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Teachers action research and the generation of knowledge The Southampton Music Action Research Project, 2007-08 Tim Cain UCET Annual Conference, Nov 10,

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Presentation on theme: "Teachers action research and the generation of knowledge The Southampton Music Action Research Project, 2007-08 Tim Cain UCET Annual Conference, Nov 10,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teachers action research and the generation of knowledge The Southampton Music Action Research Project, Tim Cain UCET Annual Conference, Nov 10, 2009

2 Not proper research Teachers action research tends to exist in the margins (Zeichner, 1995) This description rings true in the field of music education. I know its not proper research but … (Clayton & OBrien et al., 2008).

3 First Generation research Positivist and post-positivist The world can be known objectively Knowledge is obtained empirically and logically (i.e. by answering questions like what are the causes of...?) Disciplinary roots in psychology Methods include Randomised, controlled trials; experiments and quasi experiments, surveys, tests, mostly quantitative

4 Second Generation research Interpretativist, constuctivist, phenomenological, hermeneutic No objective standpoint Research into lived experience; subjective meanings uncovered by ethnographical means – disciplinary roots in anthropology Phenomena studied in contexts Ethnographies, case studies, thick description; mostly qualitative

5 Third Generation research Critical theory, action research/practitioner research Insider research Aims to change the world by understanding it and vice-versa Primacy of practical knowledge, supported by experiential, presentational & propositional knowledge the word prove does not exist in Action Research (McNiff, 2002)

6 Types of action research Experimental action research (broadly positivist) inductive action research (interpretivist), participatory action research (a limited form of participation) participatory research practices (underpinned by critical theory) deconstructive action research practice (a postmodernist, anti-essentialist stance) A previous study produced 27 different flavours of action research (Cassell & Johnson, 2006)

7 Action research Plan > act > evaluate (observe) > reflect > plan... (etc.) spiral Starts with questions like, How can I improve what I am doing? (Whitehead) A natural extension of a teachers work (with emphasis on data & reflection) Generates experiential, presentational, propositional and practical knowledge (Heron & Reason, 1997)

8 Foster (1999): 25 teachers studies Most studies related to important educational concerns reports contained significant omissions and ambiguities researchers appeared unable to distance themselves from their preconceived views about effective practice insufficient evidence presented to support claims significant doubts about the validity of evidence a minority … could not be characterized as research

9 Furlong & Sainsbury (2005): 100 studies taking part in action research was a valuable form of continuing professional development teachers becoming more confident, more knowledgeable, collecting and using evidence, and learning about their own learning For many, the research led to informed reflection impacts on practice: schools, teaching, children and occasionally, parents significant impact on the morale the outcomes are often hard to disentangle from the development of the people … not always based on rigorous evidence

10 Bartlett & Burton (2006): a research group an under-developed use of research conventions, including systematic data collection and the issue of validity more awareness of the complex nature of what is often treated superficially during in-service training began to seek out the relevant associated literature able to evaluate suggested innovations Validity strengthened through peer examination and discussion

11 Knowledge Foster (1999): the production of knowledge is the primary goal of research, which teachers action research fails to achieve Furlong and Sainsbury (2005): research outcomes are hard to disentangle from the teacher-researchers professional development. Lytle & Cochran-Smith (1998) the knowledge question is, the question that persists

12 Knowledge Garvey & Williamson (2002) Big K and Little K knowledge: Big K knowledge develops cumulatively … is consolidated and made explicit in books, journals and encyclopedias … is passed from one generation to the next through the institutions of formal education … is no longer the property of individual minds, is driven forward by research and development on a global scale Little K knowledge, is the knowledge that individuals possess for themselves … [it] reflects their experience of work and understanding … is firmly anchored in the realm of individual education and experience

13 Research AIM to investigate how music teachers use educational action research as a means of improving class music teaching in Secondary schools QUESTIONS How do Secondary school music teachers undertake action research? What knowledge is created in the process?

14 Action Nov 1, 2007 Project teachers learnt what action research is, how it is carried out and how it differs from other sorts of research Nov – Dec, 2007 Project teachers carried out project in schools Entered plans into wiki Jan – Jun, 2008 Projects continued in school Visit by LA adviser (in some LAs) Project teachers visits to each other* Jun 18, 2008Teachers presented research projects to each other July 4, 2008 I presented preliminary findings 2 other presentations Teachers evaluated the project as a whole *This planned event did not happen

15 Projects Involving TAs by Liz O'Connell: what happened when Teaching Assistants became involved in planning and teaching music. KS3 Composing by Jason Edgell: what happened when Y8 pupils were given several chances to record their compositions. KS3 Feedback by Sarah Moore: how pupils understood the feedback, given them in music lessons, and how this was improved. GCSE Listening by Nikki Budd: how Y11 pupils used non-musical stimuli to develop their understanding of music from different eras.

16 Projects Vocational Relevance by Sally Wilcocks: how music lessons became more relevant through bringing the music industry into the classroom. Open all hours? by Philip Dowd: how pupils moved from skills- based learning to ideas-based learning. Creative Skills by Rheann Long: how three Y8 pupils became more creative through imaginative approaches to performing tasks. Projects are at



19 Finding a research problem teachers started by identifying a problem National programmes influenced Philip, Sarah and Rheann and Nikki Whole-school matters influenced Sally, Liz and Jason The topics chosen by the teachers were about meeting professional expectations, rather than questioning or opposing such expectations

20 Structuring the research 2 undertook a reconnaissance phase, the others did not 3 created a plan and implemented it, evaluating the implementation 1 had three separate parts, with a single, overarching aim Collaboration: pupil voice, guest speakers, involvement of other adults 3 employed a cyclical structure, altering their plans as their projects developed, in response to their emerging findings.

21 Data In planning, 2 identified the evidence that might demonstrate improvement Collected data included: questionnaires; interviews; recordings of work; pupils written work; assessments of pupils work; photographs & video; observation & diary Awareness of validity issues

22 Consequences improvements in the quality of pupils work improved enjoyment, attendance and engagement in extra-curricular music improved confidence and concentration projects increased teachers self-awareness

23 Reporting Initial plans & reasons written on wiki 1 wrote & edited directly to the website 1 co-written with me Most gave a verbal presentation which I recorded, transcribed and uploaded All structured as narratives of personal experience (Strand, 2009) Considerable interest in each others projects (but tended to think of their own projects as obvious)

24 Knowledge Experiential (I certainly have a much clearer idea about the strengths and weaknesses of those students) and self-awareness Presentational (Lizs planning document, Rheanns scaffolding worksheet and Sarahs feedback diaries and prompt cards) Propositional (see handout) Practical (demonstrated in teachers stories about their teaching, such as Sally presenting a real-life task as, you are a music producer and you have been sent this track; you have to mix it and send it back to the band so it gets released Little K: generated by reflective processes, drew on data, lacked scientific rigour, stored in narratives of individual experience, not generalisable

25 Issues to explore Teachers claimed to have learned from each other, (listening to others was the best bit and [my project] made a difference, not just to me but to others) Big K knowledge not always propositional (Kodaly, Orff, Suzuki) How might knowledge, generated by teachers action research, become Big K?

26 How do Secondary school music teachers undertake action research? The Southampton Music Action Research Project, Tim Cain: Nov 9, 2009

27 Teachers action research and the generation of knowledge The Southampton Music Action Research Project, Tim Cain UCET Annual Conference, Nov 10, 2009

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