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Surviving and Thriving with Teacher Action Research

Reflections and Advice from the Field


Edited By Heather Lattimer and Stacey Caillier

Action research can be a transformative learning experience that strengthens educators’ practice and empowers our voices. For the novice action researcher, however, it can sometimes be frustrating, isolating, and overwhelming. Surviving and Thriving with Teacher Action Research is an outstanding companion for educators embarking on the action research journey. The book shares the collected wisdom of more than thirty experienced teacher researchers. Designed to guide readers through the research process, the book is divided into five sections that reflect critical components of action research: developing a research question, designing a plan, engaging student voice, implementing the research process, analyzing data and sharing results. Relevant for both novice and seasoned action researchers, Surviving and Thriving is perfect for use in graduate education coursework, among professional learning communities, or by teachers embarking on action research independently. The text design, which includes introductory statements and guiding questions for each section, allows the book to stand alone as a guide for action research or it can serve as an outstanding complement to a more traditional, procedurally focused action research methods textbook.


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Section One: Journey toward a Research Question


s e c t i o n o n e Action research begins when we notice challenges, opportunities, and interactions in our classrooms and begin to ask questions. “Why did this lesson work so much better in 1st period than in 3rd?” “How can I reach my students who struggle with math?” “Will this assessment really show what my students have learned?” “How can I make this curriculum more engaging?” These questions, informal wonder- ings that constantly swirl in teachers’ minds, can be the starting point for an AR journey. As Ruth Shagoury and Brenda Power write in their book on teacher research, Living the Questions, “We don’t always start out with a specific, clearly formulated question. As observers of classrooms daily, we can unearth our ques- tions by reflecting on what we see” (2012, p. 20) Action research may originate from something that surprises us; those mo- ments or interactions that seem out of place to our usual routine can spur questions that lead to larger investigations. It can derive from an area of concern; frustrations over what appears to not be working can be ripe for further inquiry. It can come from the tensions that often exist between expectations and reality—our own ex- pectations, administrators’ expectations, policy demands, and curriculum promises often collide with what we observe in our classrooms; these tensions are ripe for research. And, contrary to common belief that action research has to address a “prob- lem,” research questions can also be born out...

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