Records and Observation Data
Once you have found a focus for action research, clarified your theories regarding that focus, and identified research questions that are worth answering, it is time to begin the search for data. The next three chapters should provide the guidance you need to find adequate answers to your research questions.
A good place to start looking for data is where data already exist. Only when existing data or artifacts are unavailable or inadequate is it necessary to create new instruments. (Chapter 8 discusses the construction of new data collection instruments.)
Think of data as artifacts or evidence left behind by the phenomenon you are investigating. Educators spend their entire working lives in data-rich environments. Whenever school is open, data are produced. Often the information is on what the students have accomplished. This evidence appears in their portfolios or on the walls of their classrooms. Likewise, what the students haven't done generates data. Data on those disappointing nonevents can be found in teacher grade books, on student transcripts, and in copies of the notes sent home to parents.
This chapter deals with several types of data that are readily available in the form of teacher records and observations of the daily classroom experience.
Various kinds of teacher records are valuable as sources of data. Among the most useful are lesson plans and grade books.