Sunday, June 12, 2011

Teacher Inquiry: What Does It Mean?

Teacher Inquiry:  What Does It Mean?
Prompt #5-Identify any trends and themes you find in the data.  Look to find and share any triangulation processes in May’s data collection and analysis work.  Evaluate the data and provide reasonable explanations for what you think might be happening over time that would explain the story that the data are revealing.
The analysis of the student survey clearly indicates that 2/3 of the students wanted more consistency in class routine (Dana, n.d.).  Taking into consideration Sienna’s comments, the first field note data report indicates that from the time students entered the classroom, through a forty minute period, redirections were required almost every minute with the exception of a time when students were engaged in reviewing their worksheets as a class (Dana, n.d.).  This suggests that when students have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to be doing, less off task behavior occurs.  Transition times were also a time of increased redirection.  Hence transitions from one activity to the next must be better defined and organized.  In observation number two through four, redirection did not occur the first ten minutes of class.  This data confirms that the five minute challenge agenda was actively involving students in learning reducing off task behavior.  Siena included additional insights into classroom behavior.  Lack of eye contact and targeted redirection (sometimes as “wait” time) to particular students also contributed to behavior management disarray.  Improved eye contact with students and the ten minute challenge activity represent the triangulation process in which both observations by Sienna represent a reduction in the necessity for redirection.  Implications from Sienna’s data include the need for May to make changes in her practice instead of trying to change her students’ behavior. Reviewing Sienna’s data, May acknowledged the benefit of the five minute challenge and planned to make changes that included changing her seating arrangement, improving eye contact and give more direct attention to students in need.
Prompt #6-Describe May’s class graph.  What happened over time and what are some reasons for the trends and patterns you notice?  What new goals do you think May should set for the class as a whole based on her students response to the timed agenda challenge?    
Reviewing May’s class data chart there was a little less than double the number of students completing the agenda over the nine day periods that was charted.  Although there was consistent growth from day one to nine, it is noteworthy that the most significant gain was from day one to day two (Dana, n.d.).  This might indicate that a change in the challenge might be needed to maintain students’ engagement and enthusiasm.  One suggestion I would have is to increase the stakes in the five minute challenge so that quality of work counts.  Many students will rush through their work without regard to quality.  The class as a whole could set up quality standards for the agenda parts.  Those that fail to meet the criteria will not count as having the agenda completed.   As quality increases, the time limit could decrease.  I also think that May could incorporate concrete rewards for whole class success to maintain whole class enthusiasm and effort.
Prompt#7-Describe Anthony’s and Leah’s data.  What happened over time?  What do you think May might do in the future to capitalize on Anthony’s and Leah’s success and Keep them on track during the entire class period?
In reviewing both Anthony’s and Leah’s data there was a dramatic drop from day one to day two (Dana, n.d.).  I was impressed by their immediate enthusiasm for challenging themselves and trying to meet the goal.  At day six for Anthony and day seven for Leah there was a slight regression in time (Dana, n.d.).  I was impressed by Anthony’s ability to take the responsibility for not meeting his goal on Tuesday, 5/11 due to a bathroom break.  Both students continued to make significant gains by dropping from 30 seconds to one minute daily.  Anthony and Leah are becoming role models for the class.  It would be beneficial for Anthony and Leah to serve as research assistants and graph the whole class results.  In addition they could share some tips on how they continue to improve their scores.  They could also become judges of quality work making sure that classmates are following the rubric requirements.  May’s initial wondering will naturally evolve into behavior management practices for the entire period.  She can use Anthony and Leah to participate in a focus group to help her design and implement engaging inquiries to manage behavior throughout the instructional period. 
Prompt #8-Pretend you are May, and it is now the start of the next school year.  Your assistant principal, Mr. Brown, asks you to talk about the inquiry journey at the first faculty meeting of the year.  Discuss a plan for your presentation.  What will you share and how will you share it?  Refer to Chapters 6 and 8 of The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research for support in responding to this prompt.
Dana (2009. p. 188) states “unless that inquiry is tossed into the professional conversation and dialog that contributes to the knowledge base for teaching, the inquiry has little chance of creating change.  My biggest challenge in deciding how to prevent teacher “tune out” is how to share my enthusiasm, yet not overwhelm a staff that is often not receptive to anything new.  I would request a small portion of time to introduce the inquiry using Leah, Anthony, and Sienna to introduce our inquiry and document how they participated in our wondering.  Using these students will allow my peers to make a direct connection to similar challenges they face in their classrooms.  Following this introduction at a follow up professional development, I would present a power point of my inquiry in abbreviated form.  Its content would include: “(1) providing background information, (2) sharing the design of the inquiry (procedures, data collection, and data analysis), (3) stating the learning and supporting statements with data, and (4) providing concluding thoughts” (Dana, 2009, p188).  I look forward to the opportunity to dialogue with my peers and generate conversations about the implications of this inquiry.


