Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

By Richard Sagor | Go to book overview
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8 Data Collection: Creating
Instruments to Answer
Research Questions

Chapter 7 reviewed strategies to collect data that already exist or that a trained observer could easily collect. Although the data collection techniques covered in this chapter require that you develop some new instrumentation, they offer significant potential benefits in helping you understand what is happening in your classroom and in your school.


One popular and powerful way to collect observational data in educational settings is through shadowing (Sagor, 1981). You can use shadowing when you want to see a phenomenon from the perspective of someone else. When shadowing, you figuratively put yourself in another person's shoes and attempt to experience an event as though you were that person. The most common type of shadowing done by teacher researchers is the observation of a particular student or set of students. Typically this is done by freeing the teacher from regular duties and allowing the teacher to follow the schedule of a student whose school experience the teacher wishes to understand better.

You can use any of the three types of checklists discussed in Chapter 7 (open-ended checklist, predefined checklist, or rating scale) when you shadow. Figure 8.1 (p. 97) is a predefined checklist that a group of high school teachers used when they shadowed students to gain a better understanding of the degree to which their students experienced effective schooling practices. Figure 8.2 (p. 98) is an observational checklist used


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