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AERA Presentation: PBL Model for Teacher Research

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  • Good afternoon. My name is Meilan Zhang. I am a postdoctoral researcher in a professional development project for science teachers at Michigan State University. One of the activities in this professional development program is that teachers engage in a year-long teacher research project to conduct research on their own practice. In this presentation, I am going to talk about a model that we found useful to support teachers in conducting teacher research. My colleague, Mary Lundeberg is there. She is also one of the co-authors of this paper. I believe she will help if I miss something.
  • So, why teacher research? Because we all know that teachers are the key for the success of educational reforms, and each year, the federal government, states, and school districts invest millions of dollars in different professional development for inservice teachers. However, the traditional one shot, one size fits all professional development model has been found ineffective. Teachers often find this kinds of professional development irrelevant to their work in classroom and misaligned with their needs for improvement. Teacher research, in which teachers as researchers systematically inquiry into their own classroom practice, has received great attention in the last two decades as a promising professional development activity. First, by studying and reflecting on their practice, teachers are more likely to become reflective practitioners. Second, teachers are empowered from “known” to “knower,” from “being researched” to “researcher”. Teachers are also more likely to use what they find in their own research to improve their practice, so teacher research helps to close research-practice gap. Finally, teacher research contributes to the knowledge base in educational community because teachers as insiders have unique opportunity to study issues or problems that are hard to access by outside researchers. By researching their own practice, teachers are more likely to become reflective practitioners; they are also more likely to use their research findings to improve their practice, so teacher researchers will close the research-practice gap Teacher research, also known as action research, in which teachers as researchers systematically inquiry into their own classroom practice, represents a fundamental shift in the paradigm of teachers’ professional development from the traditional workshop model. In the last two decades, teacher research has gained increased attention and advocacy in education as an approach to improving teachers;
  • Given all these great potentials, however, teacher research is not easy. For example, Christenson and her colleagues described it as a “rocky road” of becoming a teacher researcher. Teachers face great challenges when they conduct research. First of all, many teachers are not familiar with the concept of research; For example, some of them confuse teacher research with library research, they may consider teacher research as searching for resources for new instructional techniques. Teachers may also have a rigid, stereotyped view of traditional quantitative research that involve complicated statistics and measurements that are beyond their understanding. Second, the research process itself, such as asking research questions, data collection, data analysis is difficult for teachers, too. Typically, teachers did not receive much training in their research skills. Other challenges include lack of time and lack of support from colleagues and administrators. Clearly, teachers need support to engage in such a challenging but meaningful endeavor. Without support, teachers can easily become overwhelmed and frustrated by the demands of research. As a result, they may either fail to begin their research project or withdraw from their research effort. ================= ================ ====================== ====================== Moreover, many teachers find research a strange and frightening concept because of their stereotyped view of traditional quantitative research that involves complicated statistics and measurements that are beyond their understanding. Many teachers confuse teacher research with library research, equating the former with searching resources for new instructional techniques A few studies have found challenges that teachers face they the the challenges that teachers face when they engage in researching their practice; We know little about how to work with teachers in helping them improve their practical inquiry; (Christenson et al., 2002; Esposito & Smith, 2006; Price & Valli, 2005; Zeichner, 2003). In the study by Christenson and colleagues (2002), 19 teachers indicated that they planned to implement the action research proposal they developed in the course. However, after 6 months, the authors conducted phone interviews with those teachers and found only two of them actually implemented their action research as the final project for their master degree.
  • Clearly, teachers need support to engage in such a challenging but meaningful endeavor. Without support, teachers can easily become overwhelmed and frustrated by the demands of research. As a result, they may either fail to begin their research project or withdraw from their research effort.
  • PBL is a structured process to help teachers identify, analyze and reflect on possible solutions to problems of classroom practice. Problem-based learning challenges participants to work collaboratively in small groups to investigate real-world science content problems and pedagogical problems. [I can use these two sentences somewhere] An ill-structured problem is a problem that contains incomplete information and is open to multiple solutions. The nature of teaching problems is contextualized and messy, very similar to the characteristics of ill-structured problems used in PBL. [This sentence is not used anywhere. I can use it anywhere.] The PBL structure for analyzing teaching problems involves teachers collaboratively identifying relevant facts about the problem, developing hypothesis to solve the problem, and generating learning issues for literature research. The process is guided by one or two facilitators.
  • Participants included a total of 45 inservice science teachers who voluntarily participated in the PD and engaged in a year-long teacher research project over three years.