Dana, N. (n.d.).  Creating a positive behavior support system in a seventh-grade science classroom [case study].  Retrieved June 2, 2011 from:
Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2009). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (2nd ed.).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teacher Inquriy: A Shared Experience

     I have the opportunity to share in the action inquiry with a researcher named May.  As I follow the process from her wondering to the findings and the subsequent questions that evolve with the research, I will answer questions to clarify and reflect on the experience. 

Setting the Context, Studying the Literature, and Developing the Wondering
Prompt # 1-Why is it important for May to look at literature as a part of her inquiry journey?  What insights did may gain about her inquiry topic through her readings?  In what ways might May’s readings inform how she will collect data for her study?

Literature is an essential component to May’s action inquiry as well as for all inquiry researchers.  May used the Pre-Referral Intervention Resource Manual (as cited in Dana, n.d) to help her clarify what the behaviors interfering with instruction are and what strategies could be used to measure improvement (Dana, n.d).  The literature not only prompted her to reword her wondering to better define her inquiry, but to consider the behaviors her students were exhibiting in a positive rather than negative way.  Furthermore, May learned from the article “Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students:  Promoting Change through Relationships” (as cited in Dana, n.d.) about Seligman’s theory to appreciate students negative behavior as a strategy they have had to use to survive.  Looking at the behaviors from a different perspective helped May to better understand her students and want to provide them with alternative strategies for getting what they want (Dana, n.d.).  A third review of literature provided May with the idea to directly involve her students in the action research by having them participate in the data collection as well as the decision making process.   With this in mind, May changed her inquiry empowering her students to become active participants in improving classroom climate.
Having identified the problem as one reflected in behaviors and attitudes, student surveys would be an important part of May’s data collection. In addition field notes to capture action in the classroom; taken during collaborative science experiments, class discussions, or learning community/research team meetings, would serve as another important data source.  Through her literature review, May had a better understanding for the possible causes of the disruptive behaviors.  Focus groups could serve as an additional platform for the student/teacher research teams to participate in conversations that could divulge differing perspectives and lead to positive change in classroom management (Dana & Yendol-Hoppey, 2009).

Designing the Inquiry through Collaboration with Colleagues
Prompt #2-What specific benefits did May receive as a result of collaborating with her colleagues?  Why is collaboration an important component of the action research project?
            A collaboration team is an essential part of teacher inquiry. They help provide a source of energy to support the teacher researcher through the discovery process.  Their collective expertise, generated through discussions, allows inquirers to build upon one another’s knowledge. In addition, teacher talk provides a platform in which teachers can question present practices looking at them from different perspectives as they progress through their inquiry (Dana & Yendol-Hoppey, 2009) 
            In May’s professional learning community (PLC) her team helped her think of better learning conditions for her students.  As a goal, her team sought to help change her classroom management to allow her to return to investigation-based teaching of science. To ensure that data collection was both manageable and controllable, they recommended and helped select her fourth period class to use as her inquiry research subjects.  The research findings could then be applied to her other classes and be used by the other teachers who have similar behavior management struggles with the same students.  Sharing information from “Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students:  Promoting Change through Relationships” (as cited in Dana, n.d.), May presented her understanding of the challenging behaviors exhibited by her students Sienna and Leah.  Referring back to this literature and sharing it with her colleagues helped May to reframe her wondering from the original, “How can I get my students excited about science again?” to “How can I create the classroom conditions needed so that my students can be successful in supporting my instruction” (Dana, n.d. p. 5)?  May also used her team as a sounding board to consider a positive behavior support model that she learned about from attending a recent conference.  Although it was designed as a school wide program, she felt that the team could learn a great deal from using the strategies from this program in her inquiry as tier one interventions.  The knowledge gained from this inquiry could then be used in the team members’ classrooms as well as school-wide.  The PLC elected to engage in further research to understand strategies, share data collection ideas, and determine how positive behavior support can be used in Mays inquiry.  The conversations about May’s newly formed wondering transformed her professional learning community to the Positive Behavior Support (PBS)/Response to Intervention (RtI) team.  Their support was instrumental in allowing May to identify desired outcomes, develop an action plan that included instructional strategies, measure student progress, and analyze data to make changes in interventions (Dana, n.d.)

