One of my professional learning goals this school year has been to deepen my understanding of action research by engaging in it with interested colleagues. Action research is an active learning approach undertaken by an individual or a group to improve some aspect of teaching and learning in their context. Citing Gladwell (2000), Michael Fullan (2006) argued that the role of community in school improvement initiatives is to provide a safe and structured process to challenge old beliefs and to create new ones through “purposeful interactions between and among individuals” (p. 116). We know that we learn more when we reflect on our experiences rather than going through the motions and simply moving on. Which makes action research job-embedded PD. I like the point Peter Cole (2004) makes about this kind of professional learning:
“Schools and one’s colleagues within the school provide the conditions for a more authentic learning experience and one that is more likely to result in change in classroom practice than does an experience designed for and delivered to a generic audience drawn from a wide range of school settings and contexts” (Cole. 2004, p. 7).
In other words, school-based learning that addresses contextual teaching and learning challenges can have a bigger impact than off-site PD or using outside consultants who do not address unique contextual issues.
So far we have teachers looking deeper into assessment, personalized learning, science misconceptions and student directed learning. One of our MS science teachers who is leading her own project asked if we could come up with a template to signpost the process and provide a structure to document the work with. Here’s what we came up with. Another helpful resource I have been using is Richard Sagor’s book, Guiding School Improvement with Action Research. The book offers strategies and examples that have helped with developing conceptual maps of focus areas and pointed to some different kinds of data can be collected.
So what’s next?
The plan is to share a collection of case studies and research stories for our colleagues at ASIJ, and perhaps beyond.