  • Teachers liked the fact that they had choice to study their own issues that was relevant to their classroom and could be directly translated to improve their practice. Many teachers emphasized the personal usefulness and relevance that their research had to their teaching.
  • Here is another example.
  • If you think the self-directedness is some kind of pull factor that motivate teachers, they also need some push factor that help them to stay in the process; After all, research is not a routine in regular teaching jobs. It requires teachers to do something different from what they are used to do; Healthy pressure by the model or structure. //maintaining teachers’ focus and effort // sustain the effort by the pressure to attend the meetings and present to the groups.//Force and Focus Change is difficult. Without the group meetings, the expectations from the group, it is hard to maintain focus; it is hard for teachers to carry out First, overall, the structured usefulness. Without such an external structure, it is very likely that teachers may not ======================================= “ The FOP meetings required research for our problems. Without this, I would not take the time to research but would use the “trial and error” method to evaluate changes. I feel I’ve gained 10 years of experience by pooling our group (peers and mentors) and research.” [Year 3, Pat, 4th grade teacher, survey, 5/14/2008] I’ve always questioned my practice but this just gave me the forced time to deal with the things that I’ve always wanted to address and look into. [Year 3, 6 th grade teacher, Focus group interview, Riverside] There is something about knowing that you are going to meet next month, and you have to kind of talk about something, so you should do something, or you are going to have nothing to talk about. So there is a little pressure. You work hard on that. You have to work. You know if you were not involved [in the PD], you might think this [strategy] would need to try, but you wouldn’t probably, because you don’t have to. (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, interview, 4/25/2007) … it forced me to stay focused on what I wished to change … [Lee, 8th grade teacher, Year 2, Application
  • “ The FOP meetings required research for our problems. Without this, I would not take the time to research but would use the “trial and error” method to evaluate changes. I feel I’ve gained 10 years of experience by pooling our group (peers and mentors) and research.” [Year 3, Pat, 4th grade teacher, survey, 5/14/2008] I’ve always questioned my practice but this just gave me the forced time to deal with the things that I’ve always wanted to address and look into. [Year 3, 6 th grade teacher, Focus group interview, Riverside] There is something about knowing that you are going to meet next month, and you have to kind of talk about something, so you should do something, or you are going to have nothing to talk about. So there is a little pressure. You work hard on that. You have to work. You know if you were not involved [in the PD], you might think this [strategy] would need to try, but you wouldn’t probably, because you don’t have to. (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, interview, 4/25/2007) … it forced me to stay focused on what I wished to change …
  • Almost all teachers recognized the importance of collaborating with other teachers. Teachers are often isolated in their own classrooms, so they appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with their colleagues, to hear different perspectives on a teaching issue, and to get feedback from other teachers about their research.
  • First, having a community that teachers can share their learning is very valuable, because it makes up the problem that teachers have. Many teachers did not have the opportunity to communicate with other teachers about their science teaching in their own school. The usefulness, I think the main thing would just be having people you are required for three hours to sit down and talk about science with just because I don’t get that very often here. Yes, we have staff meetings but maybe ten minutes are spent when you are actually talk with other science people in your department. So just having that opportunity to discuss “What are you doing in your classroom, what is working for you?” I think that is huge because we all teach science, I mean people may teach other things but the one thing we all have in common is we all teach science. [Kelly, SAMPI interview]
  • Teachers valued the role of facilitators in their group meetings and believed their group could not meet effectively without a facilitator. During the meetings, facilitators asked questions to deepen teachers’ thinking, provided resources, took notes for the discussion, and helped establish a safe learning community for teachers to discuss their practice;
  • Teachers valued the role of facilitators in their group meetings and believed their group could not meet effectively without a facilitator. During the meetings, facilitators asked questions to deepen teachers’ thinking, provided resources, took notes for the discussion, and helped establish a safe learning community for teachers to discuss their practice; The facilitator is very useful. She always helps us work through any problems or questions we have. They would also give us different ideas on teaching a subject or idea. [Jean Maiville, May 2008 Focus survey] Well, I thought it was group. Our group really bonded well, and our group leaders really helped us form a learning community, just very safe, and we were able to really share with each other and I think throughout the year, I really looked forward to it. [Susan Passalacqua, phone interview, year 1]
