Identifying and Limiting the Topic
Action research is different from traditional research in that it explores studying situations in schools in order to improve the actions and results within that school or in my case, innovation plan (Schmuck, 1997). Reflection is a key component of action research as it centers around examining one’s own practice. So as I reflect on my innovation plan, I really want to focus on collecting data on my students’ reflections through their ePortfolios as well as the utilization of mentors to add authentic learning to the classroom. I hope to explore the following fundamental question and use the cyclical nature of action research to iterate my approach throughout the year.
“Will authentic learning augmented with real world mentors and reflection improve students view of their learning?”
I want to discover a couple of different things during my action research. First, I want to know how many students are use reflective practices like ePortfolios or journaling to enhance their learning experience. I also want to know how often they have been exposed to mentoring and authentic learning approaches in their other classes. Finally I want to know how they feel the learning is affected by these strategies. In order to accomplish these goals I need to collect some data.
I need to utilize a triangulation mixed-methods design. I will use a quantitative research design method to measure the increase in mentorship and reflective practices. My hypothesis is most of the students will not have been exposed to these methods very often previously. I will collect data on how many students have worked with mentors in a previous class. I will also look at how many have used ePortfolios, journals or other intentional reflective methods in previous classes. Finally throughout the year I will follow up with how often they are continuing their reflective practices as well as the contact with their mentors. Google Forms will be an easy way to simply ask students yes or no questions in regards to their experiences with reflective practices and mentors/authentic learning.
Then I will use qualitative to discover the students feeling about how these methods affect their learning. Then I will use surveys and weekly exit questions to evaluate how effective they believe these techniques are helping in their learning. I anticipate from previous surveys about reflection I have performed in other classes I have taught that students will not find as much value initially as they will towards the end of the class. Again, I will utilize Google Forms for this data collection and focus on these types of questions as part of the qualitative study. Scroll down to Developing and Implementing the Plan for more specifics.
Reviewing Related Literature
As we have been for the last several months we will continue to investigate best practices through a literature review. Specifically I want to make sure I am looking at the following:
- The current gap in skills employers want and what schools are producing.
- The need for mentors and authentic learning in today’s world.
- The value of reflection.
Read the Literature Review here.
Develop the Plan
Developing and Implementing the Plan
The plan implementation will begin in August when students join our new entrepreneurial class. On the first day students will be asked to complete this First Day Survey form to help us establish a baseline. Each week throughout the semester we will check in with the students to follow their perceptions using this Weekly Feedback form. Finally a month after the semester ends we will have students take this Followup survey to see if they are still using outside mentors and reflection as part of their toolbox even though they are no longer in the class.
Collect and Analyze the Results
We will be collecting both quantitative and qualitative data throughout the forms we will be collecting each week. We will be able to use the names to compare the data and look for changes in the students views on the effects the mentors and reflection are having on their learning. We will also perform individual interviews at the midpoint of the semester as well as the end to grab more qualitative data. Finally the students blogs will act as another place to collect qualitative data. With all this various data we will utilize triangulation mixed methods to analyze the results.
Share and Communicate the Results
We will have multiple opportunities to share our results. We will share our progress throughout with our leadership team. We will also have the opportunity to discuss our progress with other teachers in our October professional learning time. Finally we hope to share with colleagues around the region and nation by submitting proposals to such conferences as LLI Southwest, NAIS and ISTE.
Reflect on the Process
One of the most important parts of this whole process is reflection. As you can see by our design, action research is a cyclical process where we will take the feedback we receive weekly and make adjustments during the semester if needed. Also the results will not only inform our class design for the next semester of students but we will also share the results with others so it can help inform best practices in their classrooms.