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.).

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