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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute
Judy Warfel & Karen Delbridge, Johnson Junior High School, Cheyenne, WY

 

ACTION RESEARCH IN A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SITE

Problem  Johnson Junior High School, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has been in partnership with the University of Wyoming for two years as a Professional Development School (PDS). Through collaborative efforts, action research has become a common practice for pre-service teachers, faculty, and staff. This practice has afforded us the opportunity to conduct in-depth studies on a variety of subjects. Because of this partnership, we have varying degrees of educational expertise. We wanted to determine if action research played a role in the professional development of educators at all levels through our PDS site.
Research Question  How has action research influenced and affected the role of professional development for pre-service and current educators at Johnson Junior High School?
Methods 
  • Questionnaire for PDS pre-service students 
  • Questionnaire for faculty and/or staff. 
  • Focus groups, one with PDS pre-service students and the other with faculty and/or staff. 
Findings  PDS pre-service students:
  • PDS students had inconsistent definitions of ‘action research’.
  • PDS students had minimal understanding of how to conduct educational action research.
  • PDS students had conducted minimal research in both traditional and nontraditional university programs.
  • PDS students were apt to take a more active leadership role by being involved in the entire school environment and the community. 
  • PDS students developed relationships with administrators, faculty members, and students.

PDS pre-service students who had experience with action research:

  • Four of the twenty-one PDS students who had conducted action research through their program benefited from discussions of teaching styles, practices, and strategies.
  • As a result of participation in action research, PDS students felt they were more reflective and had more confidence and competence in their abilities to educate students as well as to work collaboratively with their colleagues.
  • PDS students felt that the processes of action research such as posing questions, documenting, data gathering, and analyzing data were beneficial.
  • PDS students were more likely to conduct action research once they had their own group of students.

Faculty: 

  • The faculty had inconsistent definitions of action research.
  • The faculty had minimal understanding on how to conduct educational action research.
  • The faculty had conducted minimal research in their traditional university programs.
  • Action research created a greater sense of camaraderie within and between the departments at Johnson Junior High.
  • Action research created a greater understanding of poverty issues that surround families, the community, and the school.
  • As a result of understanding poverty, relationship building among adults and students became a common theme throughout various action research projects.
  • Action research resulted in an increased awareness of the similarities and differences among the diverse population of students at Johnson Junior High School.
  • Faculty members felt that the process of conducting action research became more powerful than the end product. 
  • Educational practices were reaffirmed through action research.
  • Action research must be relevant to the individual or group.
  • Action research satisfies the goals and purposes of those individuals who want to grow both personally and professionally.
  • The process of action research leads to discovery, thereby creating even more questions. 
  • The faculty has an increased sense of ownership of building issues through action research.
  • The faculty felt that action research served to “raise the bar” as to whom educators are professionally.
  • Conducting action research serves to raise the self-esteem of those involved.
  • Faculty members found action research to be both challenging and rejuvenating.
  • Issues of time and incentives were a predominate theme raised with faculty.§ The faculty felt that action research was more rewarding when conducted collaboratively.
  • The faculty felt that the School-University Partnership is beneficial by promoting professional relationships and developing a sense of shared knowledge.
  • Continued collaborative projects will benefit and promote better communication between the school and the university. 
Policy Recommendations
  • The School-University Partnership should continue providing support and opportunities for professional development via collaboration at all educational levels.
  • More time should be built into the school day for reflection, dialogue, collaboration, and book study. 
  • If time cannot be built into the regular school schedule, compensation should become a part of professional development.
  • PDS pre-service students should have a greater fundamental understanding of action research and more opportunities to conduct this research within the building.
  • PDS students and novice personnel should be paired with seasoned educators when conducting action research.
  • University instructors and building professionals would benefit from a partnership that teaches the process of action research to interested educators.
  • Realizing that some educators are reluctant to move in the direction of action research, Johnson Junior High School should consider providing these educators with opportunities for understand the process as well as sharing results and testimonies from the individuals who have completed action research.
  • Since all building personnel are required to develop yearly personal and professional goals, action research should become a component of this requirement through individual and/or collaborative efforts.
  • Students and/or classes would benefit from participating in action research as part of their educational plan.
  • Future building administrators who are a part of a PDS school should have a thorough background in action research.
  • Action research should become a mind-set and a way of life vital to the role of professional development within the building.

 

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