Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

By Richard Sagor | Go to book overview

11 Putting the fiction into
Action Research

Laypeople are often curious about the work of [professional researchers.] They, like many of us, find it hard to understand people who spend time watching others and theorizing, yet choose to not participate in the action themselves. The primary reason most of us entered teaching was not to make great discoveries about human learning, but rather to provide the best possible education for students. This brings us to the [So what?] question. Yes, it's nice to gain insights through research findings and to refine theories, but the big question for action researchers (the actors in this process) is, [What are we going to do differently now that we are equipped with all this new information?]

I've lost count of how many presentations of teacher research I've attended. But one thing I recall from every time I've witnessed educators reporting to other teachers on their classroom inquiries is the audience being intently interested in the researcher's action plans. This is probably no different from what occurs in other action-oriented fields. Although practicing physicians need to understand the basic biochemistry that affects their patients' health, what probably excites them more than anything else are the implications of research for practice. This may be even more true for teachers.

There is no one way to build an action plan. Planning for instruction is above all else a creative process. When faced with a choice from among a variety of plausible alternatives, making a judgment about what action will best fit individual teaching strengths, content, and students' characteristics requires artistry as well as knowledge. For the inquiring action researcher, a big part of the action planning process involves answering this question:

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