Teacher training: Action research (II)
Where can your research question come from?
Research questions can come from:
- a problem/difficulty which you or your students are experiencing.
For example, you might notice that only a few students take part in group work activities. Before looking for a solution, investigate the problem.
- Do students know how to give and support their ideas, disagree with others, ask questions etc. in the language they must use in group work activities?
- Do students know that they should take different roles in groups? Group activities usually need a facilitator, a recorder, a reporter and a time-keeper.
- Are the activities suitable for group work or could the students do them on their own?
Once you have a better understanding of the problem, plan what solution you will try.
- observing the teaching and learning processes in your classroom.
For example, you could observe how you use questions in your classroom. Record a lesson and then listen to find answers to the following questions:
- How many questions do I ask my students?
- What type of questions do I ask them? (Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?)
- How long do I wait for students to answer?
Depending on what you find, you could plan to ask more "why" questions, or you could give students more time to answer your questions. How does the change affect the learning and teaching process?
- something you have read.
For example, you may have read an article in which the author said that letting students use their Mother Tongue in group work improves the quality of their feedback. You might want to test this idea and so set yourself the question, "How does allowing students to use their Mother Tongue in group work activities affect the length of their feedback? The number of ideas presented in their feedback? The accuracy of the language they use in their feedback? The level of language they use in their feedback?"
- previous research.
For example, a South African teacher, Rosh Pillay, started doing action research in an attempt to solve the following problem: My students don't know how to structure an argument essay. While working on this problem she discovered that her students didn't know how to analyse essay questions. She then carried out a second cycle of action research in which she tried to answer the question, "Will the quality of my students' essays improve if I teach them how to analyse the essay question?"
What evidence can you collect to see whether your solution has worked or not?
You can collect many types of evidence. For example:-
- Students' exercises, essays, assignments, tests etc.
- Other documents like your lesson plans, notes to students' parents, minutes of meetings etc.
- Personal notes. Write short notes as you observe your students.
- Observation schedules. Draw up a list of behaviours and language to look for while students are working in groups, reading aloud, doing a report back, performing a role play etc.
- Peer observations. Ask a colleague to observe you while you teach. Ask him/her to look for particular behaviours, language use etc.
- Audio recordings
- Video recordings
- Interviews of learners, their parents, teachers, administrators etc.
- Student journals
- Teacher journals
If you have never done action research before, start small. Ensure that the problem you try to solve is manageable. And don't be afraid of making mistakes. As all teachers know, we learn through our mistakes.