When teaching meets research meets blogging

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.

4 Replies to “When teaching meets research meets blogging”

  1. Great piece, Sylvia—and much needed. All too often, teachers feel disempowered because they aren’t seen—and don’t see themselves—as experts with a deep understanding of teaching and learning.

    This has only gotten worse in a coercive accountability world where instant solutions are valued over reflection. For teachers to argue that they’re capable of identifying and amplifying instructional practices that work takes some measure of courage—and support from administrators that isn’t always present.

    Empowering teachers to be researchers will reinforce the kinds of professional reflection that leads to student achievement—-and make our profession attractive to highly motivated practictioners.

    Whew—that felt good! I get all geeked when I talk about empowerment.

    Rock on,

  2. Sylvia,

    I used the Reflective Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Research for my Ed.S. project. It’s another practical reference http://www.amazon.com/Reflective-Educators-Guide-Classroom-Research/dp/0761946462 . I so strongly believe in teacher leadership. I know many smart and talented teachers who are conducting action research on a daily basis. They just don’t realize it. I completely agree with Chris Lehmann’s recent post that calls for transparency in our profession. We have so much to learn from each other.


  3. Sylvia –

    Thanks for bringing up such an important topic – I’m planning to start a Masters program soon and often don’t feel that I’m prepared for the research that will be involved. You’ve shared some excellent resources and made me realize that just by blogging about my experiences I’m already part-way there.

  4. I would say from my casual observations from within the system here in South Australia, not many teachers would view themselves as researchers. Part of it is that notion of academia – experts and researchers with doctorates do their detached research from afar and then teachers read their latest findings in books and journals or reserve spots at professional development seminars and sessions to find out what the research says should be happening in their classrooms. The other part that comes into play is that often research is a place where the boundaries are pushed or new territory is explored – many teachers are very wary of labelling their pedagogy as being part of personal action research – to some, they are quite afraid of being labelled experimental by leaders, parents or their peers. And who wants their child in a classroom where they could labelled guinea pigs following some teacher’s wacky passions? For many, the safe route is to follow what is touted as good common practice and not go out too far out alone on a limb. It’s a shame that teachers are resourced better and actively supported to conduct classroom based research – the chalkface experience is too often over-ridden and disregarded by the higher powers that be.
    I know my own doubts about perceiving myself as a teacher/researcher have a lot to with doubting that I have enough method and trust in my observations.I know that many of us subscribe to a research methodology described once by Will Richardson as “throwing ideas against a wall and seeing if it sticks”. Sometimes, in a time poor occupation, that’s as good as we can do.

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