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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 Four: Trusting the Process


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. —lao-tzu (604–531 bc) A good friend has this famous quote from Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu pinned over her kitchen sink. She says it reminds her to be calm, take things at a steady pace, and not get overwhelmed. For me, it just raises more questions. In which direction should I step? How do I know I’m going in the right direction? What happens if I want to change directions after I take that first step? Getting started with action research can be similarly unnerving. When we initially begin to explore the questions that will guide our action research, there appear to be so many possibilities. We may fear that if we choose the “wrong” one, our entire action research process will fail. Questions will remain unanswered. Goals will go unmet. If this is where you find yourself, you are not alone. Over the years, we’ve worked with many educators who have felt similarly overwhelmed— and we’ve felt this way ourselves at times. The good news is that the recursive nature of action research means that if you step in the “wrong” direction initially, you can always make changes as you go. The ship will right itself if you trust the sails—in this case, the internal voice reminding you what matters most, and the voices of your students and trusted colleagues. Some of the most successful action research experiences start from questions that are a bit wobbly at first,...

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