This fall my graduate course has been on the topic of teacher classroom-based inquiry, often also referred to as teacher action research. The goal of the class was to help its students become very comfortable with APA style and to create a formal classroom-based inquiry research proposal. As a high school Spanish teacher, I decided to focus on a subject that joins together two topics of great interest to me: feedback in the classroom and student motivation. My inquiry posed the question:
How does my use of different forms of feedback affect motivation for high achievement in Spanish of my middle-class suburban high school students?
To explore our topics we were led through all of the essential steps of creating a quality research proposal. First, we were taught how to recognize and locate teacher inquiry studies and we were required to find websites or organizations which publish teacher research as well as existing examples of teacher research projects to share with our cohort. Next, we were to come up with our inquiry question and subquestions and back up our wonderings with a sound rationale. After this, it was time to see what already existed on our topics, so we hit the library and conducted a preliminary lit review on our topics. After the lit review we had to project forward to discuss the ways and frequencies with which we planned to collect data as well as our future plans for data analysis. Finally we projected even further into the future to discuss the following: collaboration, financial support, sharing of results, and implications.
Afterwards all of these weekly tasks (during which I must say, my professor did an excellent job providing us with timely, usable feedback for improvement), we refreshed what we had learned about the tenants of quality teacher research and self-assessed our work before putting it all together into one, polished final proposal.
So, this proposal is the cumulative result of the past several weeks of my graduate learning and I would love any feedback that you may have. I understand if you just don’t have it in you to read the whole thing but if you happen to skim it over and want to add your two cents, know that your comments will not only be welcomed but seriously considered in my final revisions.
I hope to carry out this research project next school year (2012-2013), and in the meantime will work on revising and improving the final proposal and perhaps piloting certain aspects of it (e.g. the motivation survey and student discussion pieces- see appendices A and B, accordingly).
If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this course it’s that teacher voice is largely missing in the research of our profession – this is, of course, silly considering we are the ones in the trenches day in and out and the most familiar with what students need to be successful. I’m starting to add my voice to the discussion – I hope you’ll consider joining in too!