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 to discover and implement what was. Since then, as a K-1 teacher, I’ve routinely used research 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’—practice. In other words, you’re not dependent upon an outside “expert“ for research; you do it all in-house.
Many already-overburdened teachers 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 helpful examination of my teaching practices.
The goal is to investigate, develop, and implement effective practices in the classroom. 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 a conference or workshop that may not match my needs. Because teacher research 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.
A version of this article appeared in the October 25, 2007 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook as Best Practices: Researchers in the Classroom