The Intervention and Data Collection Plan
Prompt #3  What part of May’s data collection plan do you feel will be most meaningful?  Why?  What parts of May’s data collection plan do you believe to be the most practical?  Why?
What parts of May’s data collection plan do you believe to be impractical?  Why?
Pretend you are one of May’s colleagues.  Suggest one additional form of data you think May might collect that could inform her research.  Be sure you provide an explanation that describes why you think May should consider collecting this form of data.
            May’s intervention and data collection plan has many strategic and meaningful components that I fully intend to include in my own teaching practice. Directly engaging Sienna (a tier three student) in the research process analyzing student achievement toward goals will have a profound effect on behavior management in May’s class.  As the research suggests, if Sienna develops a sense of importance as a contributing member to the research team, it is likely to have a profound effect on the choices she makes in her own behavior.  May’s behavior intervention plan also uses an interdisciplinary approach to integrate standards into her inquiry.  Teaching her students graphing skills, while simultaneously working toward attainment of inquiry goals, reduces the frustration teachers feel when behavior management continually interferes with valuable instruction time.  May’s reflection on her fourth-period class revealed that the critical first three minutes “coming in procedure” was no longer working.  Teachers understand this to be a critical time to set a tone for the working environment necessary for optimum learning.  Limiting the interventions to the first three minutes is an excellent test to see how effective they can be at a crucial part of the instructional period.  Graphing the results of each day and setting a new goal for the next is a powerful visual representation to remind the students of the challenge ahead.   
            There are certain facets of the plans that could be possibly problematic.  Students that struggle with visual integration problems (copying from the board) could really struggle with completing the agenda, especially under time constraints.  I also have concerns that relying on additional personnel, the RtI coach for the Tier 2 intervention might be unrealistic. In addition it is also essential that Tier 2 students have several modeling and practice sessions to ensure they understand the meaning of the personal graphs that they will be complete.  Furthermore, concrete rewards for Tier 1, 2, and 3 groups could be available to provide additional incentives for students to actively work toward their goals. 
            As a member of May’s PLC team, I would recommend that video could be a very revealing source of data collection to evaluate and inform instruction as well as to measure growth.  Since her inquiry has been limited to the three minute entrance to class time, it would be easy to video students three times as a pre-assessment, formative, and summative assessment of student behavior.  Review of the video with the PLC team will allow all members to constructively comment on the changes over time with the implementation of the three tier intervention strategy.

Coding May’s first Data-The Wish List for Great Classroom Learning Condition
Prompt #4-Share the categories you named, as well as examples of responses that were included in each category.  If you were May, what do you think analysis of this initial data is telling you?
            The data May collected from the student wish list would prove to be invaluable in the design of intervention strategies to improve classroom climate and behavior.  The categories that I named to describe her findings include:  Showing respect for all teachers and classmates, reduction in homework and increase in real life experiences such as field trips, and more structured class organization.  Inclusive in the showing respect category I included:  students’ requests for respect to teacher and classmates, reduction in drama to allow for more instructional time, and a decrease in the classroom noise level.  In the reduced homework and life experiences category I included: everyone gets an A, more field trips, parties and fun.  Finally, in my class organization category I included:  requests for daily completion of agendas, beginning the period work in a timely manner, students coming to class on time and for the design of daily routines so that students know what to do.  Analysis of this initial data suggests that May needs to establish with the class some guidelines for showing respect for peers and teachers.  She also needs to re-evaluate homework to determine what can be changed to make it a more positive and engaging experience for students.  Furthermore, classroom structure and organization needs to be revamped.   It is evident that the “coming in” activities are presently not clear, thus causing students to lose the settling in time that prepares them for the student-centered science lessons May prefers.

Dana, N. (n.d.).  Creating a positive behavior support system in a seventh-grade science classroom [case study].  Retrieved June 2, 2011 from:
Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2009). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (2nd ed.).