Research has never been a favorite topic for me until I was introduced to Action Research. Mertler’s book (2016) opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I’m no longer weary of research, but am finding ways to incorporate research in my every day life. Measuring (tracking) success rates, weight loss, student data, textbook adoption, sizes of fish, steps a patient can walk, and white blood cell count are just a few of the areas I’ve been researching this summer. The reason that Action Research is so important to me is that we can all learn from data and reformulate a new question that will lead to positive results. Action Research is a learning experience for everyone. The teacher becomes the learner, the learner becomes the teacher.
Currently, I am still in the planning stage of my Action Research plan. My goal is to continue through the acting stage, developing stage, and reflecting stage throughout the 2017-2018 school year. The topic of my action research is blended learning and authentic learning in the classroom. My fundamental research question is:
Will my learners choose an authentic graphic design project and take ownership of their learning?
The purpose of my study is to determine if my learners will view and read the recommended reading and videos associated with each lesson. In order to narrow down and focus on my research plan, I created a 5 Why Process to assist me with my thought process. My next step was to create an Action Research Flowchart for my plan. The cohorts in my class, as well as my professor, supplied me with additional resources, creative discussions, and crucial feedback.
One of the interesting facets of Action Research is that I can be both the researcher and the participant to better understand, address, and facilitate my question. By making significant changes to my plan over time will gradually make things better. I plan to use critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity in my innovation plan outline.
I plan to collect data via the mixed-method approach of qualitative and quantitative. I will survey the learns with specific yes or no type questions to develop a baseline that will provide me with critical information needed to move forward in my plan. I plan to use oneline assessments for pre and post testing. Some of the assessments will be in the form of Google docs, Survey Monkey, Quizizz, and kahoot.it. Other methods of data collection and measurement will be face-to-face questions with the learner. In order to keep my learners actively engaged and interested in the course, I will continue to research and find other methods of assessment for use in the classroom.
The qualitative approach to gather data will be used first, then the qualitative approach will be used to gain feedback from my learners. Through this feedback, I will have a better understanding of my learners preferences of the blended learning model. Will my learners utilize the videos and information before face-to-face instruction?
Once the quantitative data is gathered and analyzed, I will then be able to ask more open-ended questions and obtain insight of the learners. Since Action Research is cyclical, I predict that I will make changes and adjust the learning environment to be the most beneficial for all learners. It is important that I plan ahead to anticipate variables in the data collection process. I need to be specific in explaining exactly what I want my learners to answer, and I want them to answer honestly. I will ask specific questions that I know the students will answer correctly if they’ve actually previewed the material. I do understand that there is the probability that the learners can just guess the correct answer. My plan is to stress the importance of answering honestly – preferably by not assigning a “grade” for right or wrong answers. My learners will earn the grade by completing the survey.
My Literature Review is also a work in progress. Since the beginning of my graduate classes, I’ve revised my innovation plan and literature review. I’m quite certain that I’ll make several more edits in the near future.
Implementation of my plan will begin in August 2017. The first few weeks of each school year are difficult due to changes in student schedules, changes in administration, and quite frankly, motivation levels of the students. Getting the students on board with blended learning will be crucial during the first six weeks. I will need to develop a routine and motivate my students to take ownership of their learning.
By September 1, 2017, I will know if my school district will fund the online learning software such as Blackboard. If I do not receive the funding, then I will apply for two local grants. At the end of the 2016-2017 school, I met with the district technology director and discussed my ideas for incorporating blended learning in my lab. Unfortunately, the director resigned and moved to another school district. I am in the process of communicating my ideas to our new director that was just hired last month.
Collecting and analyzing the data will begin during the third week of the new school year. I will continue to collect the data that I need for my Action Research throughout the year.
Developing my action plan will take at least one full school year. I feel that I should have valuable data and information by the end of the first six weeks. Hopefully, the momentum will continue to roll and become contagious throughout my campus. If I can share my enthusiasm with other teachers, I can create a focus group and assist other teachers in adopting the blended learning model. My learners will also make a huge impact on teacher buy in. If my co-workers see the enthusiasm in the learners, they will be more likely to incorporate blended learning in their classrooms.
Reflection on my action research plan is cyclical and will continue until May 2018. With the rigorous evaluation of data, I will be able to monitor, adjust, and change my plan throughout the school year. One thing I’ve learned in education is that change is constant! I will need to remember that mistakes will be made, but I will continue to fail forward and value input and suggestions from other teachers, learners, administrators, and peers.
I’m looking forward to an exciting new school year. Through collaborative research, I will be better equipped to gather, analyze, and reflect on my findings. Not only will I use the knowledge that I’m learning in my classroom, but I plan to apply these techniques to my personal life of measuring how far I walk and measuring the progress of weight loss. I plan to model ownership to my students and hopefully be a positive role model. Isn’t that the bottom line in education? Create a learning environment and experiences for students that ignite a passion and desire for life-long learning.
Mertler, C. (2016) Action research: Teachers as researchers in the classroom. 5th edition.