Action Research: An Interactive Way to Make Teaching Better

When I first started taking classes toward my Masters degree at Teachers College of San Joaquin, my first professor, Dr. Joel, introduced us to Action Research.

Unfamiliar with the term, I read up and discovered that it was exactly what my Intermediate team and I had been doing since 2006.  Action Research, according to Wikipedia, ” is a research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a ‘community of practice’ to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.”

Think of it as a spiral Scientific Method.  You identify a problem, discuss it, make a plan (hypothesis) to solve the problem, try it out in class (experiment), and reflect on the results & data.  If the plan didn’t work, make a new plan and go through the steps again.  If the plan worked,  address the new problems that arise and go through the steps again. 

The idea behind Action Research is that our lessons are never perfect, never complete.  They always need reworking and tweeking and updating to make them engaging and effective for our ever-changing student population.

Action Research works very well when it comes to educational technology.  My Intermediate team came together in 2006 when we received an Enhancing Education Through Technology government grant.  Along with new technological equipment, the grant required us to have 50 hours of training for each of the two years of the grant.  Participating teachers had to attend meetings and allow classroom visits by the teacher leader (me).  After two years, our group had built up so much mutual trust through working together that we have continued the Action Research model ever since.

Now we’re working on integrating Mobi boards in our classrooms because, though we love our classroom technology, we have been tethered to the front of the class.  And mobility is key to classroom management.  There are challenges and learning curves with any new technology.  But with our team working together on the same equipment, we can overcome mutual problems by sharing our experiences, discussing potential solutions and feeling confident because our team is always there for us. 

Action Research provides the best tool for solving classroom dilemnas, builds community among team members and keeps your teaching fresh so students can stay engaged and find success.

Image from whataboutus.org.uk

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