Professional development and action research are both very significant in the teaching profession. Worthwhile and effective professional developments are always being sought by principles, supervisors and even specialists.
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In order to improve their service delivery, teachers are usually prompted to attend in-service meetings, conferences and even workshops. Some of these activities are usually frustrating and time consuming. There is great need therefore for teachers to impact their professional development which in the long run impacts on their proficiency.
An action plan is particularly significant in a situation whereby things are not running are expected or there is a need in the change of strategy. Practical solutions might be very much needed in such cases. Action research therefore ensures that a practical solution into whatever social situation is found. By using action research the tutor understands the situation deeply besides finding the most practical solution to it.
It involves a teacher’s research into his/her own actions and possible actions to be undertaken in order to improve the same. Action research is significant in ensuring that a viable solution to any situation is found. It is common for a one person’s solution working to the disadvantage of others especially if the solution is from outside, hence the need for action research. It gives insight into the past situation, the present as well as the future projections concerning the situation at hand.
Action research enables the teacher not only to practice but also improve the situation under which the practice is done. It is very vital in ensuring social change.
The teacher is therefore able to be empowered professionally as he/she is made to understand the workplace well. It is a significant tool in ensuring that the teacher understands his/her practice, ways of improving the same, enable him/her understands the ways in which the person is able to understand changes from outside and enable one to improve the practice through changing the outside.
Inquiry based learning has been in place for a long time and it is based on asking questions and finding possible solutions to the same (French, 2005, p.2). Action research usually ensures that teachers are constantly informed of any changes that occur particularly those involving their techniques of service delivery hence ensuring that the learning are kept abreast with the changing times as well as methods of learning like cooperative learning.
Action research has been found out to be the most effective way of ensuring the development of teachers in their profession. The paper examines the reactions of school teachers to the issue of action research.
Professional development is very vital in the improvement of a tutors craft or teaching practice and it is significant in improving the learning environment. It focuses on the basic practices that are vital in education. It ensures the development of skills, practice as well as knowledge all of which are very important in the learning process.
Action research is vital for the improvement of a learning institution. It is able to help the teacher in ensuring effective teacher development. Teachers are meant to believe that they are performing very important work hence no need to burnout as they act as moral educators. Any form of teacher development should be aimed at uplifting as well as inspiring those involved in it. It should be geared towards ensuring higher performance among the learners as well as improving collaboration and teamwork.
Several published lists which are aimed at highlighting professional development. These have been compiled by researchers and other organizations like the Education Testing Services as well as the department of education. There have been numerous debates concerning what professional development involves.
The common ground for all these arguments however lies in the fact that it involves the enhancement of leadership capabilities, enhancing effective time management, enhancing thinking skills as well as effective use of resources.
Action research has a lot to do with reflection. This involves being attentive to knowledge and believes. It dates back to the days of Buddha and Plato. It goes beyond examination and thinking. It is an active process that aims at gaining deeper understanding as well as ensuring improvement.
Reflection can be defined as an out-of-body experience whereby an analysis of the actions is made and they are viewed in the thinking as well as decision-making context. It is governed by intention which implies that it is not passive. Teachers therefore need to use reflection while trying to improve the student’s contextual learning as well as during the adapting process, the application as well as their evaluation of their knowledge.
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Reflection can be in various forms for instance, on-line chats or discussion groups. It helps in bringing out different perspectives and various solutions to a given issue. It is crucial in narrowing down the gap that exists between theory and practice. The major reflection types include technical, practical as well as critical analysis.
Technical reflection for instance mainly deals with the ensuring of the attainment of goals and it puts a lot of emphasis on efficiency. Practical reflection on the other hand mainly focuses on the attainment of goals and the means or strategies involved in the attainment of the same.
Here effectiveness as well as goal justification is significant. In critical reflection, the goals and the means to the same are analyzed in accordance with the justice or morality context. The purpose and growth are put into account in this case. Reflection practices are able to fit into more of these types at the same time. Many models have been suggested over the effective professional development in the past some of which are short-term while others are long-term. Action research is just one of them.
Action Research in Professional Development
Action Research can be termed as the study of the learning environment like the school or classroom with the intention of improving the teaching. It is scientific and systematic, involving inquiry and contextual professional development. The process is reflective and it is usually motivated by growth and improvement in teaching.
There are various steps involved in action research. They basically involve the identification of the problem, determining the needs or methods of data collection, collection and analysis of data, creation of an action plan, description of the use of the findings, report as well as the future plan. The process is usually cyclical. The steps are vital in ensuring professionalism, completeness as well as validity of the action research. It usually requires regular observation.
Most teachers when asked about action research have observed that it is usually very significant in ensuring professional or even professional growth. It helps them in becoming role models and in impacting their colleagues. They become agents of change and change their modes of giving instructions hence, witnessing general improvement in their service delivery.
