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A school improvement team was gathered to conduct action research and identify a problem that affects student achievement and is approached by the school authorities but is not yet decently monitored. During the study, it was revealed that the students who attend the school are mainly from the neighbors, which means that students communicate not only at school. Those of the 9th grade, for instance, tend to gather in groups.
There is a group of five individuals whose seats are never occupied by others, and they tend to be the leaders of the class. The rest of the learners reveal poor motivation and self-confidence. Following the leaders, they rarely participate in the proposed activities and tend to be rather passive in class, which affects the overall performance and makes the teaching process rather complicated.
The class consists of 24 individuals, and 5 of them influence the whole class. The rest of the students would act just like them because they do not have any desire to get engaged in the class activities and do not feel confident enough to do the things others refuse to. As a result, there is a necessity to punish them and to beg to participate. Being asked about their attitudes towards language classes, students stated that they find their coursebook and activities offered by it boring. In addition to that, they tend to work individually because group work distracts them. Thus, there is a necessity to resort to those practices that improve both motivation and self-confidence.
The source of the issue is likely to be not the book itself or leadership in the class, but a lack of attention revealed by the school authorities towards students’ interests. To improve the situation, teachers implement activities to promote group and pair work. They focus on such objectives as:
- Show students the advantages of group work;
- Encourage students to rely on their abilities and skills;
- Use those methods that promote students’ self-confidence;
- Enhance knowledge sharing between learners and educators.
The effectiveness of the teaching process depends greatly on the students’ engagement in the proposed activities that is why it is critical to ensure that they meet students’ interests (Sadykova, 2014). Unfortunately, the lack of motivation and stimulation, as well, as the lack of confidence regarding personal skills and abilities, makes learners rather passive. As a result, they fail to reach expected progress.
Currently, teachers tend to improve their communication with students. They conduct surveys to find out what they like and use this information as the basis for the lesson plans. Activities maintained in pairs and groups are also often offered. However, the effectiveness of these initiatives is not being monitored.
Encouragement and self-confidence are vital for positive academic results. Motivation, for example, is critical because it makes students participated in various activities because of the reward they will eventually obtain. Emphasis on the things they need increases chances of the successful task accomplishment.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people need to fulfill their needs in a particular order. In this way, students will focus on class-related activities only when those connected with breathing, sleep, security, relations, and confidence, etc. will be satisfied. Thus, encouragement of students is a rather complicated task that should constantly be maintained to ensure that they are engaged in the learning process.
Motivation can be intrinsic and extrinsic, and teachers need to consider both types. Intrinsic motivation deals with the final goal of obtaining knowledge and can be seen in students only if they are highly interested in the topic itself, which is rarely observed. Being aligned with Maslow’s hierarchy, it appears to be the final goal on the top of the pyramid. Extrinsic motivation presupposes the necessity to add some reward for the successful accomplishment of a task.
Even though such an approach seems to be less appropriate, it often turns out to be extremely effective. Students who are generally reluctant to participate in class activities resort to them because they understand that it is a possibility to get the desired prize, additional marks, higher points, fewer home tasks, or other things. However, this approach should not turn into a commonly used option because it can cause additional problems.
Students’ self-confidence also requires much attention from teachers. If learners do not believe in their powers and consider that they are not able to accomplish a task, they are likely to refuse even to start it (Sharma & Agarwala, 2014). Students’ belief in their capabilities allows them to reach success, if it is not maintained, they are likely to be rather passive and to avoid any tasks. Supporting students’ self-confidence, teachers can make them participate in various activities regardless of their complexity.
Thus, teachers should offer learners to take an active part in both individual and group tasks, and to monitor their effectiveness. Being aware of the results, especially working ones, learners are likely to develop an interest in participation in more difficult activities (Wang, 2015). In this way, teachers’ feedback is crucial for students’ motivation.
The methodology needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiatives that promote student motivation and self-confidence is not complicated, which means that it can be maintained by teachers as well.
The first step of the discussed comprehensive plan is already implemented. It deals with the investigation of student interests and their current participation in class activities offered by educators.
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The second step is to evaluate received information and identify those topics that students want to discuss. Here, it is also possible to get in touch with learners to ensure that the choices are made correctly.
The third step is to plan classes based on the obtained information. Teachers should align those skills and abilities that students are to obtain after the completion of the course with those topics they want to discuss in class. It is significant to remember that activities maintained in pairs and groups are to be included.
The fourth step should be dedicated to the evaluation and assessment of the effectiveness of the implemented improvement effort. It should be done in several ways. First of all, students should share their attitudes toward new activities and topics. Their overall perception of classes should be considered. Then, attention should be paid to academic achievements and changes in marks. Finally, teachers should focus on their perception of students’ participation and reveal if they are more motivated to accomplish tasks and if they feel confident when dealing with various activities.
Teachers should develop a checklist that focuses on the expected results. A short questionnaire should also be created. On their basis, they should be able to identify and correct the problems they face with new activities. What is more, it will be possible to implement changes to improve the situation in the case of no positive response. In this way, it will be possible to evaluate teachers’ practice and students’ attitudes towards it. It will be advantageous to record classroom activities in detail.
Teachers will have an opportunity to reconsider them, assessing personal performance, and ensuring that explanations and instructions are clear and easy to understand. In addition to that, it will be extremely beneficial if a video per week is taken. Then, teachers have an opportunity to analyze their lessons appropriately. Moreover, they can ask a colleague to assist and share his/her ideas.
