What is action research?
As an aspiring administrator, I had no idea what it meant when my principal said to base my professional development on action research. I had no idea as to what it even entailed.
I envisioned researchers with lab coats and paperwork. Where was I suppose to begin my path to action research? How would it benefit me professionally within my classroom?
I started off by reading a few chapters in the book Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators. I was wowed at what I learned and how it can truly benefit my classroom instruction, my students, and my own professional growth.
When Professional Development Doesn’t Make Sense
As educators, we are forced to sit through professional development that we find irrelevant and unrealistic. It just doesn’t fit with our day-to-day interactions in the classroom.
We are presented with educational best practices that are so high-level. It feels like we are given the impossible task of implementing things we don’t clearly understand. And we are not given enough time to truly implement the task.
Taking Ownership Through Action Research
Action research has one focus: improvement. It gives you permission to focus on your issues. Take the challenges you are facing in your own classroom, study them, and understand how to improve them.
Action research is a way you can critically reflect on your teaching practices. You will use data to analyze your instructional approaches and logically increase your own effectiveness.
Going through this process is real professional development. It is not just sit-and-forget training. It is not pie-in-the-sky research. It is about action.
How you can do it!
Action research is a cycle in which you plan, act, develop, reflect, and repeat or improve as needed. Find something that you want to improve in your classroom. Then study the impact. Because yes, you have an impact in your classroom!
You have an impact in the lives of your students!
Action Research: Finding My Impact
Action research is about measuring your impact and increasing it. Here’s how.
- Plan: Create a simple plan. What teaching strategy do you want to improve? What do you think is having the best impact on student learning? Start there.
- Act: Implement an adjustment or small change to your teaching strategy. Use the changed strategy with one group of students. Use the older version with another group of students. That’s the research part.
- Develop: Gather data to measure the results. Give a pretest to each group. After a few weeks of developing the new strategy, give a posttest to each group. Average the scores for each group.
- Reflect: Which group had the biggest growth from the pretest to posttest? Why do you think this is so? Do you or the students think the changed strategy was part of the cause?
- Repeat: Do the cycle again. Keep the change if there was evidence that the newer strategy is having a bigger impact. Discard the changed strategy if it is not having a bigger impact. Make one more adjustment and continue the cycle.
Action research is about continual improvement and growth. It is about innovating new teaching strategies to help students learn more.
My Action Research in Middle School Math
My principal and I have decided to research the effects of small group instruction in the secondary math classroom. I’m tweaking a few aspects of this strategy. Hopefully, the students will learn more and learn deeper as a result.
Tap here to read more about Small Group Math Instruction.
I’ve used small group instruction in my secondary math classroom for the past year. I work with middle school students, some of whom struggle in math. I have seen success with using this approach, but it’s mostly been trial and error. I have not done any research.
Is there a way to gain even more success in my classroom using this small group approach? Timing, previewing, direct instruction, spiral review? What works best? What combinations of strategies should I use? These are the overarching questions guiding my action research.
What is it that you are hoping to improve in your classroom? How could you use action research to take your students to high levels of learning? Do you already use action research in your classroom? What advice would you give? Please share your thoughts. Thanks @mafost for co-authoring!