Martha and I discussed during the first individual reading session this morning the fact that my thesis paper should have a component of research within it to be considered valid and transferable to those who might some day read it; so it was with great interest that I read the article concerning the dilemma of practitioner research being compared to just being descriptions of classroom practice by Bartlett and Burton. It helped me see that qualitative research can often be questioned/tested within the realm of what might be considered to be ‘real research’. It is thus important to know a few things about why this might be.
The article by Bartlett and Burton outlines the research of a group of teachers into their classroom practice. Their investigations, although critiqued, were in the end deemed as research. Practitioner research is thus a possible form of research, in spite of the critiques of such by other formal researchers. There are three P’s of Practitioner research: research conducted must be practical in importance, participatory in nature and peer reviewed in validation of findings. Practitioner research’s benefits would include the establishment of communities of practice to discuss and share experiences of teaching as well as the development of research skills. This article affirms that the research we as teachers do is “real” but we must remember to document what we do so as to validate our findings.
Therefore, within this article it was shown that there can be a tension between whether this type of research is just merely descriptions of practice or whether this research is truly done as an objectively designed research study. That is- whether or not it is certified research. It was argued that descriptions of practice do constitute the data sources for research projects. What distinguishes these descriptions as research is the following: critical questioning and appraisal that the teacher researchers and their communities of practice bring to bear upon them.
As well, we did a jigsaw activity and had different readers report back on other articles by Makoelle, Lyons and Cooper and White. In those articles it was found that there were certain common themes: teacher directed research seems to be the best approach to initiating an action research project, although it can work when initiated by the leadership; practitioner research is valid as long as it is well documented; resources and time are always an issue; there can be a tension between whether or not certain action research projects are just merely descriptions of practice or if they truly are objectively designed research studies; it was also argued that descriptions of practice are what constitutes the data sources for research projects- what distinguishes these descriptions as research is the following: critical questioning and appraisal that the teacher researchers and their communities of practice bring to bear upon them; collaboration is key and things have to be in place (well planned); things can change over time and that’s okay; the challenge in conducting research is teacher buy-in: people have to feel it is relevant to what they are doing and worth their time in order for it to be effective; cultural considerations also need to be taken into account- and it must be noted: who are the participants?
Another useful activity that we did today was to form research questions with regards to variables within the school setting, variables over which we as teachers have no control. Then we did the opposite- formed research questions based on variables over which we had some control. Here are my five questions for each:
Questions: Variables we as teachers can’t control:
How does bussing access affect the learning enrichment of students in rural schools?
How does access to technology benefit student learning? Does it hinder student learning?
What is the effect of peer pressure on student learning?
What is the effect of reduced staffing on teacher output and productivity?
How does the relationship teachers share with their administrator affect teacher output?
Questions: Variables over which we as teachers have some control:
What is the relationship between happiness and job fulfillment?
What is the relationship between teacher stress levels and productivity specifically at stressful times of the year (September, December and June)?
How does one’s personal faith/beliefs/moral/character influence the way they do their work as an educator?
How does sleep and ways of well being (diet, exercise, etc.) impact teacher productivity?
How do addictions within the teaching profession impact best teaching practices?
In closing, I found it useful to ponder the following variables as they allow for considerations to think about when forming questions for research are the following: they are student variables, teacher variables, classroom variables, school variables.