Tag Archives: research

Undertaking some action research

Teachers undertaking some area of action research, maybe as part of a course or CPD session, can further develop their skills

According to Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

by Richard Sagor, Action research can be defined as
“A succinct definition of action research appears in the workshop materials we use at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education. That definition states that action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.”
Practitioners who engage in action research inevitably find it to be an empowering experience. Action research has this positive effect for many reasons. Obviously, the most important is that action research is always relevant to the participants. Relevance is guaranteed because the focus of each research project is determined by the researchers, who are also the primary consumers of the findings.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that action research helps educators be more effective at what they care most about—their teaching and the development of their students. Seeing students grow is probably the greatest joy educators can experience. When teachers have convincing evidence that their work has made a real difference in their students’ lives, the countless hours and endless efforts of teaching seem worthwhile.
The Action Research Process
Educational action research can be engaged in by a single teacher, by a group of colleagues who share an interest in a common problem, or by the entire faculty of a school. Whatever the scenario, action research always involves the same seven-step process. These seven steps, which become an endless cycle for the inquiring teacher, are the following:

  1. Selecting a focus
  2. Clarifying theories
  3. Identifying research questions
  4. Collecting data
  5. Analyzing data
  6. Reporting results
  7. Taking informed action

Step 1—Selecting a Focus
The action research process begins with serious reflection directed toward identifying a topic or topics worthy of a busy teacher’s time. Considering the incredible demands on today’s classroom teachers, no activity is worth doing unless it promises to make the central part of a teacher’s work more successful and satisfying. Thus, selecting a focus, the first step in the process, is vitally important. Selecting a focus begins with the teacher researcher or the team of action researchers asking:
What element(s) of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate?
Step 2—Clarifying Theories
The second step involves identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus. For example, if teachers are concerned about increasing responsible classroom behavior, it will be helpful for them to begin by clarifying which approach—using punishments and rewards, allowing students to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, or some other strategy—they feel will work best in helping students acquire responsible classroom behavior habits.
Step 3—Identifying Research Questions
Once a focus area has been selected and the researcher’s perspectives and beliefs about that focus have been clarified, the next step is to generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.
Step 4—Collecting Data
Professional educators always want their instructional decisions to be based on the best possible data. Action researchers can accomplish this by making sure that the data used to justify their actions are valid(meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does) and reliable (meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data). Lastly, before data are used to make teaching decisions, teachers must be confident that the lessons drawn from the data align with any unique characteristics of their classroom or school.
To ensure reasonable validity and reliability, action researchers should avoid relying on any single source of data. Most teacher researchers use a process called triangulation to enhance the validity and reliability of their findings. Basically, triangulation means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one’s questions. Triangulation is like studying an object located inside a box by viewing it through various windows cut into the sides of the box. Observing a phenomenon through multiple “windows” can help a single researcher compare and contrast what is being seen through a variety of lenses.
When planning instruction, teachers want the techniques they choose to be appropriate for the unique qualities of their students. All teachers have had the experience of implementing a “research-proven” strategy only to have it fail with their students. The desire of teachers to use approaches that “fit” their particular students is not dissimilar to a doctor’s concern that the specific medicine being prescribed be the correct one for the individual patient. The ability of the action research process to satisfy an educator’s need for “fit” may be its most powerful attribute. Because the data being collected come from the very students and teachers who are engaged with the treatment, the relevance of the findings is assured.
For the harried and overworked teacher, “data collection” can appear to be the most intimidating aspect of the entire seven-step action research process. The question I am repeatedly asked, “Where will I find the time and expertise to develop valid and reliable instruments for data collection?”, gives voice to a realistic fear regarding time management. Fortunately, classrooms and schools are, by their nature, data-rich environments. Each day a child is in class, he or she is producing or not producing work, is interacting productively with classmates or experiencing difficulties in social situations, and is completing assignments proficiently or poorly. Teachers not only see these events transpiring before their eyes, they generally record these events in their grade books. The key to managing triangulated data collection is, first, to be effective and efficient in collecting the material that is already swirling around the classroom, and, second, to identify other sources of data that might be effectively surfaced with tests, classroom discussions, or questionnaires.
Step 5—Analyzing Data
Although data analysis often brings to mind the use of complex statistical calculations, this is rarely the case for the action researcher. A number of relatively user-friendly procedures can help a practitioner identify the trends and patterns in action research data. During this portion of the seven-step process, teacher researchers will methodically sort, sift, rank, and examine their data to answer two generic questions:

  • What is the story told by these data?
  • Why did the story play itself out this way?

