Friday, October 10, 2014

Analyze and Revise

By: Lexie Fichera

In my last post, I talked about getting started with action research in your classroom. If you missed it, you should definitely check it out before reading on!

   When you've spent some time reflecting on your practice and gathering entries into your researcher's journal, you will have enough information about your practice to analyze. But wait! Analyze?! Didn't we forget a few steps in the research process? Don't panic-this isn't our data yet. The purpose of the first exercise was to become a reflective practitioner. By doing so, we are able to know exactly what we want to study and where the "action" and "research" of our work truly come into play. Let me use my own research as an example.

In my last post, I discussed my researcher's journal. This journal was comprised of entries written over two months. You don't have to wait that long to start analyzing your reflections; however, you do want to make sure that you've collected entries that portray multiple aspects of your practice. For example, classroom management, differentiation, questioning, classroom culture – to name a few. Once you're ready, you can begin to do what I recommended previously — determine trends and patterns that you see in your reflections. I love to color-code things and, on recommendation from Jodene Morrell, I created a key that would help me see the trends in my own researcher's journal.

Then, I reread my entries from beginning to end and color-coded the trends that I saw. I ended up with something that looks like these pages:

From here, you can choose many different research paths. You may choose to continue to write in your researcher's journal, especially if you feel that you want to gather more information about your own practice. You may want to look across the entries at the trends that you highlighted and determine the trends that stand out to you the most. Finally, but not exclusively, you may decide to zoom in on one or two entries that stand out to you. What do I mean by "stand out?" For some researchers, technique becomes a focus. Those researchers build their research around one technique they use, or would like to use, in their classroom. Some researchers focus in the same manner on strategies, which are very similar to techniques, although famed educator, researcher, and coach, Doug Lemov, makes a valid argument for their difference[1]. Some researchers zoom out further and focus their research on entire unit plans. Whatever focus you choose, know that some of the best research comes from an itch—yes, itch—a feeling of something bothering you so much that you can’t ignore it. Maybe it’s that new curriculum that the students aren’t taking up yet or the student who isn’t participating in class discussion. Perhaps it’s the incessant bullying in your class or school, or perhaps you’re grappling with how to get parents involved in the curriculum. Could it be that you’re eager to open your students up to new possibilities in their learning—through sketchbooks or technology or explorations outside the classroom walls? Do you wish you could reach your higher and lower level learners at the same time, or that you could find a classroom routine that complements your teaching?
If any of these scenarios resonate with you, or if you have your own secret itch, then you will be pleased to read on from teacher researchers who have studied some of these very same problems—and who boldly scratched their itch! They have presented at conferences, written articles and chapters in books, been awarded grants, and made a valuable impact on education.
How far will you go from just a little itch? 

[1] “To me, a strategy is a generalized approach to problems, a way to inform decisions. A technique is a thing you say or do in a particular way. If you are a sprinter, your strategy might be to get out of the blocks fast and run from the front; your technique would be to incline your body forward at about five degrees as you drive your legs up and out ahead of you.” Lemov, Doug. Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college. Jossey-Bass.—1st ed.

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