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Making Action Research Work For You
An educational researcher friend of mine recently asked me, “Do you do Action Research in your classroom?” She was beginning a research project about teachers doing action research in their classrooms and wanted to get a man-on-the-street opinion from a current classroom teacher. My answer was this: I am not sure I know how to teach without doing action research.
Get to Know Your Class to Improve Performance
This year, I am teaching kindergarten (for the first time!) with 19 delightful children. My room is full of English Language Learners and children with a variety of learning styles and ability levels. I know the content and curriculum.I know the learning objectives, the district and state goals and objectives, and the grade level expectations. I know the best practices and I know the components of successful classroom management. But until I know the children, I don’t really know anything.
Action research permeates my lesson planning and daily schedule. To me, action research means that I am willing to do whatever it takes to help these children succeed in my classroom today.
Do Your Own Research
Action research can be defined as active data collection and reflection to solve a problem in a community. In a classroom community, action research is often used by teachers to improve student performance. It is the process of asking yourself as the teacher these three things:
1. What is going on here?
2. What can I do to improve it?
3. How will I know when I have done it?
The first step in effective action research is to gather data and define the problem. The data in classroom action research is often centered around students’ personalities, learning styles and needs. An essential aspect of action research in a classroom setting is discovering who your students are both as learners and as individuals. Without knowing who the classroom is comprised of, it is impossible to affect change.
There is an old joke among educators about how frustrating it is to spend the summer preparing the best, most wonderful effective lesson plans, and then in the fall, the wrong kids show up! Using action research as an approach to teaching and learning prevents that kind of disappointment.
The second step in action research is to take action. Try something.Implement a new procedure or try a new approach. Change the sequence of instruction or shake up your delivery. Try anything that may work even if you tried it before and it didn’t work.Every new group of students bring a new dynamic. Lessons or techniques that bombed in the past may be just the thing you need to reach this group.
The third step is to look at your data and determine if there has been a change. If the action you took doesn’t affect the change you were looking for, then you have at least found one way that you can be certain doesn’t work. But remember, you only know it doesn’t work this year with these students. Action research is the ongoing search for tools to make your classroom work. As you know, the only constant in education is change. What works today may not work next year, but that doesn't mean it is not worth doing right now. The one size fits all, no one left behind approach is one action that has proven never to work for every child. Keep changing, keep improving, keep searching.
Action research is an essential classroom tool that allows you to implement instruction effectively. With action research as an approach, your year will go more smoothly, and your students will make more progress. Focus on who they are, find out what they need, and then find a way to give it to them.