Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Meeting the Needs of All Learners: Implementing Action Research

By Peter DeWitt — December 20, 2011 3 min read

Don’t keep moving forward toward the iceberg when you know it’s going to sink your ship.

This past semester I taught a graduate course in action research. Action research is completed by a classroom or general education teacher. Teachers take an issue they are having in their classroom and research methods to improve it (i.e. struggling learners, technology, behavior issues, co-teaching, homework, etc.).

Many school districts have adopted goal setting between staff and administration as a teacher evaluation tool. Goal setting is a year long method of making improvements in the classroom. It provides a focus for teachers and can be beneficial regardless of how many years a teacher has been teaching. For schools that participate in goal setting, action research is a research-based method of setting a goal for the year.

Action research can be used to work on student behavior issues as well as engagement issues teachers may be having with students. Just like when students are engaged in their own learning when subjects are student-centered, teachers are more engaged in their own learning when they choose the action research topic.

First and foremost, teachers need to identify the problem or they can identify the area that they would like to improve. It does not necessarily have to involve an issue as much as it needs to involve an area that teachers want to improve. Even the most successful practices need improvement.

Secondly, educators need to search for articles about the issue. For example, if they are trying to find the best ways to incorporate technology into the classroom they should search data bases for the most current research. The best place to start is their alma mater. After all, teachers paid all of that money to get the degree; once they graduated they became a lifelong member. Use that membership to keep current in your practice by reading educational articles.

College databases are the best place to find current research and educators can search by subject or journal. Find the ten best resources and you are on your way to improving your practice as an educator. Research based articles are a simple and effective method to add professional development to your daily life as a teacher (Every principal should get into the habit of sending their teachers articles to inspire thought-provoking conversations between colleagues).

Once teachers find the best method to improve practice they need to take the time to implement the practice in the classroom. All teaching practices need good data so it is important for teachers to begin taking anecdotal notes of their observations to see if there are changes in student behavior. In these days of data driven decision making, collecting data on action research is important. It offers a good way to practice collecting and using data.

The implementation stage of a new intervention takes a great deal of time. The old adage that it takes thirty days to change a behavior rings true when implementing action research. When implementing the change it is important to remain open to teacher biases. It is additionally important to make sure that teachers remain open to the possibility that they need interventions may not work with that particular class or grade level. The idea behind action research is to make improvements in teacher practices. If the interventions do not improve teaching practices or student engagement teachers need to stop implementing the change. Don’t keep moving forward toward the iceberg when you know it’s going to sink your ship.

What do students think?
Action research can also involve the use of student or parent surveys as well as student and parent interviews. Students and parents can offer great insight into why an idea is working or why it is not. Considering the ultimate goal is for teachers to make their classrooms student-centered, involving students in the process is an important part of the research.

Unlike graduate level research or doctoral research, action research is not harmful to students, so teachers do not need Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. However, it is always a good idea for teachers to share their plan with their direct supervisor. After reviewing all of the data that was collected in the action research project, teachers can make the final decision on the validity of the intervention that was implemented.

Ultimately, teachers want to increase student engagement whether it is through behavior modification or more engaging educational practices. Action research allows teachers the opportunity to research ways to best meet the needs of all learners within their classroom.

Follow Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Washington Data Processing Representative - (WAVA)
Tacoma, Washington, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: February 3, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read