  • Student work provides evidence about student learning. Evidence changed her thinking. Realized the importance of assessment, provide a new perspective towards her teaching and using assessment to justify her teaching, that she was not unaware of: it provides evidence to teachers that might be ignored otherwise. …this would maybe scare me during the misconceptions [emerged in science talks] and wondering what direction these [students] are going, but when I've looked at some of my results from the outcomes of my kids on just the content tests and their ability to ask questions, I'm really encouraged by the results that I'm seeing that they're not losing information, they're not confused, they seem to be actually doing really well in their ability to question and talk to the other students about science. It's just dramatically improved so and I think that's part of this too. I start feeling like you're part of kind of research is that you're not just doing these things and just thinking, wow! This is neat, but we were really encouraged to think how do you know this is working, how can you keep track of what's going on. [Susan in panel discussion.] Speaker 2: One thing I wish is that we could have had more time to examine the student work. Because my kids generate a lot of stuff and I brought things to my presentation, but we didn’t have time to look at it and to have time for people to read it and say, “Well, isn’t it interesting this person responded this way, that way and this way?” Because I had tons of stuff that was interesting but it just didn’t [have time to analyze it.] [Year 3, Riverside, Focus group interview]
  • Teachers found it was helpful to develop the plan in the summer. It is important to note that a detailed, thoughtful research plan takes time to develop. It is helpful that teachers develop it during the summer, and then implement it in the school year. It takes a lot of time to develop a detailed, researchable, thoughtful research plan; It is important for teachers to have some focused time during the summer to think about what they want to research, what data they want to collect, and get feedback from their peers;
  • I really enjoyed working through the PBL process with my peers. It was a great way to talk about, discuss, and analyze what had worked and what had not worked. Through this analysis the group and I came to several conclusions. (Year 3, 3 rd grade teacher, Written reflection, 5/14/2008)

Transcript

  • 1. “ See, try, research and reflect”: A model for supporting collaborative teacher research Meilan Zhang, Jan Eberhardt, Mary Lundeberg, Matthew J. Koehler, Joyce Parker 4/13/2009 PBL TPC Project Copyright © 2007 Michigan State University Board of Trustees Teacher Professional Continuum Project no. ESI - 0353406
  • 2. Background
    • Ineffectiveness of traditional PD model
      • One-shot, one-size-fits-all
      • Irrelevant to teachers’ classroom practice
    • Teacher Research as a promising PD activity
      • Develop teachers as reflective practitioners
      • Empower teachers from “known” to “knower”
      • Close research-practice gap
      • Contribute to the knowledge base in education community
    Ref.: Lumpe, 2007; Wilson & Berne, 1999; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Loucks-Horsley, et al, 2003; Roth, 2007.
  • 3. “ Rocky Road” of Teacher Research
    • Most teachers are unfamiliar with research
      • Confuse with library research
      • Stereotyped view of traditional quantitative research
    • The research process itself is difficult for teachers
    • Lack of time for research
    • Lack of support from colleagues and administrators
    Ref.: Christenson et al., 2002; Esposito & Smith, 2006; Price & Valli, 2005; Zeichner, 2003
  • 4. Supporting teacher researchers
    • Teachers need support to engage in teacher research
    • Few studies have systematically explored what are important conditions for productive teacher research
  • 5. Developing a teacher research model
    • Drawing upon previous research
      • Teacher research (Christenson et al., 2002; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993; Levin & Merritt, 2006; van Zee, Lay, & Roberts, 2003; Zeichner, 2003)
      • Professional development (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Loucks-Horsley et al., 2003; Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007)
      • Teacher learning ( Schön, 1983; Shulman, 1986)
      • Japanese lesson study (Fernandez, Cannon, & Choski, 2003)
      • Problem-Based Learning (Gijbels, Dochy, Bossche, & Segers, 2005; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Schmidt, 1993)
  • 6. Developing a teacher research model
    • In the summer PD
      • Brainstorming research questions
      • Developing research plan
      • Getting feedback from peers and facilitators
      • Learning about the PBL approach
      • Learning about videotaping and editing skills
    • In the school year
      • Implementing research plan
        • Collecting data: videotaping, student work
        • Analyzing data
      • Meeting in small groups monthly
        • Presenting to the group
        • Discussing problems using the PBL approach
        • Searching literature on learning issues
  • 7. Research question
    • From the teacher researchers’ perspectives, what components in the collaborative teacher research model are useful to support teachers in studying their own practice?
