Qualitative action research provides teachers the opportunity to progressively develop and improve professional practice. The qualitative action researcher analyzes their current practice and identifies areas in need of change or support. The personal, professional and community impacts of action research will enhance the success of both the teacher and students.
Qualitative Action Research
The cyclic process of action research requires in-depth reflection of classroom practice. Action research in the classroom involves identifying a problem, researching alternatives, implementing solutions and continuously evaluating the effectiveness of teaching practice. With observation and reflection, the teacher identifies an issue or problem in their teaching practice. Throughout the process, the teacher identifies solutions conducting research or direct questioning, interviewing or surveying of their students and colleagues. When a solution is developed, the teacher implements the action into their practice following up with evaluation, reflection and adjustment.
Action research allows teachers to reflect on their profession. Teachers solve problems in their classroom and implement new teaching strategies. Personalized solutions to classroom issues are developed and refined to suit the needs of both the teacher and the students. In addition, the process of action research provides inherent ongoing professional development and an increase in personal confidence. For example, a teacher may have a parent or student complain of disruptive student behaviors in the classroom that are effecting the learning environment. The teacher responds by focusing on improving classroom behavior through the action research process. She will identify student behavior issues by recording specific student behavior problems for a given period of time. The teacher interviews colleagues and conducts online research to identify new methods of classroom management based on the behaviors observed in the classroom. As a result of the action research, the teacher will gain valuable insight into the cause of the behavior problems and will feel more confident in their ability to control the classroom environment.
Teachers who actively engage in reflecting on their practice improve student achievement. While conducting action research, teachers involve their students in the process of identifying the causes of problems and brainstorming solutions. Involving the students in the process makes them feel more invested in the solution. As a result, the students and teacher develop a strong rapport and mutual respect, achieve success in the classroom and enhance student achievement. For instance, the teacher striving to improve classroom behavior will survey their students regarding what behaviors they find both positive and negative. The teacher may conduct an academic peace circle to help students share their thoughts or they may choose to give a paper and pencil survey to individual students to help identify the behavior issues that most affect the students. Students may also provide ideas for possible solutions. This engagement and conversation about the problem will give the students a sense of ownership of the behaviors and will help them understand the need for change.
Impacts on Professional Community
While conducting action research, teachers solicit the advice of their colleagues and share successes or failures. This increased professional sharing will give teachers the confidence to speak up in meetings and conferences improving the professional community’s productivity. In addition, as practice improves in one classroom, the effect will spread throughout the school with the improvement of student behavior and achievement. For example, the teacher conducting action research on improving student behavior will benefit from sharing concerns and ideas with colleagues. The teacher may seek to have colleagues observe her classroom to help identify issues. In return, colleagues will provide valuable insight into the positive and negative observations they made and will offer ideas for improving the behaviors.
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