Action research workshop

Last week, I was privileged to attend a one-off workshop on action research and mentoring.  Designed by Sydney University’s Department of Education and delivered by Dr Debra Talbot, the course dug deep into the underpinnings of this research methodology.  Practitioners embarking on an action research project:

  • recognise that there is a local problem and desires improvement
  • research knowledge about the problem from external sources
  • formulate an inquiry question that is specific
  • collect data within the local context
  • design a method of intervention
  • reflects and evaluate
  • bring others together to validate and collaborate

Debra discussed the principles through the work of Professor Stephen Kemmis, Charles Sturt University and Susan Groundwater-Smith. She presented strategies for working with teachers on their action research projects, planning the questions and collecting and analysing the data, modelling the strategies throughout the workshop. 

We used case studies to practise collecting data by classroom observation; we observed and discussed the challenges of working with interview data.  

As well as links to the grounded research underpinning this methodology, the take-home for me was that rigorous planning is vital, and getting the research question right is, perhaps, the hardest part. 

Debra outlined characteristics and principles of good practice in mentoring:

  • One-to-one mentoring relationship
  • Likely to be novice mentored by expert although equitable is also possible
  • Similarities with clinical supervision
  • Most importantly, it can serve to transform both partners in the mentoring process

This was a condensed workshop, custom-tailored.  Sydney University delivers an Action Research two-module 5 x 2 hour (each module) course, endorsed by NESA and addressing Australian Professional Teaching Standards.

Kemmis, S. (2009). Action research as a practice-based practice. Educational Action Research 17(3):463-474

Personalised professional learning

Today, there is a thought-provoking post from Edutopia: Why don’t we differentiate professional development?  Pauline Zdonek’s comments caught my attention:

As I prepare for another afternoon of district-provided professional development activities, I always make sure that I bring plenty of work to do (papers to grade, lesson planning, etc.)…the sad fact is that the majority of PDs I attend are repetitive, simplistic, or downright boring. I bring other work to do so that I don’t get irritated when I feel that my time is being so carelessly wasted.

“One-size-fits-all” professional learning does not work, and we have known that for many years through experience, anecdotal evidence and research.  This was a hot topic in the nineties and early two thousands!   In 1999, NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory) produced a toolkit Professional Development: learning from the best; in 2002, Dennis Sparks published Designing powerful professional development for teachers and principals for the National Staff Development Council, which produced a set of standards for meaningful professional learning.

What have we learnt?  How many colleagues have been “talked at”, in our beginning-of-the-year professional development sessions?

In 2014, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) produced Designing professional learning, a report to…

…help readers design, revise and evaluate high-quality professional learning by clarifying the elements of learning design that significantly increase participants’ learning outcomes and their use of those learning outcomes in classroom practice.

This report provides an excellent basis for developing robust and meaningful learning experiences.

21st Century Skills

In EDCN865 we have been discussing 21st century skills as outlined in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework.   Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing what these skills mean and what tools we might use to enhance learning of those skills.  I have found it really interesting to rewrite the sections of the course in order to frame them according to these skills.  So easy to concentrate on the Web 2.0 tools; not quite as easy to start with the skills.  Isn’t that the way with every lesson sequence?

Learning and Innovation Skills

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Flipping the Classroom

I have been thinking about this new 2012-2103 buzz Flipping the Classroom!  Don’t good teachers do some of that, anyway?  The lecture/content is watched at home; the homework becomes the classroom activity, so that support is at hand.

In order to answer the questions from a colleague, I found this brief interview from Salman Kahn:

The other side:
Is it hip to flip? An article from THE Journal January 2013