TL Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels

Teacher Leadership Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels, was met during my completion of two action research courses with a focus on the school setting.

I began my Action Research journey reading, journaling, and conducting interviews of students and colleagues. Through that process I was able to identify themes which ran like ribbons through the work I was conducting in my classroom and school. Connecting this work to the literature and research helped me to find a purpose and track for my project. However, that did prove to be a challenging process which took many twists and turns throughout the project. The real need for reflective practice took precedence and moved to the forefront of my thinking rather than something which plays in the background of my usual day. Sagor spoke to this in our text when he spoke of our busy day to day life as an educator and how the “pace of school leaves little opportunity to engage in purposeful reflection.” (Sagor, p. 13) He suggested “to accomplish this (meaningful reflection) I must find a way to temporarily shut out all other distractions and create a time and space for the quality reflection necessary for zeroing in on a meaningful topic for action research.” (p.13) That was exactly what the Phase 1 portion of our class forced me to do and it was a valuable experience.

Next, during Phase 2 of our project I made my plan of implementation and rubrics upon which I would base the gathering of my data. This process helped me to hone in on what I was really looking for and what would show me that change was occurring. Narrowing down my variables was a daunting task. I tend to think of independent and dependent variables being part of a scientific controlled experiment. This being a behavioral science project which includes human subjects, it is impossible to control every variable. Yet, I was able through the reading and our work in class to identify my two achievement targets (change in dependent variable) and what my actions would be (independent variable). Sagor illustrated this relationship in the following table on page 62 –

Choice of Independent Variables = Change in the Dependent Variable
(our actions) (achievement target)

 

During Phase 3 we worked on our research questions and data collection plan. This is where the project began to take shape for me and I felt a much clearer and defined course of action. The 3 questions I used were directly from Sagor’s text –

  1. What did we actually do?
  2. What changes occurred regarding performance on the achievement targets?
  3. What were the relationships, if any, between the actions taken and any noted changes in performance? (p. 88)

I then began the implementation of my project. My implementation plan was side lined by several factors, but ultimately did produce results. My students moved from 76% at or above standard in discussion engagement and participation to 92% at or above standard. Answering question 3, determining the relationship between actions take and changes in performance, was the most difficult. I chose to rely on both the data and my own anecdotal evidence and intuition. Sagor supports this approach as well saying, “You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with the use of intuition in this context, even if you are a novice action researcher…you aren’t new to the world of the classroom.” (p. 148) This was the validation I needed to persevere in my answering of question 3.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student.

The first question asks, what did we actually do? My project centered on student engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. First, we began with having discussion times in various subject areas. Next, I shared with the students the rubrics for student engagement in discussion and participation. The students helped to fine tune the rubrics, adding details that they felt were important. I then had the students self-assess their speaking and listening during group discussion and set a goal for the level they would like to improve to. This is a similar process that we have done in preparation for our student goal setting conferences so my students were used to the process and for the most part gave an honest self-assessment. Following this baseline data collection, I began to instruct the students in various discussion techniques which included good questions, good comments, responsibility to participate, and everyone has a chance to speak. We realized that each student has two important jobs: listening carefully and participating thoughtfully. The class had previously used a process called “two pluses and a wish” for when we peer revise our writing. At a student’s suggestion I decided to apply this to our discussion time, but change it to “two comments and a wonder”. Students continued to self-assess and reflect each week.

Several positive changes occurred from the work we did. I tracked increased student engagement and positive contributions to discussions moving from 76% engaged to 92% engaged in the discussion time. This was documented in a video journal and through teacher anecdotal notes. Student self-assessments of their speaking and listening skills also rose from a median score of 3.07 in the baseline data 3.61 in the final evaluation (out of a high of 4). In addition, students moved more quickly into discussion time and many times did not want it to end. This is a change from before and not one that I had anticipated seeing.

The relationship of what we did to the changes that occurred seem to have a clear connection. Up until the implementation of the project, no positive progress had been made in my students’ engagement and participation during partner and group discussion time. The same kids participated and the same ones didn’t. This was my primary reason for pursuing this project. When I implemented the “two pluses and a wish” for peer revising I saw immediate positive results. This was what led me to want to pursue further instruction around listening and discussion strategies. Upon the teaching and implementation of “two comments and a wonder” I again saw a jump in their participation and engagement in the activity. While far from conclusive evidence, this did seem to have a direct relationship with the instruction being given during this action research project. My final conclusion was that providing instruction and clear guidelines and structure for their discussion led to increased student engagement and more productive conversations.

