Action Research and Technology Education
Merrill, Chris, The Technology Teacher
When was the last time you sat back and contemplated how effective your teaching is? When have you examined how to best teach bridge construction, C[O.sub.2] cars, or rocketry? What methods have you used to determine how students learn and apply their knowledge? Have you investigated the effectiveness of your newly implemented curriculum based on Standards for Technological Literacy? Pre-service and practicing teachers may or may not have engaged in this type of questioning or investigated what works best and why. For varying reasons, technology education, as an entire field, is lacking in these action-related, researchable areas.
There has been ongoing dialogue about the need for sustained research in technology education for many years through articles presented in technology education professional journals and conference presentations (Benenson, 2001; Cajas, 2000; Foster, 1996; Haynie, 1998; Hoepfl, 1997; Lewis, 1999; Petrina, 1998; Zuga, 1994). However, this dialogue has predominately centered upon existing faculty members in technology teacher education institutions. There has been limited discussion in technology education regarding guided pre-service, classroom teacher, or the teaching of educational research for sustained technology education growth at the practitioner-based levels (Cajas, 2000).
Why should practicing teachers care about research? Avison, Lau, Myers, and Nielsen (1999) believe that action research can provide and address solutions to real-life problems in the classroom by combining theory with practice. Action research, as stated by Calhoun (2002) "can change the social system in schools and other education organizations so that continual formal learning is both expected and supported" (p. 18). There is a gap, however, between what action research may provide the classroom teacher and what technology education researchers have discovered. Zuga (2000) noted that little research being conducted today is focused on improving technology classrooms. If little research is being conducted at the practitioner-based level, how can technology education develop and use best practices? Benenson (2001) discussed the idea that research in technology education must involve classroom teachers and university faculty--a bridge that may help fill the gap in technology education research between the two groups. More importantly, closing the gap between classroom teachers and university faculty may alleviate the frequent "in the dark" feeling, and answer the question of why practicing teachers should care about research.
Action Research Defined
Stephen Corey (1953) described action research as a process for practitioners to study and solve their own problems. A more formal definition and explanation of action research is:
A continual disciplined inquiry conducted to inform and improve our practice as educators. Action research asks educators to study their practice and its context, explore the research base for ideas, compare what they find to their current practice, participate in training to support needed changes, and study the effects on themselves, their students, and colleagues (Calhoun, 2002, p.18).
Regardless of the definition of action research you find, use, or implement, the key principles of action research involve strategies to improve teaching and learning. Sagor (2000) suggested that teachers should engage in action research to: (1) build the reflective practitioner; (2) make progress on school-wide priorities; and (3) build professional cultures (p. 7). Simply put, action research is a formal process of improvement, which requires discovering, analyzing, interpreting, and acting upon what is happening in the classroom and school.
Steps in Action Research
Like any type of research, there are general steps, procedures, or processes that one should follow. …