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Fall 2011 Edition

SDARA

Utilizing Action Research to Focus Our Professional Learning Community By Sarah Trueblood-Luke

Based on recently released test scores, it came to the attention of the staff at my school that we have a high population of English Language Learners who are remaining at the Intermediate level too long without being reclassified. While there was improvement when comparing the 2009-2010 ELA scores with the 2010-2011 ELA scores for English Language Learners our students making a gain of 3.5% proficient or advanced, these gains were not significant enough to move us into safe harbor. And while raising the achievement of English Learners may be a concern across the country, myself, along with an advisory group of teachers, have decided to work effectively to do something about it. We have decided to target these students by collecting various forms of data to monitor their progress and meet monthly to analyze the data we collect. Utilizing the action research model for our advisory group has given us focus and steered us towards purposeful instruction. One of our goals is to inform the remaining teaching staff at our school about what is working and how we can improve instruction for this population of students. We are very early in our study, but all of the teachers in the advisory group were trained in Thinking Maps at the beginning of the school year (Hyerle & Yeager, 2007). Thinking

A look inside Extending previous action research projects to meet current needs By Ann Trescott

2 A Call To Action By Jennifer Patterson

4 Japan Association of Action Research (JAAR) Rebuilding Communities after the Earthquake By Satoshi Suzuki

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Back Page Special By Lonnie Rowell

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Maps help students to visually organize information and cognitive processes. Over the course of the first month of school, we will implement Thinking Maps in our English Language Arts courses across all grade levels. We will collect student writing samples, district benchmark data, and asking students to take post surveys to provide us with feedback. As an advisory group, we will work together to develop rubrics to analyze student writing and calibrate these common assessments. We are hopeful that this newly formed advisory group and utilizing the action research model will shift the paradigm of our former grade level and departmental meetings. We now have a clear focus that demands use of common assessments, monitoring, and follow through by adjusting instruction according to the work of our students. As members of the advisory group, we must work to hold each other accountable and be the sounding board for ongoing reflective practice. Hyerle, D., & Yeager, C. (2007) Thinking Maps®: A Language for Learning.

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Fall 2011 Edition

Extending previous action research projects to meet current needs By Ann Trescott The start of a school year is a busy time for teachers. We create our initial lesson plans, evaluate our student population, start developing a rapport with our students, try to get our schedules straight so as to not miss classes which we are suppose to teach, make sure the clock alarm goes off and wakes us when we need it, drink enough coffee so we don’t slur our words, try not to forget to eat, make sure we have our shoes on when leaving the house (and a shirt and pants for that matter), and the list goes on and on. It takes me about a month to really get back into the swing of a new school year and build back up my teacher stamina after I let it go during the summer months. Once it returns, which takes me until about late September; I am ready to tackle the school year. Another aspect of a new school year (which I must also work my way into) is deciding what I am going to do differently this year to better meet the needs of my students. In other words, what will be my research focus? Will I continue with the research on which I embarked last year or are there others needs which should be addressed? During the last school year, I facilitated a group of 6th grade teachers in an action research project that hoped to gain insights into forming effective collaborative small math groups of students with varied AnnTrescott math abilities. Several of the outcomes from this research concluded that students could in fact, work effectively together when placed in groups of SDARA President three instead of groups of four. Further, students enjoyed the hands on approach to learning and learning from their peers. A teacher outcome of this research concluded that teachers favored collaborating together toward a common research question and having a safe environment in which to share teaching ideas and lesson outcomes. At the end of the school year the 6th grade teacher team shared their research with the school community and through this sharing, the administration and teacher leaders decided that our school should extend what was learned from the research of this teacher team and start a professional learning community rooted in teacher and student collaborations. Thus, I now have a focus for this school year; forming a professional learning community whereby teachers are given opportunities to collaborate, and one in which students are collaborating as a means to gain knowledge. Professional learning communities in and of themselves are not research projects. However, in 2009 I conducted an action research project centered on the formation of a professional learning community focused on best teacher practices. From this research, I learned that professional learning communities centered on instructional practices and action research, have many common threads, and should be conducted together. The development of a professional learning community shares many of the same components as the framework within action research. The development of my prior professional learning community which was based on instructional practices had four main components: 1) Collaboration of a shared vision statement, 2) Reflection of instructional practices, 3) Interventions to improve practice; data collection, and 4) Collaborative reflection and plan for future action. At the conclusion of component 4, the PLC then proceeded back to component 2, and then cycled through the other components,

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Fall 2011 Edition always striving to reach the vision (See figure 1.1). Action research, according to Sagor (2005) also has four main components or stages. Stage 1 is to clarify the vision. Stage 2 is to articulate theories to reach the vision. Stage 3 is to implement and collect data toward that vision. Stage 4 is to reflect and plan for informed future action. The action research cycle then proceeds back to stage 2 until the research is complete (see figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1

