Winter Reading Project
Review of Action Research
0854048 Jeongeun Min
In 2010, at the first time I applied for TEE (Teaching English in English) researchers to understand lowest students. My topic was how lowest level student improve their decoding ability. Without any guideline, I jumped into my first action research only with my passion. Thus, methodology was not organized well. The findings were lack of supporting points. If I knew “A Short Guide to Action Research”, my paper would be better than what I did last year. This book provided me clear, specific and kind guideline about how to do an action research.
First, the book made me think about possible research questions for practicum and for my classroom. As a teacher, I face many problems in the classroom such a lack of motivation, silence, time management and so forth. These problems could become good questions for action research. For example, if demotivation is a problem, how to increase students’ motivation can be a research question. I found that brainstorming about existing problems is a starting point for an action research.
Next, I had a chance to think about how to solve the problems occurring in the classroom instead of avoiding them. In the beginning of teaching, I followed provided teacher guide that was not proven in my certain circumstances. The general guideline often didn’t fit into my students’ interest and level in the classroom. For example, the textbook was full of songs, chants and role plays. However, 6th graders didn’t enjoy them. I felt it wrong that the curriculum provided ineffective activities for 6th grade, but I often followed the curriculum without thinking other alternative ways. Through action research, I realized that action research is helpful to deal with problems and solutions.
Next, I found that a lesson plan needs to be based on evidence beyond intuition, belief or philosophy. Action research helps teacher not ignore important research results by reading articles, and the teacher can rethink whether their intuition, belief and philosophy are right or not. For example, I added sight words in the curriculum because I thought that sight words could improve students’ reading. However, I didn’t prove whether it helped students’ reading or hindered it. For another example, I believed that a group should be consisted of different levels. This is from my philosophy, but it was not proved through my own research yet. I found myself making a lesson plan based on belief rather than the result of researches. Thus, when I implement a new thing, I can observe and reflect whether a new method works or not through action research.
Moreover, I learned how to collect data: log or research journal, field notes, checklists, conferences and interview, video and audiotapes. I didn’t consider journal and field notes as methods to collect information for research papers because personal and subjective notes are not objective, thus I thought that they were not good for researches. I could break down my preconception about the methods of collecting data. I also got a piece of advice such as “stop thinking and just writing what I see.”(p. 83). In addition, charts and examples of different methods were enough clear to guide me. After I read this book, I started to write my teaching journal at school.
Last benefit of action researches is a threshold to my own thesis. Complicated statistics was one of major factors to make me give up a thesis. I was often overwhelmed by the analysis of statics such as measures of central tendency, frequency distribution, and measure of variability. If I try a little bit of those types of statics in my action research, my fear to numbers could be less than before.
In conclusion, I’m really motivated to be a teacher who studies continuously. I am not ready to write my own thesis, but I can set up my research question, make a plan, observe students, and analyze them for my better teaching. I feel like giving a try to do another small, not ambitious action research. For the past 8 years, I was a teacher who has used the given curriculum without questioning. However, since 2011, I will be a teacher who studies more effective ways through an action research. This book shows me the next step to be a professional teacher.
March 19, 2011
Summary of Johnson (2007)
A short guide to action research
When I first encountered the term “action research”, I had to go back and compare two types of researches which were qualitative and quantitative. Then I got a glimpse of idea that action research falls into the field of qualitative research. However it was when Johnson (2007) compared action researchers to Jane Goodall that the idea of action research got a lot clear to me.
There are many approaches when making educational decisions and the one that I usually follow is that of “tradition and folklore (Johnson, 2007, p. 12)” Many co-workers that I used to work with also followed the traditional way or the way that has been taught over the years in the institute simply because the curriculum had already been set up for them. Also no one actually bothered asking why or how they could make the lesson better although teachers knew that sometimes the lesson did not work with their students. The idea presented by Johnson (2007) that “the question should determine the methodology [and] the methodology should never determine the question. (p. 25)” made me to realize how inconsiderate I was to my students. Teachers need to look for and define the question for their students first then find the methodology which may solve the situation better.
