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Making a Relevant Choice in Action Research

written by: Noreen Gunnell•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 1/31/2011

Teachers are surrounded by teacher action research topics in their classrooms.

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    Teacher and Student Classroom dynamics of interaction, learning, and various personalities generate teacher action research topics daily. Challenges in the classroom come in many forms. Ask any teacher and he will tell you classroom difficulties range from addressing different learning styles to behavior issues, and choosing the proper assessment method. Ignoring these matters won’t make them disappear and solutions can vary just as much as the problems that prompted them. Action research reveals the best solutions and is one of a teacher’s greatest tools.

    Action research is described in many ways, but it can be defined as an active, participatory form of research carried out in the setting its findings are meant to be utilized. It is cyclical in that it involves thinking about results and changing methods to improve upon those results. It involves recognizing a problem, planning how to address it, acting on the plans, observing what happens, and then reflecting on those observations. Usually, plans are modified and the process continues until the researcher is satisfied. Effective educators are always trying out new lesson plans and teaching strategies, making them experts in recognizing teacher action research topics.

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    Finding What is Relevant to You

    A common action research topic for teachers is teaching strategies or approaches. Is a cooperative lesson plan more effective with a particular class? Does the topic being taught affect the strategy choice? Is individual research and study more beneficial than traditional group instruction? All of these questions are teacher action research topics that can be tested, and the results will enable the teacher to create a productive learning environment.

    As an example, let’s look at one of the questions above individually.

    Teacher Action Research Topic: Is a cooperative lesson plan more effective with a particular class?

    First period is a small group of less than twenty students, most of whom are high achievers. Behavior and classroom control is rarely an issue despite the fact that planned lectures often become lively group discussions with many thoughtful, constructive exchanges between student and teacher, and the students themselves.

    1. Plan: For the upcoming unit, the teacher intends to limit lecture style lesson plans and individual class work. Instead, she will employ cooperative strategies using small groups. Unit test and cooperative work grades will be compared to the test and individual grades from past units to determine if the students learn more effectively with a higher concentration of cooperative lesson plans.
    2. Act: Carry out the above plan.
    3. Observe: Observe how students interact and perform during their cooperative assignments.
    4. Reflect: Consider the findings and decide if any adjustments should be made to the plan. If so, return to the plan, make the changes, and try again.

    The same approach could be used with other teacher action research topics such as classroom management. For instance, if getting a class to settle down and focus is a problem, a teacher could see if bell ringer activities are a workable solution. Likewise, if test grades tend to be dropping, a teacher might compare results between tests and another assessment method such as a research or response paper.

    Teachers, education students, and student teachers are surrounded by situations that can become teacher action research topics. Every aspect of educating, creating a lesson plan to communicating with parents, presents issues that can easily become action research subject matters.

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