Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 21, Number 8, 993-1011. (December, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This paper presents the action research (AR) component of a Master of Natural Science (MNS) degree program for physics teachers at a large research university in the southwestern United States. The article describes both process and outcomes of this research experience from the perspectives of the research coordinator and the teacher–researchers.
This was a mixed methods study relying on both unstructured and semi-structured interviews, interesting conversations (Feldman 1999), email exchanges with teacher–researchers, field notes from 7 years of Leadership Workshop seminars and teachers’ responses to a survey regarding their action research experience and its influence on their teaching practice.
The teachers who have completed the MNS degree program indicate their AR process was a valuable and interesting experience despite the manifold challenges of conducting classroom research in cooperation with a team of teachers while simultaneously teaching full time.
These teachers' experiences suggest a number of strategies to deal with common challenges.
First, since the biggest single obstacle to timely completion of action research is the lack of research collaborators, teachers are strongly encouraged to involve one or more research partners when they plan their study.
To address the problem of inadequate mentoring support for teachers during the research process, teachers are advised to choose a committee chair with whom they already have a relationship (e.g., the action research coordinator or someone whose class they have taken) so that they feel more comfortable making monthly progress reports or contacting them for advice and guidance.
To address teachers’ concerns about their ability to collect good data and analyze it properly, teachers are encouraged to take a research methods course as one of their electives prior to engaging in their action research project.
Finally, to address the rush to finish on time that often occurs in the summer following data collection, teachers are encouraged to complete their action research during the second to last year of their master’s degree program rather than waiting till the last year of the program.
Action research experiences have the potential to greatly enhance teaching practice. Teachers report that their experiences in the AR program have changed the way they teach and changed their view of student learning. They report improved skills at formulating and interpreting assessments and indicate they have become more critical consumers of news, professional development and articles about teaching and learning.
Feldman, A. (1999). The role of conversation in collaborative action research. Educational Action Research, 7, 125–144.