Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week 2 - Lessons Learned

This week we were asked to watch two interviews with current school leaders who discussed action research projects and some suggestions for conducting action research. After watching and listening to these two scholars I wrote a summary of what I learned.

Dr. Timothy Chargois, Director of Research, Planning and Development in Beaumont ISD
Dr. Chargois discussed the area of effective and ineffective teachers and what teachers are doing that shows their ethical responsibilities toward student achievement. His suggestions for conducting action research were that the students and teachers involved in the research should have their identities protected and that if students are involved in the research, parental consent should be attained first. He also recommended that the research not be presented in a derogatory way or in a way that would injure the school’s reputation. He also encouraged any results of the research and/or project to be presented to the administration first so they could have the last stamp of approval. While watching and listening to Dr. Chargois, I learned that a good place to start with action research is to look at the connections between what the teachers are doing and the students’ academic achievement/performance. The goal should always be related to and benefitting the students. Teachers should also never stop growing and always strive to be action research oriented.

Dr. Kirk Lewis, Superintendent, Pasadena ISD
Dr. Lewis proposed an action research project for something called expectation graduation. This project would focus on helping 9th grade students graduate on time. The way the research would be conducted is by taking a specific look at changing the way teachers deliver instruction and increasing the rigor of the courses. He suggested that when choosing an action research topic that you choose an area the is practical to you and that you can apply to student learning. While watching and listening to Dr. Lewis, I learned that in my action research project, I should be focused on the outcome and I should choose an area that interests me because the students will benefit from the results of research that is practical rather than something that is theoretical. After listening to Dr. Kirk’s advice, I feel reassured that my action research topic is on the right track.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Action Research and Blogs

What I have learned about action research and how I might be able to use it:

Action research is the process of a principal studying their own administrative practice and using what they learn to make changes (Dana, 2009). It is a tool for systematically gaining knowledge about teaching and learning, examining the gathered data, and making changes for improvement (Harris et al., 2010).

Action research and traditional research differ in many ways. Traditional research is usually conducted by people outside the school and does not include the ideas or comments of researchers or administrators inside the school (Dana, 2009). It generally centers around the knowledge of an outside expert and is typically reported in workshops but the outcome is not meaningful change (Dana, 2009). Choosing action research instead of traditional research is beneficial to the actual practitioners and therefore students. Action research focuses on the concerns and ideas of the teachers and administrators inside the school. It incorporates them in the design, data collection, and reflection of the research and findings. Action research requires time, budgeting, communicating, thought and reflection. This kind of intentional study brings about change which is the main goal of action research (Dana, 2009).
The benefits of conducting action research are numerous. One is that teachers are collaborating and investigating their own problems and are actively participating in the decision-making process (Ringler, 2007). Those who are performing the action research are more likely to facilitate change since they are the ones systematically researching and proposing plans. Another benefit is that principals who are conducting action research are pushed out of isolation by collaborating with others about best practices (Dana, 2009). Through this, the principals become “head learners” and show the importance of lifelong learning to their teachers and students.

Action research is used in a variety of different ways within educational settings. For example, we are taking a course that is completely devoted to action research. In this course we are to complete a proposal for action research, discuss it with our site supervisor, and begin to complete the project of implementing our action research plan. Another way action research is used is through leadership teams that principals make for shared decision making, problem solving, strategic planning, monitoring and coordinating programs, and policy development (Dana, 2009). This is the idea of using shared leadership with the members of the leadership team. A third way for action research to be used is in professional learning communities. These groups of staff members meet to research and study more effective teaching strategies and activities. In these PLCs everyone is a researcher and everyone is collaborating.

Reflection is an important skill in leadership because it helps leaders to connect personal experiences with considerations that are brought up by other people with knowledge about the similar experience. There are many bridges build between everyday experiences and meaningful theories when a leader takes the time to reflect upon events and uses reflection as a tool (Martin et al., 2012). Using reflection when conducting action research is important because this kind of research calls for investigation, planning, examining, asking questions, and making changes (Dana, 2009). If the change is to be fruitful, meaningful reflection is required to reassess and move forward. 

I will be able to use action research to study the effectiveness of our new implementation of PLCs instead of team planning. Our school is a T-STEM academy that has about 100 students per grade level for grades 9-12. Each day, the teachers have a meeting for the grade level that they teach. We have a specific structure to follow with a daily agenda to follow. Lately, there has been a feeling of ineffectiveness in these grade level meetings. Some teachers have proposed implementing more of a PLC format to our meetings which would include adding department meetings and vertical teaming to our grade level meetings. I spoke to my site supervisor about changing our grade level meetings to add the other aspects of a PLC and we have tentatively planned to implement a revised meeting structure and agendas next school year. Among the teachers, there are mixed feelings about the change in our daily meetings. Some subjects like science and history feel that incorporating vertical teaming would not benefit them since their subjects vary widely from year to year. Other teachers of math and english feel that they would benefit greatly from having vertical teaming since their subjects rely heavily on the previous year's knowledge. I would like to assess the effectiveness of our new meeting structure and agendas in reference to our newly laid objectives and anticipated outcomes.

How educational leaders might use blogs:

Educational leaders might use blogs as a way to keep teachers, parents, and students up to date with school activities and events. Leaders could also post ideas for teaching strategies and/or classroom activities for teachers to review and comment on. Teachers could even rate different posts in terms of helpfulness or maybe alterations they made in their classrooms or suggestions they may have for others. Blogs are a great way to informally share experiences, ideas, or questions among others. Educational leaders can share effective lesson plans, comment on ideas for the next school fundraiser, and dialogue with others.