In reflecting on this project one area became glaringly clear to me, especially after reading the section in Chapter 8 of the Sagor text “Allocating Time”. Sagor says, “Another valuable use of the data…is to determine if the actual expenditure of time was consistent with what you had anticipated when planning your project.” (Sagor, p. 131) He goes on to show a visual graph of anticipated time use vs. actual time use. One of my biggest pieces of learning from this project is that I over plan and schedule too much into our day. The pressure to keep up with curriculum and stay on track with district and CCSS is so high that any deviation from our plans is just not possible. It took eliminating one area of teaching, Problem of the Day (POD), to adequately implement this project. I had originally thought it would work into my ELA or science instruction, but that did not prove to be the case. In addition, I received a new student who is a Level 1 ELL and a recent immigrant from Iran. This in itself would have been a huge impact to our classroom and my teacher time, but he also has ended up being a very high management case with behavior issues that transcend the language issue. Many of my 10-15 minute blocks that I had carved out for my speaking and listening instruction were taken away by dealing with recess issues, receiving phone calls, and answering emails with regards to this student.

This project proved to be a valuable one – Action Research Project Data. Though the process to get here was frustrating at times, I am pleased with the results and plan to continue the instruction and reflection for the remainder of the year. I know now that this instruction is crucial to student success and in coming years it will be a standard part of my curriculum.

I continued learning and working with research in the course, Applying Action Research in School Settings. Using research to drive our instruction is only effective if we as teacher leaders know how to analyze and evaluate research and determine whether it is applicable to our teaching and school environments. Research is published in what is called a primary source – critique of article 1, Critique of Article 2. Then those primary source may used to support the hypothesis of another person or group. That group uses those sources to support their own work and publish articles. Those articles are considered secondary sources – summary of secondary article. As a TL, I first need to determine if  the primary research is valid and generalizable. I should then be able to critically evaluate secondary articles to see if the original research is being used appropriately or is skewed in some way.

For example, in educational research we hear the terms “correlation” and “causation”. It is important to note that these are not synonyms for one another, nor does correlation imply causation. Simply because variables in a research project can be related or influence one another (correlation) does not mean that one causes the other (causation). Ravid defines correlation as, “The relationship or association between two or more numerical variables. These variables have to be related to each other or paired.” (Ravid, 2011) He also explains that, “It is important to understand that correlation does not imply causation. Just because two variables correlate with each other does not mean that one caused the other.” (Ravid, p. 114) For example, one could say that on a hot day more people will eat ice cream. While there may be a correlation, we could not empirically prove that it is a cause effect relationship.

During our course I had the opportunity to conduct data analyses, article critiques, and finally a comparison paper of a primary and secondary source (Final Paper) all these prepared me for the work I will be doing in my future as a teacher leader and principal.

 

References:

Anderson, Richard C., Paul T. Wilson, and Linda G. Fielding. “Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time outside of School.” Reading Research Quarterly Summer 23.3 (1988): 285-303. JSTOR. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.

Baldwin, R. Scott. Effects of topic interest and prior knowledge on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly 20.4 (1985): 497-504. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Chapell, Mark S., Z. Benjamin Blanding, Michael E. Silverstein, Masami Takahashi, Brian Newman, Aaron Gubi, and Nicole Mccann. “Test Anxiety and Academic Performance in Undergraduate and Graduate Students.” Journal of Educational Psychology 97.2 (2005): 268-74. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.

Dochy, Filip. The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research 69.2 (1999): 145-86. JSTOR. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Ravid, Ruth. Practical Statistics for Educators. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. Print.

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: Corwin.

Spector, Stacy. “Cultivating Labor Management Collaboration.” Leadership 42.5 (2013): 16+. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

 

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4 thoughts on “TL Standard 3: Improve teaching and learning through the use of educational research at the classroom and school levels

  1. Hi Keri! Great reflection on your learning from Standard 3. I was able to clearly follow your journey through your action research project. It was awesome to see the positive results you had with your students! Your use of quotes from Sagor were very effective and excellent support to your own reflection. I did notice that one of your paragraphs is repeated twice. It’s the very last paragraph which is also in the middle of your reflection, too. A couple of pieces to consider when finalizing your blog is to find a couple more sources to cite (we need 3-5) and embed an artifact or two. Perhaps your presentation from our Action Research class would be a great piece of evidence to incorporate since you so eloquently articulated that experience in your paper. It might be nice to have folks look at your presentation slides, too. Lastly, not sure if it’s just my computer, but I can’t see Figure 1… 🙂

    1. Thanks Mallory, it is a work in progress. I am having trouble attaching my graphs for some reason. Cut and paste isn’t working, nor is the snipping tool. I will keep working at that, but that is why there was a duplicate paragraph that I didn’t catch in trying to embed those graphs. Again, thanks for the feedback and I will continue my work. I really appreciate the idea of adding my presentation. I am also going to include work and citation from our last research class so I should get to 3-5. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Keri,
    Really detailed meta-reflection. (As a quick aside, I think you have the paragraph that starts “In reflecting on this project…” in your blog twice.) Your extensive use of citations really supports the work that you did and encouraged me to find a few more for my own work. However, I couldn’t see your Figure 1. Overall, great reflection.

    1. Thanks Robin, it is a work in progress. I am having trouble attaching my graphs for some reason. Cut and paste isn’t working, nor is the snipping tool. I will keep working at that, but that is why there was a duplicate paragraph that I didn’t catch in trying to embed those graphs. Again, thanks for the feedback and I will continue my work.

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