Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Effects of Collaborative Action Research on Preservice and Experienced Teacher Partners in Professional Development Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Effects of Collaborative Action Research on Preservice and Experienced Teacher Partners in Professional Development Schools

Article excerpt

A growing body of research suggests that one way to improve teaching and learning in schools is to involve teachers in doing research in their own classrooms (Casanova, 1989; Darling-Hammond, 1996; Herndon, 1994; Lieberman, 1995; Ogberg & McCutcheon, 1987). Some educational researchers have found action research to be an effective professional development tool that promotes inquiry, reflection, and problem solving that results in action or change (Casanova, 1989; Herndon, 1994; Ogberg & McCutcheon, 1987; Rosaen & Schram, 1997). Educational researchers claim that teachers who conduct action research are better informed about their field (Bennett, 1993), begin to understand themselves better as teachers, and make better decisions and choices of behavior as a consequence of their engagement in action research (Ogberg & McCutcheon, 1987). Other studies indicate that action research also promotes continuous learning (Boyer, 1990; Rock, 1997; Shalaway, 1990), revitalizes teachers' practice, and motivates teachers by improving their self-confidence as professionals (Lomax, 1995; Reading/Learning in Secondary Schools Subcommittee of the International Reading Association, 1989; Rock, 1997).

Teacher action research was defined by Lytle and Cochran-Smith (1990) as "systematic, intentional inquiry by teachers" (p. 83). Action research is also described as research that teachers do to investigate their own professional practice in an attempt to understand and improve the nature and specifics of their work and to develop a stronger voice when communicating about it (Ogberg & McCutcheon, 1987). Critical action research, as defined by Kemmis and McTaggert (1988), requires teachers to engage in a cycle of questioning, planning, reflecting, acting, observing, reflecting, replanning, and often questioning further. Carson (1990) also identified planning, acting, observing, and reflecting as significant components of teacher action research because this process sets critical, reflective action research apart from ordinary problem solving. For the purposes of this study, we define teacher action research as systematic inquiry by teachers with the goal of improving their teaching practices.

Teacher educators involved in doing action research with preservice and experienced teachers find that both novice and experienced teachers become more reflective, critical, and analytical about their teaching behaviors in the classroom as they engage in the action research process (Cardelle-Elawar, 1993; Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Henson, 1996; Sparks-Langer, Colton, Pasch, & Starko, 1991). Other educational researchers (Catelli, 1995; Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Friesen, 1994; Lieberman, 1995) suggest that providing opportunities for preservice teachers and experienced educators to work collaboratively through the action research process may help establish effective professional development school (PDS) practices and lay the groundwork for productive pedagogical partnerships in these settings (Friesen, 1994) because of the opportunity to engage in shared dialogue and critical inquiry. Rosaen and Schram (1997) suggested that future studies should look at the potential for shared inquiry among novice and experienced teachers to promote professional dialogue about teaching and learning and whether it results in greater learning experiences for both sets of teachers.

In this article, we focus on what occurred when five pairs of preservice teachers and their cooperating teachers engaged collaboratively in planning, implementing, and evaluating action research projects to improve their practices during a semester-long internship experience in their PDS sites. The collaborative action research process in this study involved the following five steps undertaken mutually by the participant pairs: (a) identifying an issue to be researched; (b) forming a strategic plan of action to resolve the issue; (c) collecting data in various forms to determine the effects of the action; (d) reflecting on the results of the action to make sense of the processes, problems, issues, and constraints that resulted from the action plan; and, finally, (e) creating action steps to be taken based on what was learned. …

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