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Action Research: creating knowledge about education Professor Colleen McLaughlin, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education + University of Sussex Centres.

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Presentation on theme: "Action Research: creating knowledge about education Professor Colleen McLaughlin, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education + University of Sussex Centres."— Presentation transcript:

1 Action Research: creating knowledge about education Professor Colleen McLaughlin, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education + University of Sussex Centres of Excellence presentation

2 Areas to be covered  Welcome + research in the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education  The challenge of developing practice  Why teacher and action research?  The idea of the teacher as researcher  What is action research?  Researching action  Further resources

3 Key idea Research which produces nothing but a book will not suffice (Kurt Lewin, 1946:35)

4 Welcome + research in the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education  Long tradition of using the work of Lawrence Stenhouse and others.  Donald McIntyre  Jean Rudduck – work on pupil voice  Teachers engaging in research as central to teacher learning and practice development  In partnership with individual teachers, schools and local education authorities  All courses have this as a central element

5 The challenge of developing practice  You cannot develop practice without the commitment of teachers  Most policy makers try to be teacher proof’ ‘ i.e. to get around teachers  Teachers control learning in the classroom  Teachers are highly resilient + even in the face of change  Importance of own beliefs, values and histories  Classrooms are very complex places  Learning is a very complex process  Teachers’ learning is a relatively ‘new’ idea

6 Why teacher + action research? It is teachers who in the end will change the world of the school by understanding it (Stenhouse 1981:104)  We understand classrooms, learning + teaching by trying to change them  Insider research  Harnessing the knowledge of the teacher and the pupils  Strengthens teacher learning and school development

7 The idea of the teacher as researcher – Lawrence Stenhouse Research is systematic enquiry made public The commitment to systematic questioning of one’s own teaching as a basis for development The commitment and the skills to study one’s own teaching and The concern to question and to test theory in practice.’ (Stenhouse 1975:143)

8 What is action research?  A systematic enquiry into practice in a school or classroom setting with the aim of improving or understanding practice or informing decision making Planning Acting Reflectin g Observing/ Evaluating The Action Research Spiral

9 Another version

10 What teachers say  We no longer felt like research fodder, but professionals in control of our own improvement, having a voice in local and national decisions. The research had moved in to our own back gardens – our classrooms  It has made me focus much more on the diversity of learners. It has heightened my awareness of the range of learners. I’m more responsive to their needs.  I now look more clinically at what I am going to be doing with them, offering opportunities for the students to perhaps question a bit more and I am trying in my own turn to perhaps listen to those questions rather than expecting things to happen by divine right....

11 Researching action  Sounds simple.  Hardest part at the beginning.  Process  What do I want to know?  Why?  How will I find out?  Will it be good enough information?  What will I do with it?  Have I talked to someone else about it?  How can I get feedback? From whom?  How will I share it?

12 The process  What do I want to know? Define the question or problem.  Why? Is it a worthwhile question?  How will I find out? Are my methods realistic and manageable?  Will it be good enough information?  What will I do with it?  Have I talked to someone else about it?  How can I get feedback? From whom? Can work with pupils, parents, other teachers or an outside knowledgeable person.  How will I share it? Write a short report, Give a seminar in school, make a poster, make a u tube video  What action shall I take as a result of this?  What shall I do then? How will I know the action is achieving what I want?

13 Helpful conditions for action research  Commitment and support from the school and the school leaders  To the topic  To acting on the information  Collaboration – a partner or a small group  A process to share what you find out  Small steps and small questions  Support from someone who knows about action research

14 An example: Pupils’ engagement in learning  Research question.  What do teachers understand by engagement?  What do pupils understand by engagement?  What shapes their understanding?  Where does their understanding come from?  What does engagement look like?  What happens when you look at engagement in action?  Research design  Focus group of teachers and students (separate)  ‘I know my students (or I) am engaged when’  Video of a lesson watched by teacher and pupils to exemplify engagement and non engagement

15 Some findings  Teachers and students saw engagement differently  Teachers emphasised obedience  There were different lenses and mindsets in schools and between schools and teachers  Relationships were very important  Teachers started to listen to teachers from other departments!

16 Some actions  Teachers used more of what the students said was helping them to engage  Strategies were shared across departments  Some teachers got regular feedback on their lessons afterwards  It was shared across the network and the schools

17 Further resources  U tube videos  Online resources + freely available pdfs. Dadds, M. Perspectives on practitioner research. Available from National College of School Leadership, UK Teachernet site CUREE.  Books McLaughlin, C., Black-Hawkins, K., and McIntyre, D. (2007) Networking Practitioner Research. London: Routledge. McLaughlin, C., Black-Hawkins, K., Brindley, S., McIntyre, D. and Taber, K. (2006) Researching Schools: Stories from a Schools–University Partnership for Educational Research. London: Routledge. Wilson, E. (2009). School-based Research: A Guide for Education Students. London: Sage


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