By answering these two questions, the teacher researcher can acquire a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation and as a result can end up producing grounded theory regarding what might be done to improve the situation.
Step 6—Reporting Results
It is often said that teaching is a lonely endeavor. It is doubly sad that so many teachers are left alone in their classrooms to reinvent the wheel on a daily basis. The loneliness of teaching is unfortunate not only because of its inefficiency, but also because when dealing with complex problems the wisdom of several minds is inevitably better than one.
The sad history of teacher isolation may explain why the very act of reporting on their action research has proven so powerful for both the researchers and their colleagues. The reporting of action research most often occurs in informal settings that are far less intimidating than the venues where scholarly research has traditionally been shared. Faculty meetings, brown bag lunch seminars, and teacher conferences are among the most common venues for sharing action research with peers. However, each year more and more teacher researchers are writing up their work for publication or to help fulfill requirements in graduate programs. Regardless of which venue or technique educators select for reporting on research, the simple knowledge that they are making a contribution to a collective knowledge base regarding teaching and learning frequently proves to be among the most rewarding aspects of this work.
Step 7—Taking Informed Action
Taking informed action, or “action planning,” the last step in the action research process, is very familiar to most teachers. When teachers write lesson plans or develop academic programs, they are engaged in the action planning process. What makes action planning particularly satisfying for the teacher researcher is that with each piece of data uncovered (about teaching or student learning) the educator will feel greater confidence in the wisdom of the next steps. Although all teaching can be classified as trial and error, action researchers find that the research process liberates them from continuously repeating their past mistakes. More important, with each refinement of practice, action researchers gain valid and reliable data on their developing virtuosity.

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Survey: Smartphones a Standard for Majority of High School Students

A new nationwide survey reveals the extent to which mobile devices have become an inextricable part of students and families lives—while also indicating that parents see potential benefits, and drawbacks, to those technology tools.
By the time they enter high school, 51 percent of all students are carrying a smartphone to school with them every day, the survey of parents shows. Nearly a quarter of all students in K-12, overall, are doing so, while 8 percent of students in grades 3-5 are bringing a smartphone to school.
[So why aren’t more school capitalising on this?]
Read more: Smartphones a Standard for Majority of Students by High School, Survey Finds – Digital Education – Education Week.

How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms

Feb 28, 2013

A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization. At the same time, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have brought new challenges to teachers, and they report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between lower and higher income students and school districts.
Asked about the impact of the internet and digital tools in their role as middle and high school educators, these teachers say the following about the overall impact on their teaching and their classroom work:
92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students
The survey finds that digital tools are widely used in classrooms and assignments, and a majority of these teachers are satisfied with the support and resources they receive from their school in this area. However, it also indicates that teachers of the lowest income students face more challenges in bringing these tools to their classrooms:

  • Mobile technology has become central to the learning process, with 73% of AP and NWP teachers saying that they and/or their students use their cell phones in the classroom or to complete assignments
  • More than four in ten teachers report the use of e-readers (45%) and tablet computers (43%) in their classrooms or to complete assignments
  • 62% say their school does a “good job” supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process, and 68% say their school provides formal training in this area
  • Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments
  • Similarly, just over half (52%) of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students
  • Just 15% of AP and NWP teachers whose students are from upper income households say their school is “behind the curve” in effectively using digital tools in the learning process; 39% who teach students from low income households describe their school as “behind the curve”
  • 70% of teachers of the highest income students say their school does a “good job” providing the resources needed to bring digital tools into the classroom; the same is true of 50% of teachers working in low income areas
  • Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that students’ lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching

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Read more: How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Effectiveness of learning with iPads in school

* child with iPad
A student at El Camino Creek puts together a presentation using an iPad. Every third through six-grader in the Encinitas Union School District has an iPad. New research, including a thesis and a study from the University of San Diego, is looking at how the iPads impact student learning. Photo by Jared Whitlock

In Lindsay Duncan’s class at El Camino Creek, one fourth grade student looked up the definition of “blubber.” One girl found a suitable picture of a whale and attached it to her presentation about marine life.
Books, paper and pencils weren’t in the hands of any of Duncan’s students — only iPads. These days, it’s a common sight in classrooms throughout the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD). Every third through six-grader at EUSD has an iPad, and the district is looking at rolling out more iPads for younger students. Meanwhile, researchers are looking at how the rapidly growing technology is impacting learning.
Duncan is among those researchers. She recently wrote a thesis on iPads in schools after surveying 120 fourth-graders and their parents last school year, when the pilot program debuted. Further, the University of San Diego is slated to release a study this summer on the use of iPads in the district.
“Most people think all technology is great,” Duncan said. “Without rushing to that conclusion, my question was: How might this affect kids? Are they (the iPads) motivational? And I was interested in how students and parents perceive the iPads.”
Duncan’s research indicates students largely believe the iPads are a valuable tool. Parents also see the iPads as beneficial, but some have some reservations with the technology.
Notably, 90 percent of students said the iPad aided their learning. For one, they liked the instant feedback that comes with iPads. Students no longer have to wait days for test results — now it’s a matter of minutes.
Read more: The Coast News | Making Waves in Your Neighborhood.

