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Action Research by Science Teachers

Introduction

Educational research is being conducted in different institutions all over the world. The traditional educational research though very beneficial has some lacunas in implementation as listed below:

  • It is extremely difficult to apply its findings to classroom settings.
  • Educational Research is generally carried out within the Psycho-statistical Research Paradigm. It may not be applicable in real life situation.
  • There are several contextual variables operating on schools and classrooms like for example, community culture, teacher personality, school fundamentals, socioeconomic background, etc.
  • If a teacher uses a certain teaching strategy for a group of students, it is not guaranteed that each and every student of that group will understand the taught concepts.
  • The teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil interactions that result in effective learning are not so much a consequence of standardized teaching methods but it is the result of both teachers and pupils engaging in a meaningful action.

 

The practising teachers have to fight on the different educational fronts. They are too often servants of heads, advisers, researchers, textbooks, curriculum developers, examination boards or the department of education. By adopting the research stance teachers liberate themselves from the control position they so often find themselves in. The teacher is engaged not only in a meaningful professional development activity but also in a process of refining and becoming more autonomous in professional development. Thus, autonomy in knowing what is right and what is wrong gives the teacher more confidence and hence more freedom to try out his/her own ideas (Dilion et al, 2002).

 

Action Research

The idea of action research was developed by Kurt Lewin in the immediate post war period as a method of intervening into social problems. Lewin identified four stages in Action Research: Planning, Acting, Observing and Reflecting. There are various definitions coined for the Action Research. According to ERIC digest, “Action research is a deliberate, solution-oriented investigation that is group or personally owned and conducted.” Let us now look at the steps to undertake action research systematically (Hopkins, 1990).

 

Identify the question, issue or problem

Determining the right focus for question is important. Depending upon the facilities and resources available one should frame a research problem. It is also possible to take up a problem that a teacher faces himself/herself or a problem faced by fellow teachers and work on it.

 

Define a solution

Taking into account the influencing parameters one should prepare a temporary solution that can be expected after the research work. This will be an intervention of some sort, perhaps a technique, new environment or new material that has a potential to correct the problem. This will guide the researcher to follow his research work along a definite path without getting defocused.

 

Apply the intervention and collect data 

Defining the path to carry out the research is one of the important aspects. Defining the methodology for data collection and then implementing to collect the data is a skill that can be achieved through a little practice.

 

Analyze your findings

Once the data is collected then a proper analysis is a crucial task. The collected data may give out different meanings and the researcher should be in an unbiased position to interpret it correctly.

 

Take action

The analysis of data may lead the researcher to reach his ‘temporary solution’ or it may suggest some modifications in the research methodology. It may also bring out some influencing parameter which one might have missed while defining the solution.

 

Illustrative Example

A teacher teaching Chemistry at the higher secondary level was worried that his students did not understand ‘mole concept’ properly. He decided to undertake an action research to find out causes of students’ poor understanding. He designed a questionnaire and administered it to all the students in the classroom. The questionnaire was based on problem solving activity where students were expected to use the concept of mole. They were requested to note down all that came to their minds in dealing with the problem. They were allowed to take the questionnaire home and solve the problem leisurely. Analysing the answer sheets and interviewing selected students, the teacher could understand root causes of students’ poor understanding and misconceptions. Based on this research findings he has now designed a new method of teaching mole concept that has proved to be quite useful.

 

Implications

The teacher research movement gives freedom to teachers to try out innovative ways to solve the problems in educational front. Some of the advantages of action research are:

  • It helps to build a reflective practice, based on proven techniques.
  • It allows trying out new ideas and reliably assessing their effectiveness.
  • It builds confidence in taking instructional decisions.
  • It contributes to the professional culture of teaching at the school.
  • It can create meaningful and lasting change in practice and students’ learning.

 

References

Dilion Justin, Sissling Sue, Watson Rod, Duschl Rick, (2002), Science teachers as researchers- A model for professional development, School Science Review, 84 (307), (43-46).

Hopkins, David (1990), A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Research, Buckingham: Open University Press, Ch. 1-4.

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