Understanding Changes in Teacher Roles Through Collaborative Action Research

Dec. 10, 2010

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 21, Number 8, 937-95. (December, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article reports on how science teachers as action researchers investigated their teaching roles through autobiographical reflection (narratives and metaphors) and collaborative reflection (focus group discussions) to become familiar with the changes in their teaching role when teaching with computer technology. Furthermore, the article details the author's role as the facilitator of the collaborative action research project.

The design of the study was framed by the action research space framework (Rearrick and Feldman 1999) and the conditions for quality collaborative action research framework (Capobianco and Feldman 2006).

Two research questions framed the study:
1. What are the changes in teachers’ teaching roles when using computer technology to teach?
2. In what ways did the action research space framework and the conditions for quality collaborative action research framework provide a productive action research agenda?

Data were collected through: (a) interviews and observations and (b) focus group discussion.

There were five participants who were Grade 10 secondary school science teachers– Angie, Anthony, Naomi, Suzie, and Tanya. The age range of participants was between 35 and 45 years old. Both Angie and Naomi were physics teachers. Anthony and Tanya were chemistry teachers. Suzie was a biology teacher. Collectively, they had an average of 10 years of teaching experience. All participants attended professional development courses related to the use of computer technology and were using computer technology tools, for 8 years in their respective science classrooms.


The findings paint a portrait of the changes in participants’ teaching role when they taught with computer technology. The participants, prior to engaging in action research, viewed their teaching role as being primarily centered on three actions:
(a) planning and managing computer technology as a multipurpose tool to enhance science instruction,
(b) controlling students’ learning activities, and
(c) accounting for students’ learning.

When participants engaged in both autobiographical reflection and collaborative reflection of their teaching episodes, they began to understand that their teaching role consisted of diversified and expanded actions.
Collaborative sharing of teaching and learning experiences helped participants negotiate the changes in their teaching roles and also revealed how they underscored these changes in relation to students’ learning of science content (Capobianco 2007; Capobianco et al. 2006; Fazio and Melville 2008; Feldman and Capobianco 2008; Nelson 2008). Participants created knowledge of instruction based on one another’s perspectives.

Results from this study have shown that teachers’ explanations using computer technology were based on designating roles for the computer technology, students, and themselves and not simply based on the knowledge of computer technology as teaching.

Conclusions and Implications

One implication for facilitators of action research includes the need for facilitators to articulate their theoretical orientation prior to the onset of facilitating action research projects.
A second implication includes the need for facilitators of action research to acknowledge and accept teacher researchers as fellow active knowledge producers who, with the proper guidance and exposure to frameworks can gain from the productive nature of action research.

Capobianco, B. M. (2007). Science teachers’ attempts at integrating feminist pedagogy through collaborative action research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 1–32.

Capobianco, B. M., & Feldman, A. (2006). Promoting quality for teacher action research: Lessons learned from science teachers’ action research. Educational Action Research, 14, 497–512.

Capobianco, B. M., Lincoln, S., Canuel-Browne, D., & Trimarchi, R. (2006). Examining the experiences of three generations of teacher researchers through collaborative science teacher inquiry. Teacher Education Quarterly, 33, 61–78.

Fazio, X., & Melville, W. (2008). Science teacher development through collaborative action research. Teacher Development, 12, 193–209.

Feldman, A., & Capobianco, B. M. (2008). Teacher learning of technology enhanced formative assessment. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17, 82–99.

Nelson, T. H. (2008). Teachers’ collaborative inquiry and professional growth: Should we be optimistic? Science Education, 93, 548–580.

Rearrick, M. L., & Feldman, A. (1999). Orientations, purposes, and reflection: A framework for understanding action research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15, 333–349.

Updated: May. 19, 2011