Action research is the developmental process of studying a real classroom situation to learn and to make the instruction better (Johnson, 2007). Also it continually checks how the class runs throughout the school year. It can also be used to fill in the gap between educational research and teaching practice and it can also enhance teachers’ professional growth. In order to solve problems, teachers need to identify and define problems first. However teachers need to make sure not to start any action research project with an answer. Action research is not a problem solving method, but rather it is a systematic observation of a real class teaching practice. In other words it is an effective way to mirror teachers’ own teaching therefore a great way to improve their teaching method. By understanding their current teaching situation, teachers can look back and find a way to make their class more suitable for their students. Teachers need to fully understand their current classroom situation before they can make any changes to their teaching method. Action research helps teachers to notice their students deeper and to shift their teaching towards the need of the students. To do so, teachers first identify the problem and look for the cause of the problem. Then they can think about a solution and then the ways to implement it.
As stated earlier, since action research is an observation of one’s own teaching practice, there needs to be a way to keep record of one’s work effectively. Johnson (2007) suggests using a weekly planner or tally marks to look back one’s own teaching. For instance, teachers can check the number of tally marks in “the Provide Less List” and “the Provide More List (Johnson, 2007, p. 54)” and later they can modify their lesson accordingly. Another way to observe real classroom more closely is to audiotape lessons and later teachers can analysis their teaching after careful examination. Also a literature review is another form of action research since teachers can ask a question first and then look for answers in journals or in books (Johnson, 2007). Action research will help and guide teachers to become more aware of their own students therefore it can lead teachers to “become more reflective and analytical in their teaching practice (Johnson, 2007, p. 58).”
Winter Reading Project
What Is an Action Research and Why Do We Need It?
The book The Short Guide to Action Research starts by giving readers an insight into how teaching could be related to science and how teachers are natural scientists. Gallagher and Gallagher (1994) describe how teachers engage in a form of science in everyday classroom. The questions that teachers have for their students and the efforts that they make to find answers to those questions are actually a process of using science. Gallagher and Gallagher introduce 7 aspects on how teachers and scientists are similar. Teachers and scientists can be seen as similar in that they develop content expertise, detect problems or ask questions, observe, organize and classify data, measure or collect data, hypothesize or make predictions and that they both experiment in their subject fields. As for me, as an English teacher, I evaluate myself as doing well in developing content expertise and detecting problems or ask questions. However, I find myself weak in observing, organizing and classifying data, measuring or collecting data, and hypothesizing or making predictions when I encounter a problem in my classroom. Action research that Johnson (2008) introduces is what I find very essential to strengthen my weaknesses in my teaching and lead to a better teaching for my students.
Johnson (2008) guides the reader to action research by first introducing the concept of science, research and teaching. Chapter 1 of the book The Short Guide to Action Research is the part where the author explains how the readers how teaching is similar to science in that they are both the process of asking and answering questions. Quantitative and Qualitative research are introduced to explain how action research is a form of qualitative research. The concept of theory, hypothesis, and paradigm is defined and well-explained for readers in order to get them ready to go into research paradigms and the nature of reality. In chapter 2, Willis Harman (1998) describes the ontological perspectives into three ways: materialistic monism, dualism, and transcendental monism and explains that the questions that are asked and the data that are collected are related to the teachers’ orientation to these perspectives since “research is a way of seeing, presenting, and representing (re-presenting) reality” (Johnson, 2008, p. 22).
The book states that teaching is solving problems. And in this problem solving process, there are finding the problem, finding a solution, and testing the solution. In doing this, Johnson (2008) introduces two essential strategies: creative problem solving and means-end analysis. It was very interesting to find out that both problem solving strategies not only helps the teachers but also the students in solving their problems.