The questionnaire should be given to students. Using them, they should reflect their reactions to the class activities, and teachers’ performance. Thus, questions should be short and clear. For instance, it is possible to focus on the duration of the activities, clearness of instructions, and appropriateness of visual materials.
Of course, the evaluation of the improvement efforts is impossible without an analysis of teachers’ actions. When all data is already gathered, they should examine their performance and students’ reaction to them in a more objective way than focusing on students’ responses. The most benefit can be obtained due to the participation of a third person, a colleague, for instance. He/she should provide comprehensive feedback. However, self-assessment is also required and should not be neglected.
Considering the issue discussed and developed objectives, teachers should plan activities that are based on students’ interests but not simply taken from the book. In this way, if a song is supposed to be used during the class, a teacher should find out learners’ preferences. It is possible to watch a movie or to use other technical devices to make classes more attractive.
Students should improve their participation in class activities through the promotion of self-confidence. It can be achieved through the usage of congratulations for improvement. As a result, inhibition can be stopped, and students can realize that they are a group that can learn together with a teacher through questions and conversations. Teachers can say that they are good at something or that they should keep working on it. Comments can be made about the very activities and learners’ success related to them. As a result, they are expected to start feeling confident and to stop being afraid of active participation.
For this research, a school improvement team evaluated several classes and questioned teachers and students. As a result, an opportunity to have enough information for the identification of the main problem that affects student achievement was obtained. The researchers analyzed information and aligned the outlined issues with their interests. In this way, a lack of attention revealed by the school authorities towards students’ interests was chosen as a critical problem that requires further investigation. The researchers found out that some teachers have already started to maintain particular improvement efforts to deal with this issue.
However, their effectiveness was not properly assessed. In addition to that, attention was paid to the lack of self-esteem because learners were unwilling to participate in all activities regardless of the topics discussed in class. Such a tendency can also be considered as an anomaly because learners remained rather passive even when educators based their lessons on those topics students claimed to be interesting and attractive.
Even though the results of this research seem to be inconsistent, they align with different sources. Scientists agree that educators often base their classes on the available materials and do not pay much attention to the interests of learners because related alterations will require a lot of changes and will make a planning process more difficult (Baki, Rafik-Galea, & Nimehchisalem, 2016). What is more, literature sources support the findings that reveal a lack of students’ self-esteem, which affects their willingness to participate in class activities adversely (Honken & Ralston, 2013).
Unfortunately, these results were expected, because these issues are often observed in various educational establishments. Moreover, the researchers were highly interested in the discussed issues and results, as scientists have focused on them for a long time already and numerous improvement initiatives have been proposed. However, the problem remains on the front burner even today, which means that some changes are required.
The data obtained from the research reveals that students are not interested in the topics and activities used in class. Unfortunately, even if they discuss some attractive information, learners remain passive because they do not believe in their powers and are afraid to fail. Interestingly, a lot of authoritative literature with resolutions to these issues is available, but teachers are still not able to achieve success and increase student interest and participation. Thus, it seems to be advantageous to focus on educators, their attitudes towards work, and possible changes needed to align the learning process with learners’ interests that are constantly changing.
In this way, it seems to be beneficial to answer some additional questions to improve analysis. For instance:
- Are teachers satisfied with available coursebooks?
- What topics do they want to discuss apart of those included in coursebooks?
- How do teachers perceive new tendencies and changes?
- Are they willing to learn something new from their students?
Answers to these questions are likely to allow the researchers to develop those initiatives that will benefit both students and teachers in the framework of participation in-class activities.
Due to this action research, the members of the school improvement team received an opportunity to reveal current issues that affect student achievement. They realized that even if some problems are already widely discussed, it does not mean that they are not on the front burner for particular classes. Moreover, the researchers understood that regardless of teachers’ willingness to improve students’ performance, they can also affect this process adversely because of unwillingness to implement critical changes. The team members also improved their understanding of teacher-student interaction, which is vital for them as for educators, as they can use this knowledge in practice.
Conducting action research, they found out that the implementation of improvement efforts has almost no effectiveness if it lacks a decent basis and monitoring. All changes maintained within the educational process should be aligned with proper evidence. Thus, it is critical to start with an investigation. Even though teachers observe a lack of participation in in-class activities, they should not try to enhance the situation based on their ideas. They need to approach their students to find out what makes them passive and how to engage them.
Baki, N., Rafik-Galea, S., & Nimehchisalem, V. (2016). Malaysian rural ESL students critical thinking literacy level: A case study. International Journal of Education & Literacy Studies, 4(4), 1-8. Web.
Honken, N., & Ralston, P. (2013). High-achieving high school students and not so high-achieving college students: A look at lack of self-control, academic ability, and performance in college. Journal of Advanced Academics, 24(2), 108-124. Web.
Sadykova, G. (2014). Mediating knowledge through peer-to-peer interaction in a multicultural online learning environment: A case of international students in the US. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(3), 1-7. Web.
Sharma, S., & Agarwala, S. (2014). Self-esteem and collective self-esteem as predictors of depression. Journal of Behavioural Sciences, 24(1), 21-28. Web.
Wang, S. (2015). An analysis of the causes and countermeasures of students’ English learning weariness in junior high school. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5(8), 1747-1753. Web.