The nature of the development and sustainability of a professional learning community has, at its core, reflection. Action research is also based on reflection. Both reflection components are embedded in not only the action that took place but also in reflection of that action with regards to research, theories, and reaching the vision. Dufour and Eaker (1998) state that the development of professional learning communities requires constant reexamination of conclusions and decisions. Because of this, I believe that developing a professional learning community based

on instructional practices joined within the context of action research is a perfect marriage. Thus creating, implementing and maintaining sustainability within a PLC should be rooted in the framework of action research. So here I go with yet another action research project, or is it just an extension of two action research projects from my past? I don’t know how long it will take me to get into the full swing of things and get my action research, professional learning community stamina but I hope it’s before the New Year! References: Dufour, R. & Eaker, R. (1998) Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, ID. National Education Service. Sagor, R. (2005). The action research guidebook; the four-step process for educators and school teams. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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Fall 2011 Edition

A Call To Action By Jennifer Patterson Last year, as a teacher in sixth grade math, I was called to action. Action research, actually, – I was asked to be part of a team of teachers conducting an AR project in our math classes. Action research, as a concept, wasn’t entirely new to me- it was a required part of my masters/credential program at WSU. However, that was arguably in another lifetime – more than ten years ago, before children and before any teaching in my own classroom. Though that eventful time in my life is now a little murky, I remember two things from the experience: 1) I felt overwhelmed trying to plot a course of action research (a completely new concept to me) while also trying to navigate the waters of student teaching (also a new concept at the time,) and 2) my science and math background created a level of discomfort due to the imprecision of the AR process. I was an empirical girl, and this was out of my comfort zone. While I did complete my Master’s degree and my AR project, the impact was inconsequential – I was swimming to keep my head above water – not enjoying the scenery or the experience. Fast forward to 2011 – I’ve been teaching math and science for a couple of years now. I still consider myself pretty green, but am gaining confidence in my abilities. At this point, I’m approached about an action research project for our sixth grade math classes. The “request” is really more of a mandate, but due to the fact that the project leader is a good friend of mine and a great math teacher, I’m inclined to take the plunge. It’s not nearly as scary when I’m swimming with buddies who’ll throw me a lifeline if I need it. I’m not sure all the group members are as committed as I am, but they comply as well – as I said, it wasn’t really a request. The difficult part of starting the project was deciding on a question, narrowing the focus and figuring out how to measure it. Through group meetings at least once a week, the team conferred, questioned, delegated, planned, discussed, reviewed, revised, and debriefed. We taught lessons with combined classes, so that we were able to all participate in some way – either leading the lesson, assisting groups, or observing and taking notes. The fact that we teachers were doing this as a group was invaluable. That shouldn’t be a surprise – aren’t we always trying to get our students to work in groups? Not one of us is as smart as all of us put together! A wise person once said, “That’s the nature of research – you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.” I certainly felt that way in my first attempt at AR back in school, and at that time, I didn’t have a great support system to help me. This time, I still didn’t necessarily feel like I knew exactly what I was doing, but at least I had other people with me who appeared to feel just as inadequate as I did. I was able to ask questions, and I was able to contribute thoughts and ideas. I was able to get feedback on my lessons from people I respected, and felt safe enough to ask for help when I needed it. When we actually started acquiring data and seeing results, it was really a marvelous feeling! As the research progressed, so did my confidence. The experience was valuable on so many levels – and this time I was able to appreciate it. I’m a teacher who wants to improve my teaching – and action research is an effective way to do that. It forces you to analyze how you’re teaching and ask questions about how you could do it better. Doing it with a group of colleagues is an effective way to do action research – it gives you a sounding board, a collaborative cohort, and it makes the job much more manageable and less daunting. I think any teacher who wants to improve should heed the call to action -gather a troupe, and ask a question…

