Gathering data from your class to support your philosophy and student understanding

To refine your teaching philosophy, continue to think about your philosophy as a research article and your main teaching goal or objective as your research question. Think about what data you already have at your disposal and what data you can start to collect to illustrate your core objective(s). Go beyond numerical and letter grades as forms of data. How do your assignments and learning activities demonstrate student understanding? Think about one assessment or activity and its intended outcome. What does it produce in your students (new thinking, behaviors, or feelings) and how can you collect that information for analysis? From a research perspective, how do you know your assessments are valid and how can you analyze your students’ work? For most assessments a qualitative approach could be appropriate. Examining for themes of understanding and misconceptions as well as exceptions to your theme(s) can produce valued information on your teaching and student understanding. Objective tests can also tell you information on how your students learn. Is there a question that most people answered correctly or incorrectly? What would that information tell you about student learning?
Action research is one method that can be used to investigate and improve teaching and it has been used for more than fifty years as a form of classroom research (Arhar, Holly, & Kasten, 2000). Stringer (2007) describes an action research process as looking, thinking, and acting. Stringer’s method asks individuals to critically look at their environment with the goal of improvement and then determine how to collect and analyze data to implement change. Action research encourages a continual process of investigation, action, and reflection. From this perspective action research parallels the process of being a reflective practitioner. How are you looking at your teaching with the goal of improved student learning?
To get the action research process started, look at your teaching and find an area you would like to examine. Think about this area; what is going well, what needs improvement. How can you collect and analyze data to impact your teaching. Implement a change based on your research. Finally, evaluate its effectiveness and start the process over—do you need to make additional changes or are you studying a new aspect of your teaching and student understanding.
Arhar, J.M., Holly, M.L., & Kasten, W.C. (2001). Action research for teachers: Traveling the yellow brick road. Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Stringer, E. (2007). Action research (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Last modified: Monday, 29 June 2009, 01:30 PM