Fairfax County Public Schools
Falls Church, Virginia
I’m passionate about teacher research. And here’s why: Five years ago, when my students and I were unhappy with a writing-instruction method I’d been using, teacher research helped me uncover what was not working, as well as discover and implement what was. Since then, as a K-1 teacher, I’ve routinely used TR to help me “see what I would otherwise not see,” as a colleague once put it.
Teacher research is a voluntary but systematic means of gathering data, observing, and surveying students for results that can be used to improve your own—and your colleagues’—teaching. In other words, you’re not dependent upon an “expert” outsider for research; you do it all in-house.
Many teachers—already overburdened with accountability requirements and the day-to-day pressures of running a classroom—may question whether they have the time to become researchers. But the observations and documentation I’d normally collect now serve as the data sources for a focused examination of my teaching practices.
The goal here is to investigate, develop, and implement high-quality practices in actual classrooms. And that fits perfectly with the National Staff Development Council’s definition of high-quality professional development: It’s ongoing, data-driven, and job-embedded.
Teacher research gives me ownership of my professional growth. I don’t need to wait for conference opportunities or district-sponsored workshops that may not match my needs. Because TR involves reflecting upon one’s practice, it allows me to analyze and improve my teaching all year long.
As a result, I’ve improved in all areas of the elementary curriculum. And, every day, I expand the learning opportunities for my students. That’s real empowerment.
To learn more about teacher research, visit: www.gse.gmu.edu/research/tr/
A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Professional Growth