  • 8. Methods
    • Participants:
      • 45 in total: 34 females; 11 males
        • 34 for one year; 6 for two years; 5 for three years
      • Year 1: 10 (3 males and 7 females)
      • Year 2: 28 (7 males and 21 females)
      • Year 3: 23 (2 males and 21 females)
  • 9. Data sources * Data was collected by the third party project evaluators. Table 1: Description of data sources
  • 10. Data Analysis
    • Descriptive quantitative data
    • Qualitative data
      • Identify themes from teachers’ statements in different data sources
  • 11. Results
    • A model for teacher research
      • Motivation
      • Community
      • Data (evidence)
      • Time
      • Process
  • 12. Self-directed process External healthy pressure Motivation Peer teachers Facilitators Community Teaching video Student work Data Summer preparation Extended study time Time PBL approach Literature searching Process Teacher Research
  • 13. Results * 1= Not useful, 5= Very useful. ** N=17. Table 2: Teachers’ ratings on the usefulness of PBL model components (N=21) 1.03 3.1** Video analysis of TIMSS teachers in summer 0.95 4.0 Group research of literature 0.87 4.2 Analysis of my own video 0.87 4.4 Teaching problem development in summer 0.68 4.5 Analysis of student work 0.81 4.5 Guidance of facilitator 0.75 4.5 Group discussion of someone else’s problem 0.75 4.6 Group discussion of my problem Std. Mean*
  • 14. Results
    • Self-directed process (or choice for studying “my own” issues)
      • I was not “told what to do”, but allowed to explore my own issues. I had “ ownership ” and learned more by doing my own research , then being able to discuss it. It was relevant to my immediate teaching practice.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, written reflection, 4/10/2007)
      • I had never thought that this could be so meaningful to do your own research project . We are [doing it for] our own. We really got excited with thinking of our own little assessments and testing ourselves and seeing if we could see changes in our kids and their achievements. (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, Focus group interview, 05/16/2007)
  • 15. Results
    • Self-directed process (or choice for studying “my own” issues )
      • Moderator: One thing we struggle with is trying to figure out how this professional development differs from other professional development that you’ve experienced in the past or also are doing at the same time.
      • Teacher 1: [In this PD] no one is telling us, “This is what you should do.”
      • Teacher 2: Yes, [This PD is] self-directed in many ways .
      • Teacher 3: Yes, it’s not like, “Here’s a book. Follow along while I speak. Read my PowerPoint.”
      • (Year 3, Focus group interview, 5/14/2008)
  • 16. Results
    • Healthy pressure to maintain teachers’ focus and effort
      • … it forced me to stay focused on what I wished to change …
      • There is something about knowing that you are going to meet next month, and you have to kind of talk about something, so you should do something, or you are going to have nothing to talk about. So there is a little pressure . You work hard on that. You have to work. You know if you were not involved [in the PD], you might think this [strategy] would need to try, but you wouldn’t probably, because you don’t have to. (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, interview, 4/25/2007)
  • 17. Results
    • Healthy pressure to maintain teachers’ focus and effort
      • “ The [monthly] meetings required research for our problems. Without this, I would not take the time to research but would use the “trial and error” method to evaluate changes. I feel I’ve gained 10 years of experience by pooling our group (peers and mentors) and research.” ( Year 3, 4th grade teacher, survey, 5/14/2008)
      • I’ve always questioned my practice but this just gave me the forced time to deal with the things that I’ve always wanted to address and look into. ( Year 3, 6th grade teacher, Focus group interview, 5/14/2008)
  • 18. Results
    • Collaborative learning community
      • One of the best things about this process is watching everybody else as we went through because it made me think about my own classroom practice every single time . When we went to Sue's classroom and she did science talks, it was like I couldn't wait to wake up the next day and get to my classroom so I could do that in my class. And watching the assessment stuff with Leslie and I was like, “Oh, I have to think about that the next time I do this.” I just don't think that we do that enough as teachers.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, Focus group interview, 5/16/2007)
  • 19. Results
    • Collaborative learning community
      • The usefulness, I think the main thing would just be having people you are required for three hours to sit down and talk about science with just because I don’t get that very often here. Yes, we have staff meetings but maybe ten minutes are spent when you are actually talking with other science people in your department. So just having that opportunity to discuss “What are you doing in your classroom, what is working for you?” I think that is huge because we all teach science, I mean people may teach other things but the one thing we all have in common is we all teach science.
      • (Year 1, 8 th grade teacher, interview, 5/2006)
  • 20. Collaborative learning community
    • Too nice to each other
    • In our group, it's just everyone is positive. If anyone brings up the negative, it is the person who is presenting, usually we brought up with "Er, ... Not a problem!" ... We probably are too nice to each other. You know, you don’t want to hurt any people's feelings ;
    • (Year 2, 8 th grade teacher, interview, 4/9/2007)
    • Group problems
      • Grade level
      • School
      • Research topics
  • 21. Results Table 3: Teachers’ ratings on facilitators’ role (N=22)
    • 1= strongly disagree; 2= disagree; 3= varies or uncertain how to respond; 4= agree; 5= strongly agree.