They in the process become credible teachers. Teachers who have been consulted seem to be sure of the fact that action research aids in boosting their confidence and hence improving their efficiency in service delivery. They are able to redesign the way they issue the instructions.
They become empowered and hence are able effectively deliver their talents, and come up with creative ideas that help them to meet the needs of the learners. They are able to implement programs or even acquire others skills. Most of them after doing action research they are in a position to develop greater autonomy, they develop problem solving skills and they are able to effectively use data from their respective classrooms.
Action research is very vital in ensuring that the respective goals are accomplished. Action research enables the teachers to be the authors of their own research. They participate in the creation as well as accomplishment of their own goals and this drives them towards the accomplishment of the same. They take part in the setting of goals for development.
One of the teachers consulted observed that significant transformation was observed in his communication with the colleagues after action research occurred. The conversations from colleagues turned from polite talks to comprehensive conversations. The dialogues become helpful and the relationship with the other teachers was greatly enhanced. Collaboration and teamwork was greatly boosted.
Action research helps the teacher to turn from the traditional methods of teaching to those methods that are modern and effective hence ensuring the satisfaction of the needs of the students. It is therefore very important in ensuring professional development for the teachers. Studies have proved that action research is very vital in the overall improvement in the performance of a school on a long-term basis.
There are some teachers who have no idea about action research yet indulge in other activities that are geared towards ensuring professional development some of which include routine reflection by the teachers. A study done on two teachers Mary and Rita showed that even some of the qualified teachers from college have no idea about action research although some of them might have the knowledge of some of its elements like data collection as well as methods of analysis.
This greatly influences their service delivery. Some of them like Rita have an experience of many years in the teaching profession with the desire for professional development yet they might have no idea about action research. Most of the reflection done by them is informal and it might not necessarily be directed towards ensuring that their goals are met and the needs of the students are met as well. They do it unconsciously.
Analysis of the Situation
Teachers who do not employ action research in their teaching are less likely to meet the desired goals in their teaching and they might not be able to witness professional development. Some of them might encounter challenges which could be solved by carrying out action research, but because of ignorance, they might not be in a position to effectively tackle the problem. The reflective practices carried out by most of them can only be effective if it is coupled with action research.
According to the training done, it is quite evident that the action research process is systematic and it has to be carried out using the appropriate procedures and techniques like coming up with a research plan, outlining research questions, setting timeline with the intention of reviewing the information, implementing the action research project data collection as well as analysis and the sharing of the same.
Action research might in some cases involve experimenting of the possible solutions to the existing problem. In Mary’s case for instance, she had to try motivational tactics in trying to make her students handle their assignments and hand them in at the appropriate time. She tried the tactic of rewarding the students who handed in all their assignments on time.
Action research is very vital in determining those factors that might greatly influence the attitudes of the students and hence in the long run affect their performance. The teacher might for instance be forced to adapt new tactics while teaching so as to ensure effectiveness in the long run. When effectively done, action research is able to turn the teaching process from a cumbersome and tedious activity to an enjoyable one. It is therefore an important vehicle of change.
Action research is vital in clearing out any confusing issues that might emerge in the teaching process. Questions are formulated and answers to the same are formulated. Discussions might be held in some cases so as to enhance clarity of the issues at hand.
Frequent meetings held while carrying out the action process are vital in offering encouragement, excitement as well as mentorship opportunities to the participants. Interviews are usually crucial in the process of data collection. A reflection held at the end of the process is also significant. Action research is vital in enhancing accountability, awareness as well as ensuring that the teaching is done in a systematic manner. It enhances sharing and professionalism of the teacher.
Action research helps the teachers in being reflective. Through reflection, they are able to know whether there past practices or lessons were effective. It enables the researcher to rely on facts rather than trial and error. Its process of discovery is structured and one has to rely on facts from the experiment rather than depending on his/her memory.
These facts can be kept for future reference as well as improvement. The formal steps carried out during the action plan are very significant especially when one is informing his/her colleagues about the same. The data collected is usually important. Action research helps the teacher to reflect on his/her teaching process and enable the person to avoid prejudgments or depending on making guesses.
It helps in avoiding wrong and misguided judgments. This is vital for every teacher. It helps one to be more serous, reflective and attentive. It enables one to one to look at the results and make an analysis of the same without depending on assumptions. One is able to get the actual concept of what is going on rather than relying on his/her impression of what is going on.
The reflective practices are particularly significant in the teaching process. One is able to get substantive evidence of whatever is occurring rather than relying on abstract concept. It is important in establishing a connection between the teacher and the student. The teacher becomes attentive to whatever happens within the classroom rather than brushing everything else aside. It helps in eliminating biases as the teacher is able to depend on facts rather than speculations.
By carrying out action research, the teacher comes up with specific solutions to improving the teaching as well as ensuring the overall improvement in the performances of the students. The action research has formal and systematic processes which ensure that ideas and results that come up during the reflection are not lost or forgotten.