The actual introduction of what action research is, what its advantage is, and how you implement it in reality is being explained in detail from chapters 3. Johnson (2008) states “action research is the process of studying a real school problem and situation.” Therefore, action research is a very essential tool in enhancing teachers’ teaching practices and enhances a school’s functions. In his book, Johnson lists ten essential steps of action research: 1) identify a problem or research topic, 2) set them into a theoretical context, 3) make plan for a data collection, 4) begin to collect and analyze data, 5) allow the question or problem to change, 6) analyze and organist the data, 7) report the data, 8) make your conclusions and recommendations, 9) create a plan of action, and last 10) put your plan into action and evaluate.
Johnson (2008) explains in great detail how to implement action research in specific steps. Johnson also puts a great emphasis on the accuracy, credibility, validity, and reliability of the collection and analysis of data. He introduces triangulation as one of the method of looking at something from more than one perspective and therefore collecting more than one form of data. The information that this book provides is very helpful for teachers to follow step by step in implementing such research in their own classroom. As implied in its name, the book is a short but very efficient guide to action research for real classroom situations.
It was interesting to see the similarities between scientists and teachers regarding what they do. Gallagher and Gallagher (1994) tell that teachers employ logical elements from science in everyday classroom. Both of them need content knowledge and action research is a good way for teachers to make links between theory and practice to expand their knowledge base. Both need to identify problems and keep asking questions about the effectiveness. They observe and make meaningful reflection depending on what they monitored. After organizing and classifying data, they come to measure and collect data to make hypothesis or prediction for further research. Finally they do experiment. Teachers can try out a new technique in teaching or implement a new solution to a problem. These can explain the procedure of the action research. The difference between quantitative and qualitative research from my understanding lies in whether it manipulates the environment or it just looks at it as it is. In this respect, action research falls under the qualitative research category. To begin the action research, teacher explores the students’ learning environment to seek for problems that need to be solved for students’ better learning achievement.
The goal of action research is to understand, evaluate and find new ideas and see how they work in a real teaching context. Action research can help fill the gap between the theory that had been established from previous researchers and practice. It is also very effective way for teachers to stimulate reflective teaching and to expand teachers’ pedagogical repertoire (Johnson, 2002). Teachers are empowered when they have full responsibility in making decision with their own collected data. Students’ better performance in learning can be achieved when teachers are allowed to take risks and make changes in their classroom. This book kindly elaborates the process of action research. I learned that there are wide varieties of collecting data that can be collected such as log, field notes, checklists, conference and interviews, video and audiotapes and survey etc. Selecting a few doable methods will keep my action research focused.
Also there are different methods of analyzing data as described in the chapter nine. When analyzing, teachers need to consider three elements, 1) accuracy and credibility; 2) validity, reliability, and triangulation; and 3) inductive analysis. The data must be accurate and credible to be used to make effective changes or choices. Trustworthy research results will enable people to use the data with confidence. Also the data should be valid, and reliable. Researchers should use valid measure to assess something during the research. Reliability is also the degree to which a study or experiment can be repeated with similar result. Moreover, triangulation means collecting more than one form of data to observe more than one perspective. The third important element when analyzing is an inductive analysis, which is to look at a group of data and try to create order by organizing what is observed. After analyzing the data, teachers need to organize them so that those findings can be used and applied. They have to establish categories to organize the information. They should include important events, detailed descriptions and responses. The final step is to report the findings and plan for action. The findings that the researcher has obtained should help solve problems of classroom. Furthermore, the answer or conclusion needs to be implemented into their real teaching situation. They plan and observe what is happening after the action. Teachers can find out if the action really works. Moreover, their evaluation of the plan can be the basis of another action research question.
The potential that action research possesses is that it can promote a positive change in education as our teaching practices are evolving fast. To keep up with the ever-changing needs and expectations of our society toward education, teachers need to continue to chance and adopt pedagogical practices by implementing researches in the real teaching situation.
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