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Fall 2011 Edition

Japan Association of Action Research (JAAR) Rebuilding Communities after the Earthquake By Satoshi Suzuki The recent earthquake and the nuclear crisis in northern Japan on March 11th has spread terror throughout the world. Japan has been recovering from this historic-level catastrophe and slowly walking the road for recovery. In this process, the entire world including the Unites States offered strong support and warm encouragement to Japanese people. Using this space, I would like to express my gratitude for such kindness, and share our experiences and learning from the disaster with you. Japan Association of Action Research (JAAR) has long-term experiences using Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) for community development, nursing and welfare in the greater Tokyo area, emphasizing people-to-people ties built through sharing “Omoi”. For example, before the earthquake, JAAR had been working with nurses and had a series of workshops with them on what they need to do and feel when the community is hit by large disasters (2009 April – 2011 January). After the earthquake, these nurses immediately went into the disaster-hit areas and helped those who were in need of medical and nursing cares. When things gradually settled down, some of them came back to their home hospital and shared their experiences and learning with JAAR. There were two major points. 1. The nurses shared that the sense of readiness for working in disaster-hit areas developed through SSM workshops before the earthquake made a big difference. Such internal readiness was a crucial factor for working in the relief operation. 2. The nurses learned that “crisis management” is different from the “risk management” since actually tackling an unexpected situation is different from simply minimizing defined risks. “Crisis management” required the sense of readiness and determination within themselves. To share this learning with a wider community, JAAR and Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology of Tokyo Institute of Technology jointly organized the symposium this July for governmental officials, corporate leaders and scholars who are in charge of future disaster risk management. The title of the symposium was “Disaster risk management based on the sense of readiness and determination: Learning from action research by the nurses who returned from the disaster relief operation”. In the symposium, people learned about the importance of reconceptualizing disaster risk management by incorporating the sense of readiness and determination at the heart of such an effort and how SSM-based action research could be effectively used for educating nurses about this issue. In the event, the nurses who came back from the relief operation first described their experiences in front of the large audience, and shared how their sense of readiness and determination supported their works in the unexpected situation. After that, university scholars and corporate professionals who discussed the implications for the future with the audience carried out the panel discussion. In this “ba”, all the participants were able to co-

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Fall 2011 Edition own the learning for disaster risk management and the importance of human factors in crisis management characterized by the sense of readiness and determination. Now JAAR and the railway company in the disaster-hit area are planning the process of reconstructing the railway system through SSM-based action research. We will continue such efforts so that the communities hit by the disaster will come back even stronger and more resilient through action research.

Back Page Special By Lonnie Rowell

The School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at USD has been developing leadership capacity in the local action research community since 2000. In keeping with the spirit of reflective practice at the heart of action research, faculty, students, and alumni at SOLES are poised to initiate a new cycle of action to support and grow action research practice in the region. A spring and summer 2011 assessment of the work to date yielded important findings regarding further strengthening our work in action research. With a renewed determination to challenge the ‘silos’ created by higher education’s sometimes too rigid departmentalization and specialization and operating under the umbrella of “SOLES Action Research Initiative,” a newly established Action Research Committee is guiding the next cycle. The committee is comprised of faculty from all three departments in SOLES and will provide leadership and oversight of the initiative’s four components: a new Action Research Office; a redesigned action research web presence; ongoing professional development for action research within SOLES and the region; and an expansion of SOLES’ Annual Action Research Conference. Paula Cordeiro, Dean of SOLES, authorized the committee to begin its work this fall and provided a start up budget for the initiative.

Developments to date in each of these components include: • The Action Research Office opened at the start of the fall 2011 semester. Located across from Bert’s Bistro in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, the office features action research resources, a schedule for consultations with faculty on action research projects, and a bulletin board with information about action research events and faculty and student publications. The office is staffed by Merit Scholars from the School Counseling Program and the Department of Learning and Teaching. • The Action Research Web Site is being updated for 2011-2012. Check for new information and expanded features at: http://www.sandiego.edu/soles/programs/action_research/ • Planning for the 2012 Action Research Conference is well underway. The conference will be April 27-28 this year, with the popular pre-conference ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ scheduled for April 26. The initial Call for Proposals for conference presentations has been sent out internationally and inquiries about the conference already have been received from around the region, the country, and the world. For more information about the conference visit the conference web site at: http://sites.sandiego.edu/arconference/. The theme for this year’s conference is “Emergent Models in Action Research: Technologies, Networks, and Interdisciplinary Collaborations.” The featured keynote speaker for the conference will be internationally acclaimed action research authority Jean McNiff, Professor of Educational Research at York St. John University in the United Kingdom. Dr. McNiff is a spirited veteran of more than 30 years’ involvement with action research in educational settings and has presented at numerous action research conferences and international gatherings. Another conference feature this year is an expanded Advisory Group with members from Notre Dame, University of Texas, Pepperdine, and National Louis University, among others. I am co-chairing this year’s conference with Dr. Sandy Buczynski of the Department of Learning and Teaching. This is a special development for us as Dr. Buczynski was instrumental in the very first conference collaboration between School Counseling and Learning and Teaching six years ago. It is great to have her back. Other Planning Committee members include Dr. Nori Inoue and Dr. Sarina Molina of L&T and Dr. Mary McDonald of the Leadership Studies Department. Roni Nocon is the Conference Planning Consultant and the graduate student Conference Coordinator this year is Sarah Gleason of the Department of Learning and Teaching. All are to be commended for their participation.

We begin this next cycle of SOLES action research development with a sense of anticipation and enthusiasm. Over the past 10 years we have learned a lot from our initial action research work. Now it is time to draw on our most recent data analysis to make further improvements in our practice and to continue our efforts to secure the place of action research in the larger educational and education research professional communities.

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Fall 2011 SDARA Newsletter  

San Diego Action Research Association Quarterly Newsletter

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