The process ensures that the issue at hand is kept on the mind the possible solutions formulated as opposed to mere reflection which only involves the thoughts which are likely to be forgotten within a short time. It helps the teacher in changing his/her perceptions about the occurrences within the classroom. It helps in bringing out abstract questions or concepts into ones that can be substantiated or concrete.
The process is systematic hence making it easy to follow. In some cases, training is usually done for better results to be realized. The approach is organized and well structured. Through this, the attention of the teacher is usually focused on a particular issue or occurrence within the classroom hence a more specific solution is formulated. One is able to track whatever is going on rather than wish that things happened in a different way.
All the activities are therefore carried out in an organized manner. In action research, one is able to come up with a plan for specific activities to be undertaken and the procedures of how to achieve the same are clearly outlined. Having due dates is very important in ensuring that activities are done within the stipulated time. One is able to set goals to be attained and track the same.
The findings are recorded and this is vital for future references. One may go back to the records and refer as opposed to plain reflection where one thinks of an idea and the same remains within ones mind. It is a formal process that leaved nothing to chance. One records not only the findings but the impressions as well. Given that the process is structured, the teacher is forced to adapt structure as well and the work is there organized. Whenever a step is accomplished, one feels that some task has been accomplished.
For professional development particularly in the teaching profession, an action research is necessary:
- The decisions made have to be based on the findings deduced from action research and not on abstract concepts.
- One needs to keep a record of whatever findings he/she comes up with from the action research. One need to structure his/her lessons based on concrete information and data rather than relying on abstract ideas and guesses or personal judgments.
- One needs to be formal and follow the whole procedure of action research in a systematic manner. Every finding must be substantiated and where possible, it should be accompanied by an experiment so as to verify the same. Findings need to be coupled with the appropriate evidences.
- The process has to be objective and it should not be guided by biases, prejudgments or personal judgments. It has to be accompanied by data or statistical evidences.
- Opinions about professionalism should be based on findings from action research. This is because research is involved in the process and the arguments are presented and backed by substantive evidence.
- Generalities need to be avoided. The facts need to be specific and nothing should be left to chance.
- Accountability must be enhanced in the process. The procedures need to be followed to the later and the appropriate findings put down and in the cases where they need to communicated to others, they need to be communicated accurately.
- In the cases where the participant is not well versed with the process, it might be a good idea to undergo the appropriate training before undertaking the process.
- Conclusions must be drawn from the data collected and not merely depended on speculations.
- The participants need to keep strict timelines so as to ensure that the whole process is done within the set time.
Action research is the most appropriate method in ensuring professional development. It is differs from the regular practice of reflection as it is more concrete and it is accompanied by statistical evidence. It is vital in enhancing professionalism and sharing among the teachers. Action research is vital in enhancing the reflective teaching process as it enhances awareness. The process is more systematic than mere reflection and it enhances accountability.
It raises the consciousness of the participants to the reflection process. It is formal, scientific, timely and more specific as opposed to the abstract reflective process. By carrying out action research, one ensures that the needs of the students are met though the adoption of the most appropriate teaching practices. It helps to boost the confidence of teacher and hence enabling him/her to effectively carry out his/her duties.
The concrete evidence from the action research is important in avoiding the trial-and -error approach or overdependence on mere assumptions. The systematic approach adopted is usually necessary in enhancing professionalism. The process involves the outlining of a concrete plan which is followed in the process and the fact that findings are written down is vital for future references. Action research is therefore a worthwhile process.
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- Bernstein, Richard. Praxis and Action. London: Duckworth, 1971.
- Marshall, Joan. “Living Life as Inquiry.” Systemic Practice and Action Research 12, no. 2 (1999): pp 155-171.
- Black, Cheryl. “Issues regarding the facilitation of teacher research.” Reflective Practice 6, No. 1 (2005): pp. 107-122
- Buber, Martin. Between Man and Man. London:Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1947.
- Caughlan, Saidomar. “Considering Pastoral Power: A commentary on Aaron Schutz’s Rethinking Domination and Resistance: Challenging Postmodernism” Educational Researcher 34, no. 2 (2005): pp. 14-16.
- Habermas, Jurgen. The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Holquist, Michael. Dialogism Bakhtin and his world. London: Routledge, 1990.
- Hill, Dave. Marxism against Postmodernism in Educational Theory. London: Lexington Books, 2002.
- McNiff, Jean. & Whitehead, Jack. Action Research for Teachers, London: David Fulton. 2005.
- Marshall, John. “Living Systemic Thinking. Exploring quality in first-person action research.” Action Research 2, no. 3(2004): pp. 309- 329.
- Ilyenkov, Evaild. The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982.
- McNiff, Jean. You and Your Action Research Project. London: Routledge, 2003.
- Lyotard, Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986.
- Ilyenkov, Evaild. Dialectical Logic. Moscow: Progress Publishers,1977.