Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 28, Issue 5, (July, 2012), p. 675-684
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to explore how middle grades interns planned, conducted, and reflected upon their teaching practices as the result of conducting action research.
The participants were twenty preservice middle grades teachers from two separate cohorts of one-year each in the Middle Grades Academy program at the University.
Data were collected from collaborative discussions, final written documents, presentations, and follow-up surveys.
The findings revealed that conducting action research engaged the participants in inquiry into their own practice.
The interns realized that this process gave them the opportunity to question their existing personal beliefs and to reform their personal theories upon which change in practice could support effective student learning.
The interns received ideas from others, adopted strategies for assessment of learning in the context of teaching, adopted innovative strategies to improve teaching and learning, and linked theory to practice in their own teaching.
Additionally, this process was a means to reflect upon and determine ways to change their teaching practices.
The majority of interns perceived that as a result of their action research that they were able to understand multiple ways of teaching in order to reach all of their students, that they learned to elicit, listen to, and use their students’ ideas in their teaching, and that their teaching practice improved by incorporating students’ ideas.
These interns focused on the students and used assessments that would help them to learn how to assist all of their students, including those that were struggling.
Furthermore, action research facilitated discussions about the interaction between theory and practice.
Interns learned about teaching and learning through conducting a review of literature, analyzing their findings, collaborating and discussing with one another on their research, reflecting on their findings, and attending other interns’ presentations.
Finally, conducting action research promoted critical reflection in a collaborative learning environment.
Meaningful action research that involves critical examination within the scope of goals that can be achieved requires a great deal of cooperation.
The partnership between the interns, the mentoring teachers, the school faculty, the principals, the university supervisors, and the action research professor were important in supporting the interns during the year-long internship.
The interns were able to share their ideas, goals, problems, and issues not only in the action research course but also during enactment in their school contexts.
Collectively as a group, they were able to share their successes, frustrations and disappointments.
They had time to share their ideas about their experiences, culture, and beliefs.
The interns reported several positive impacts of their action research such as learning how to interrogate the literature when exploring new ideas, becoming more reflective and thinking about teaching differently, and learning to ask others for help, to work together and to learn from what other interns had done.
These collaborative experiences promoted the pre-requisite reflection level of self-awareness in order to promote a better understanding of the diversity of students in their classrooms. Teacher preparation programs should reflect upon ways to integrate diversity across program settings, especially in light of increasingly diverse student.
The authors believe that teachers who are well-equipped with knowledge, skills and experiences to effectively deal with the challenges of teaching that many first year teachers face may also be more likely to be retained as teachers in the future.