction, and engaging teachers and students in critical pedagogy.

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Collectively these findings require us to reconsider the manner in which we position teachers as learners and make connections between research and practice. This review is premised on the notion that changing teaching practice is connected to understanding how teachers learn. From the process-product perspective, teacher learning involves changing teacher actions, independent of the context of the classroom.

Clark et al. Here teacher learning is measured based on the extent to which teachers demonstrate fidelity to a particular model of pedagogy. PCK includes knowledge of subject matter and curriculum, knowledge of students, and pedagogical knowledge. From this perspective, for teachers to learn, they must have authentic, prolonged, and sustained experiences that connect to their everyday work. As teachers translate content knowledge through the filter of their knowledge of learners and the educational context in which they practice, what emerges is their knowledge of teaching.

Often this approach focuses on understanding how communities of teachers negotiate change, including changes to community norms, identities and roles, and teaching strategies. Although the cognitive and situative perspectives align most closely with action research, they nonetheless situate teachers in traditional roles, outside of the research endeavor. Action research represents a fourth perspective on teacher learning — teaching as inquiry. As the teacher becomes situated as a learner, the processes of learning and teaching cannot be separated.

The epistemology of action research is one of knowledge in action, and the emphasis is on change through action Hendricks, ; McNiff, Theory and practice are not separated in action research—theory emerges from systematic and intentional reflection on practice Loughran, Since the emphasis is on change, the inquiry is generative.

The theories of action or theories in action that emerge from action research not only describe but also bring about change in pedagogy and teaching practice. By engaging in systematic and intentional inquiry, teacher action researchers theorize and act to improve teaching with greater mindfulness or cognition about the impact those practices have on students. Nonetheless there is common ground among the approaches when it comes to changing teaching practice.

Teachers understand that teaching is complex and that it cannot be divided into practical and critical concerns. These concerns are revealed through a systematic process of data collection and analysis focused on changing teaching. Given the marked differences between contemporary paradigms of education research and teacher learning, action research methodology provides a fourth, distinct approach to conceptualizing teacher learning through inquiry.


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The analysis of action research literature within the fields of ELA, mathematics, science, and social studies reveals a common theme toward improving subject matter teaching practice through inquiry. To improve teacher learning and PCK, action research has been integrated into professional learning programs for experienced and preservice teachers across the subject areas.

The result has been integrating theory into practice and developing theory through practice. These action research studies offer new insights about practical pedagogical experience through critical interpretation of practice van Manen, They focus on integrating discipline-specific pedagogies and, in some cases, more culturally relevant or critical pedagogies to improve teaching. Most of the studies draw on social science or ethnographic methods to collect evidence to describe and analyze changes in teaching practice.

Humanistic Research in Self-Study: A History of Transformation*

Across the studies, the findings and the theories that emerged to describe those findings became an integral part of practice for the action researchers. Collaborative approaches appear to be most effective at supporting teachers in changing teaching practice. Of particular importance is the shift toward viewing teaching as a form of inquiry. Within the ELA field, there is a marked emphasis on challenging traditional modes of education research by bridging theory and practice through action research Wittrock, Here it is assumed that teachers have access to important insider knowledge Athanases, Relevant studies cover a range of topics relevant to the discipline.

As a result, much of the action research effort within the field has focused on impacting teacher PCK, especially as part of university-school partnerships that facilitate the creation of communities of inquiry. Action research conducted by preservice and experienced English teachers focuses on changing the teaching of reading and writing and emphasizes the importance of understanding the experiences of students as a basis for improving teaching e. Based on her analysis of action research data, Gallas described changing her teaching to focus more on student imagination, storytelling, and comprehension.

Similarly, Lee integrated new strategies based on her findings to teach literacy skills and writing to better match the experiences of her students. Douillard revised her writing assessments to provide her students with clear prompts and more detailed rubrics to capture more nuance in student writing. Here the reports described how teaching changed as a result of the action research and provided insight about pedagogical strategies that are effective with students.

By becoming students of their students, these action researchers became better teachers. In some cases, improved mindfulness meant addressing misperceptions about students. Ballenger , documented how her action research in a preschool classroom led her to change her preconceptions about early literacy practices and, in turn, shift her teaching. Hankins came to a similar conclusion in her reflection of her experiences as a second-grade teacher, writing that action research enabled her to not only listen but also hear her students.

Meta-analyses of action research conducted in ELA classrooms suggest that engaging in systematic and intentional reflection about practice improves teacher PCK and positively affects student learning outcomes.

Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment

Pella followed five teachers over 3 years and nine cycles of lesson study. She found that the teacher action researchers developed more sophisticated pedagogical reasoning and improved their teaching of persuasive writing. Limbrick, Buchanan, Goodwin, and Schwarcz collected data over a 2-year period to understand the experiences of 20 elementary teachers engaged in action research.

For instance, Hillocks required preservice teachers to prepare, test, reflect on, and refine teaching strategies for narrative writing. As a result, they appeared to internalize the process of systematic reflection as an integral part of teaching writing. Again the theme of mindfulness appears in the work, although the intentionality is much more critically oriented.

She adapted her curriculum and teaching to the needs of her students by providing explicit directions to support their engagement in classroom dialogue. It appears that critical action research projects arose from practical concerns such as student engagement. Perminder, a fourth-grade teacher, participated in a Canada-wide action research project focused on developing multiliteracies pedagogy Giampapa, to improve student achievement.

As these action researchers changed their teaching practice they found evidence of a positive impact on student outcomes. Within ELA classrooms, teachers also use participatory action research PAR to engage students actively in interrogating critical issues. As a result of their inquiry, the girls published a booklet on the subject. Sturk engaged her students in a PAR project that focused on caring for senior citizens in their community. Their work gained attention from community members and, as a result of their experiences, students became more politically active.

Action research has been a major precept of the National Writing Project NWP , enabling widespread participation of teachers from diverse contexts. It originated in with the Bay Area Writing Project as a university-school partnership.


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  6. From its inception the NWP has taken an explicit equity stance that is reflected in the work of affiliated projects. Over an 8-year period the Pathways Project included 55 teacher action researchers focused on ensuring English language learners developed the necessary academic language to be successful in school.

    The M-CLASS project created a national network of action researchers focused on literacy and multicultural education in urban schools. It included a university-based partnership that provided support for school-based action researchers. The project also relied on site directors affiliated with the NWP in each city. According to Freedman, Simons, Kalnin, Casereno, and the M-Class Teams , a major goal for the action researchers was to collect data based on practice and to use the data to provide narratives of successful strategies for teaching literacy.

    From this work emerged new understandings about strategies for teaching literacy, particularly in urban schools. As teacher action researchers they developed new understandings and beliefs about the power of connecting school and home communities. Across the projects the authors provided evidence of the positive impacts of participating in action research, including positive impacts on ELA teacher professional identities and improving teaching of ELA in diverse educational environments.

    Teachers as researchers

    For the teacher action researchers, collaboration provided an opportunity to study teaching practice more systematically. Stock credited her participation in an informal group of action researchers with colleagues from Saginaw schools and the University of Michigan as key to enabling her analysis of data. Notable within the field are university-based collaborative action research projects that have engaged in a range of approaches to scaffolding inquiry as part of mathematics teacher professional learning.

    Through the process of conducting an action research study in mathematics classrooms, teachers become learners. For example, an action researcher reported,. I have learned and will continue to learn in my classroom. There has been a paradigm shift in my thinking regarding what goes on with research and with students and how I can use research ideas to help my students. Kyei-Blankson, , p. To monitor the impact of her changes in teaching, she collected data over a course of a unit on teaching exponents and monitored student discourse as they developed arguments for their mathematical problem solving.

    She found that her students were able to develop both skills and content knowledge about exponents as well as develop fairly sophisticated disciplinary understanding about mathematical reasoning. In these instances, the action researchers changed their teaching practices to improve student outcomes relevant to specific mathematics learning outcomes.

    This learning is evident in methods course work that engaged preservice mathematics teachers in reflective inquiry about their practice of using inquiry. For example, Betts, McLarty, and Dickson reported on their project to study the integration of inquiry into math education through the 4D cycle planning model. As a result of their inquiries, both the teacher educators and preservice teachers developed more nuanced understanding of the value of inquiry and the best approaches for integrating it into mathematics instruction. As a result of her inquiry, her students demonstrated new understandings about research, mathematics concepts, and social justice issues.

    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment by Joe L. Kincheloe

    She concluded that the process of engaging students as researchers necessitated a shift toward more democratic ways of interacting within the classroom. Large-scale action research projects that included multiple mathematics teachers engaged in collaborative inquiry provided further evidence of the manner in which action research can shift PCK. In these studies, new strategies or tools for teaching were introduced, most of which were supported by federal funding.

    When comparing across these projects, there are examples of both tight and loose control over the direction of the action research. In several of the projects the university-based partners facilitated the action research of participating teachers by introducing tightly scaffolded procedures for conducting the inquiry. Similarly, Attorps and Kellner described a school-university partnership designed to improve student understanding of key math concepts.

    They introduced pedagogical and professional-experience repertoires linked to content representation.

    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)
    Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library) Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment (Teachers Library)

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