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 discover the effectiveness of the innovations and use the cyclical nature of action research to iterate my approach throughout the year.
Fundamental Research Question
As I explored during our reading of Joseph Grenny’s Influencer, there are vital behaviors that affect our ability to implement change. I established the following vital behaviors at that time:
- Teaching that relies on inquiry, not simply direct instruction and emphasizes improvement not perfection through reflection.
- Find and engage many different entrepreneurs who will be willing to lend their expertise as mentors to students and instructors in the class.
- Use ePortfolio to reflect upon the learning as students and instructors as well as promote the business.
During the next month I hope to narrow these down to answer the following fundamental question through my action research plan:
“How does 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.
- Did your reflective practices help you understand more about your subject of study this week/month?
- Did you interactions with the outside mentors aid in a deeper understanding of the material this week/month?
- Do you feel like actually running the coffee shop this week lead to a better grasp of the material?
- Are you more confident you will remember the material you learned this week because you actually used it and reflected upon it?
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.
Craig Mertler describes a perceived lack of quality in action research (2017). I believe marrying my own data with that of other more traditional research can help not only fill in a gap but bring more rigor to my study.
In reviewing the research there seems to be a need for more exploration of students creating business and an entrepreneurial spirit at a younger age. I hope that I can not only encourage this through my innovation plan but improve upon the learning outcomes utilizing the action research approach. In the future I hope to present on my findings at regional and national conferences to help inspire others to spread this initiative.
Grenny, J., & Patterson, K. (2013). Influencer: The power to change anything. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Mertler, C. A. (2017). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Schmuck, R.A. (1997). Practical action research for change. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Professional Development.