Student Research: The Right Information at the Right Time

Student Time *

Google puts a universe of information at the end of any Internet connection.
This is both true and unhelpful. It offers up the universe, but no one needs the universe — they need the right information, and they need it at the right time.
A fact. A concept. An image. A resource. Maybe a new perspective.
And finding the right information at the right time can be as challenging as finding just the right word for a poem or the right song for an occasion. Research is often conducted in short bursts when there is library or computer lab time scheduled, often at the beginning of a project, or in the middle when ideas run dry.
This is curious.
In an always-on learning environment, constant access should be leveraged. This doesn’t mean that learners should always be online, but rather they should always have that access.
via Student Research: The Right Information at the Right Time | Edutopia.

Organizing your personal research library with Mendeley


A key aspect of scholarship is how you create a personal research library, find and access your sources when needed, and cite them accurately and comprehensively. Patrick Dunleavy explains how the relatively new software Mendeley has transformed his previous time-consuming practice in just a few days, and solved numerous other problems of accessing literature and sources wherever he is. Mendeley can offer all academics and PhDs massive productivity gains.
[Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.]
Full Text: Organizing your personal research library and compiling bibliographies: I was an EndNote refusenik, but now I’m a Mendeley convert | Impact of Social Sciences.

Are Video Lectures effective in Online Courses?

Video Button

“The instructor-made videos helped me understand the material better.” (Rose, 2011).

100% of the students taking an online course indicated some level of agreement with the above statement. Though the research study was small, the findings are consistent with what we discovered when surveying our own students in an anonymous end-of-course survey that asked a similar question. In my previous post, Mobile or Not? How students watch video lectures I reported the viewing patterns of our students when watching the prerecorded lectures inherent to each credit course within our program. In this post I’ll share the student response results to a question asking about the effectiveness of video lectures in communicating course content. I will also discuss factors that institutions should consider when implementing video lectures within their own online courses.
Full Text: Are Video Lectures effective in Online Courses? | online learning insights.

