For many teachers, “educational research” is something that happens far far away in the mists of academia. But for a few teachers, research has become a very personal mission that validates and enhances their teaching and provides tangible benefits for their students. To these teachers, research is a valuable tool in the quest to improve personal practice, and might even bring change to other teachers worldwide.
In the same way, educators often find that blogging about their own practice brings them new insights about their role in the classroom and the world. Reaching out to a new professional learning network also creates opportunities to share and re-imagine ideas and practices. Teacher research is just one more step in formalizing these realizations and relationships.
Me? A Teacher-Researcher? is an excellent article about getting started as a teacher-researcher. Written by Brenda Dyck, it explores how and why teachers can use research as a platform for expressing and sharing their views of teaching and learning.
“Classroom research” always sounded very clinical to me. It was a practice that — along with statistical analysis and mice — belonged in a laboratory, not in my classroom. That was the way I looked at it until I read researcher Charles Kettering’s common-sense assessment of what research really is:
“Research is a high-hat word that scares a lot of people. It needn’t. It’s rather simple. Essentially, research is nothing but a state of mind…a friendly, welcoming attitude toward change…going out to look for change instead of waiting for it to come. Research is an effort to do things better and not to be caught asleep at the switch. It is the problem-solving mind as contrasted with the let-well-enough-alone mind. It is the tomorrow mind instead of the yesterday mind.”
If you are blogging about your own practice as a classroom teacher, you are already a teacher-researcher. By sharing your voice with the world, you formalize what you know and reflect on your own practices with a “tomorrow mind” that will benefit not only your own students, but also others around the world.
There are some great “getting started” books and resources linked from this article. Two in particular are gold mines of information for new teacher researchers.
ASCD Book – Guiding School Improvement with Action Research by Richard Sagor (many chapters available for free online)
Teacher Research – A guide to teacher research from the Graduate School of Education, George Mason University.