Teachers Are Researchers: Reflection and Action

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9780872077485: Teachers Are Researchers: Reflection and Action

This volume explores how teacher researchers tackle tough questions and reveal valuable information--about both their teaching practice and the research process. Discover the valuable contributions teacher researchers can make to the profession while still rising to the day-to-day demands of teaching. "Teachers are Researchers" offers a detailed look at everything from getting started to recording and analyzing observations. Examples of studies by elementary, middle school, high school, and college teachers are included. Foreword by Nancie Atwell.

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From the Back Cover:

"My teaching practices will never be the same after my classroom research."

This feeling is echoed by teachers at all levels throughout "Teachers are Researchers." The more than 20 chapters included in this volume explore teachers' reflections on what's really happening in their classrooms. They tackle tough questions and reveal valuable information -- both about their teaching practice and about the research process. These teacher researchers formed new visions of themselves as teachers -- and of their students as learners -- by asking questions and discovering answers. Their results are evidence of the valuable contributions teacher research can make to the profession.

Teacher research involves uncovering and challenging assumptions and beliefs about teaching, students, and common school practices. Often questions for research start with a feeling of tension: "Why am I not getting through to all my students? Is there something I could do differently?" What intrigues you in your classroom? What do you wonder about? See how other teachers pursue their inquiries in "Teachers Are Researchers" while still rising to the day-to-day demands of teaching. The book offers a detailed look at getting started -- from how to frame a research question to recording and analyzing observations. It gives examples of studies by elementary, middle school, high school, and college teachers.

Do you wonder if your teaching methods are the most effective they can be? Are you looking for inspiration and direction in your own teacher research? Continue the journey of wondering, searching for insight, and making discoveries through teacher research. "Teachers Are Researchers" will guide the way.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

from the Foreword

In spite of shrinking budgets and reductions in staff in many of our schools, on the level of personal satisfaction I don't think there could be a better time than right now to be a classroom teacher. The teacher-research movement has made it possible for teachers to make a difference both within the walls of our classrooms-in the lives of the children we teach-and among a world of colleagues who are ready to hear the stories of what we have learned and to reflect on these stories' meanings for the children they teach.

Educators who learn in their classrooms, who conduct research and write about their observations, become the best possible teachers, thoughtful about how students learn and how they can help. They understand that real learning is always active and collaborative, for children and for adults. And they find their voices. They reject the role of teachers as mere technicians, people easy to bypass or blame, and redefine professionalism. They turn teaching into work that is real.

In 1974, when I became a teacher, the work was not real. I was the classic teacher-technician, and my work was classroom management. I managed the kids, the programs, and the paperwork. I viewed academics as the experts who were going to manage me, and I looked to them to be the "someone elses" who would tell me what to do with my students in my classroom. When the methods didn't work or didn't work with everyone, I blamed the experts. Or worse-- I blamed the kids. Then I looked around for new gurus and recipes.

In truth, no expert could give me the two kinds of knowledge I lacked for all my management skills. I was a teacher of writing and reading who did not know what writers and readers actually do when they use language to make meaning; nor did I know the individual writers and readers who passed in and out of my classroom all day long. I was barricaded behind the big desk at the front of the room, orchestrating assignments, talking nonstop, and never getting my hands dirty with the real work of teaching: observing kids, asking them questions, and reflecting on their-and my own-behavior so I could teach them what they needed to know.

Two teachers helped me come out from behind my big desk, learn in my classroom, and help students sit behind big desks of their own. One was Donald Graves of the University of New Hampshire. I was floored when Graves, with Lucy Calkins and Susan Sowers, began to publish the results of studies of children's writing abilities (1978-1981). I had never before seen research reports filled with pieces of student writing, classroom conversations, and stories about students and teachers at work. The data were grounded in real children, and, perhaps even more astonishing, the reports were written in English.

This new research paradigm challenged the only educational research model I knew: controlled experiments reporting statistics that had been gathered in absentia. Graves (1983) argued that educators must stop pretending that we can transfer scientific procedures to what are essentially social events and processes. Research that ignores context -- real episodes from real classrooms in real communities -- does little to help us become better teachers to the various and unpredicatable bodies that fill our rooms Monday mornings. But process-observational research, conducted in the full, messy context of the life of a classroom gives us rich descriptions of people in action. It illuminates the patterns of behavior as well as the episodes of idiosyncrasy that good teaching must allow for. I could see and hear the students that Donald Graves wrote about. He made me want to see and hear my own students.

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