Academic journal article Education

The Accelerated Schools Inquiry Process: Teacher Empowerment through Action Research

Academic journal article Education

The Accelerated Schools Inquiry Process: Teacher Empowerment through Action Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

Parents and teachers reached an easy consensus: school discipline needed improvement. The school's teachers and parents had formed several sub-groups, or cadres, to examine this and other identified areas of concern. The "discipline cadre" agreed that discipline problems were rampant in the school and that some drastic action needed to be taken. The facilitator of the group had to remind the participants of their charge: to gather information about existing conditions, not to throw solutions at perceived problems. The group went about this task reluctantly. "We already know what the problems are. Why can't we just work on solutions?" However, they divided up the fact-finding tasks and agreed to meet back the following week.

At this meeting, two teachers reported that they had looked at discipline referral records in the office and that there were over three hundred referrals to the office for first semester alone. All agreed that this information validated the initial impression that things were out of control. Others reported on a survey they had administered to all teachers. Results showed that while teachers thought that other teachers had problems with discipline, they themselves felt that their classrooms were well managed. Still another survey administered to parents reported that parents thought discipline was satisfactory at the school and that their children and they knew and supported the school rules. The data pieces didn't fit. After much discussion, someone suggested that the teachers go back to the school records and find out how many students had actually been referred to the office first semester and how often they had been referred.

The following week, the new information was reported - slightly over thirty children accounted for more than 80% of all discipline referrals. This information created quite a stir. Someone suggested, "Why don't we go back and look at which teachers are referring students to the office? Maybe we will see a pattern emerging here as well."

The teachers and parents in this school were participants in the Accelerated Schools Project and were engaging in an inquiry process called "taking stock," a form of action research designed to empower members of the school community to gather data about the school and use it to make collaborative decisions for change. This article will describe the inquiry process and how it is being implemented in one Accelerated Schools Satellite Center at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Overview of the Accelerated Schools Project

The Accelerated Schools Project is a comprehensive approach to school change designed to improve schooling for students in at-risk situations so that they may enter the educational mainstream. Accelerated schools are designed to structure schools which build on the strengths of all children and to accelerate their learning by making changes in curriculum, instruction and organization which will facilitate academic and social progress. (For a more complete description of the Accelerated Schools Process, see Levin, 1986, 1987, 1988 a, b & c, and Hopfenberg, Levin, Meister, & Rogers, 1990, Hopfenberg, Levin, & Associates, 1993.)

Collaborative Action Research

Collaborative action research has come to be viewed as a tool for staff development and an opportunity for teachers and university researchers to work together to investigate and solve school and classroom challenges (Lieberman, 1986). Finnan (1992) states that interventions can succeed if they axe designed to help members of the school community (culture) make the changes they have identified as important. Sirotnik & Clark (1988) also believe that schools must become centers of inquiry where the personal nature of knowledge is recognized and practitioners are actively engaged in the process. Oakes, Hare & Sirotnik (1986) discuss the nature of collaboration between university and school as a vehicle which has the power to change the nature of research and development based on the input of the practitioner. …

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