Kindergarten iPad Programme Sees Positive Results

The initial results are in. iPads increased kindergarten literacy scores according to a new study from Auburn, Maine.
Auburn School Department made world news last summer when they announced they were providing all of their incoming kindergarten students with Apple iPads. As one component of their district-wide Advantage 2014 program, Auburn educators are promoting the iPad and its apps as a dynamic literacy and math tool for students. The Advantage 2014 program seeks to bolster 3rd grade literacy and math scores by 2015, and the first phase of their research study is making them hopeful of attaining this goal.
Sherwood Heights Elementary School Principal Laura Shaw summed up the district’s work to date, “Teachers have seamlessly blended the use of iPads into their everyday best practices. It has become part of the daily ritual of assessing students’ needs and targeting those needs in the most effective way possible. At times, they see that the need can be met best using the technology of the iPad. At other times, using paper and pencil, games, manipulatives and more traditional methods works best.”
Auburn kindergarten teacher at Fairview Elementary School, Michelle Green thinks, “Being part of the Advantage 2014 iPad project is very special. It has been an eye opening opportunity to watch children use a tool of technology to learn in a way I never did as a child.” Michelle’s colleague at Washburn Elementary School, Jess Prue, agrees, “We are not only giving kids a new engaging way to learn, we are also preparing them for technology in the future. It is exciting!”
Since Auburn is the nation’s first public school system to provide iPads to each of their youngest students, the district is closely examining the program through a yearlong research study. Dr. Mike Muir, Auburn School Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader, stated, “Too many innovative programs don’t prioritize their own research, and even if they collect observations and stories later, they don’t make the effort to do a randomized control trial, like we did. We wanted to make sure we could objectively examine the contribution of the iPads.”
During the Fall of 2011, the district provided iPads to half of Auburn’s sixteen kindergarten classrooms. The remaining eight classes used traditional resources. The eight iPad classes were selected at random to provide a better examination of the short term literacy impacts. Auburn kindergartners from both settings completed a series of standardized literacy assessments in early  September (pre-iPad) and in late November (post-iPad), which provide an objective measure on each groups’ emerging literacy skills.
On Feb 15th, Dr. Mike Muir, Sue Dorris and Dr. Damian Bebell presented the study results to the School Committee and the community at-large. The School Committee was pleased to learn that the study results were quite positive. In fact, students in the iPad classes outperformed non- iPad students, on average, across every literacy measure they were tested on. Most of the performance gains observed in the iPad classes were modest, however, the 129 iPad students showed substantial improvement on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSIW) assessment, which measures a child’s level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sounds with letters.
Why might the iPad classes do better? Sue Dorris, who serves as principal at the participating East Auburn Community School explained, “We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms. The apps, which teach and reinforce fundamental literacy concepts and skills, are engaging, interactive and provide children with immediate feedback. What’s more, teachers can customize apps to match the instructional needs of each child, so students are able to learn successfully at their own level and pace.”
Boston College Assistant Research Professor Dr. Damian Bebell, who helped organize and analyze the study results, summarized the findings for the School Committee via his Skype presentation Wednesday evening. Dr. Bebell, who has led educational technology studies for over a decade noted “how unusual it is to see results from any program emerge so quickly, and it will be very interesting to see how these kids continue to perform throughout their kindergarten year and beyond.”
“All our primary grades teachers are working hard to improve our students’ literacy levels.” Asserts Dr. Muir, “But, this study shows us that the iPad is a valuable tool, allowing good teachers to extend their impact on students.” He explains that Auburn is hopeful that investing early in the right educational tools might pay off in avoided future costs by reducing the number of students needing targeted services later. Muir explained, “We’re working hard to get it right with students right from the beginning!”
Superintendent Katy Grondin says, “As a district, we’re working to find ways to customize learning for all our students and help them succeed educationally. Advantage 2014, with the iPads, is a major way we’re doing this in the primary grades. The results from this study reinforce our belief that the iPad is a wonderful and effective addition to the collection of educational resources we’re providing our teachers.”
### If you would like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with the researchers or school program leaders, please call Mike Muir at  207-333-0450 or email Mike Muir at mmuir@auburnschl.edu
Full Text: Auburn School Department – Latest News.

5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation

5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
19th, 20th and 21st of November, 2012
Madrid (Spain)
Website: www.iceri2012.org
Email: iceri2012@iated.org
Abstracts submission deadline: July 19th, 2012
You can submit your abstract at www.iceri2012.org/submit
ICERI2012 is an annual meeting point for lecturers, researchers, technologists and educators from all fields and disciplines. It will be an excellent opportunity to present your projects and experiences and meet other colleagues from all parts of the world.
The attendance of more than 700 delegates from 70 different countries is expected.
There are 3 presentation modalities: ORAL, POSTER and VIRTUAL.
The deadline for abstracts submission is July 19th 2012 (included). You can submit your proposals at www.iceri2012.org/submit
Two ISBN publications (ICERI2012 Abstracts CD and ICERI2012 Proceedings CD) will be produced with all accepted abstracts and papers. Accepted contributions will also be included in our Digital Library database of Education and Research innovation projects.
In addition, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful and attractive city of Madrid, its enormous cultural richness and unique gastronomy.
We look forward to seeing you in Madrid!
ICERI2012 Technical Secretariat
Email: iceri2012@iated.org

The Transition from Distance to Online Education: Perspectives from the Educational Management Horizon

Tor Söderström [tor.soderstrom@pedag.umu.se],
Jörgen From [jorgen.from@pedag.umu.se],
Jeanette Lövqvist [jeanette.lovqvist@pedag.umu.se],
Anette Törnquist [anette.tornquist@pedag.umu.se],
Department of Education, Umeå University, Sweden
In Sweden, higher education has moved away from distance education, including physical meetings, to online education with no physical meetings at all. This article focuses on the shift from distance to online education using an educational management perspective that is based on economic, staff, and student data collected between 1994 and 2010 (Department of Education, Umeå University). The results showed that in 2005, the number of distance education students increased significantly. In 2007, when all distance courses shifted to online courses, the number of students increased even further. The online courses attract many more students compared to traditional campus courses. Overall, the transition from distance to online courses has contributed to more students, an economy of scale that makes it possible to increase pedagogic development work. The online courses have also contributed to better working conditions for teachers. Without a deliberate educational management strategy, general educational courses might have been discontinued, a choice that would threaten the study of education as an academic discipline per se. As a result of these conditions, we believe ICT pedagogical development needs technical and pedagogical support as well as strategic leadership.
Full Text: European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.