    • (17 teachers rated 5 and 5 rated 4 on the first question.)
    • Facilitator guidance
    1.04 2.1 I believe my group could meet effectively even without a facilitator. 0.43 4.8 The facilitator has helped me think more deeply about my students and classroom practice. Std. Mean*
  • 22. Results
    • Facilitator guidance
      • I have been thinking about the importance of the guidance of the facilitators. I learned about how small groups work in our group and have been thinking about how difficult it is even for us as adults to work productively and cooperatively in our small group. It is the guidance of our facilitator that has given us the success we've had this year . We could not be effective without them.
      • (Year 3, Kindergarten teacher, Survey, 5/14/2008)
      • Our facilitator really did a great job questioning and making me think more deeply about question or problem. She was really great at making me think!
      • (Year 3, 3 rd grade teacher, Survey, 5/14/2008)
  • 23. Results
    • Analysis of teaching videos
      • You have one perception of what is happening when you are going through any experience and a different one when you view it as a witness .
      • (Year 2, 6 th grade teacher, Survey, 6/2006)
      • What I really realized is that the videotaping of myself, watching all of that. It lends itself not just to teaching science, but it taught me so much about teaching in general and so that was a really an eye opener for me to go back and look at that…
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, focus group interview, 5/16/2007)
      • It is really helpful to look at your teaching through video, because how often do you film yourself? You have a feeling for what’s going on but how often do you actually sit down and watch yourself doing it ?
      • (Year 3, Kindergarten teacher, Focus group interview, 5/14/2008)
  • 24. Results
    • Limitation of video
      • Not suitable for all tasks, e.g., individual writing work.
      • Capture only partial classroom practice
      • Analyzing video is time consuming
  • 25. Results
    • Analysis of student work
      • Analyzing student work was the line that allowed me to clearly reflect on my teaching effectiveness and on guiding future instructional practices.
      • (Year 3, 3 rd grade teacher, Survey, 5/14/2008)
      • Something we all need time to do because it is so important to understanding what our students know and need to know. We are kind of forced to do it, and I'm thankful for the time.
      • (Year 3, 5 th grade teacher, Survey, 5/14/2008)
  • 26. Results
    • Summer preparation
      • I don’t think you can do it without the time in the summer , where you get to really focus on it without any distraction in the school year.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, Interview, 4/25/2007)
      • I just feel like I hop on a merry-go-round at the beginning of the year and it just goes around faster and faster and doesn’t slow down.
      • (Year 1, 5 th grade teacher, Interview, May, 2006)
  • 27. Results
    • Extended studying time
      • By being a one-year experience, I had the time and opportunity to “see, try, research and reflect”.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, written reflection, 4/10/2007)
      • I also like that it goes through the whole year, because you know you go to something for one day and even though it is great, you go back, you mean to try it but you just forget. You put it on the shelf, and you don’t do it. But when the last year like that, we meet each month, work on things, so it is a continuous process. You know you stay involved with that. It is just not something that you think is neat, but do not try. So your really have time in a year to try stuff. And because of that, I really have tried things in my teaching, not just talk about it, or learn about it. But with that whole year of time, I have time to try something that I might not try. It changed my science teaching I think for the better. I am excited about these changes.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, interview, 4/25/2007)
  • 28. Results
    • Analysis of teaching problem using PBL approach
      • I really enjoyed working through the PBL process with my peers. It was a great way to talk about, discuss, and analyze what had worked and what had not worked. Through this analysis the group and I came to several conclusions.
      • (Year 3, 3 rd grade teacher, Written reflection, 5/14/2008)
      • I really enjoyed the brainstorming sessions that we had before we started each task. It allowed the group to discuss the task and get several different perspectives of how to solve the problem before going off and getting started on it.
      • (Year 1, 7 th grade teacher, Interview, May, 2006)
  • 29. Results
    • Literature searching
      • [The] group research of literature helped me better understand how to get all children involved in discussions!
      • (Year 3, 4 th grade teacher, Survey, 5/14/2008)
      • It is still hard for me to know when to step in and correct misconceptions and when to let my students figure things out for themselves....and though it was a learning issue for us nearly every month we could not find a significant amount of research on young children and inquiry.
      • (Year 2, Kindergarten teacher, Written reflection, 5/2008)
  • 30. Discussion
    • Contribution: Developed a comprehensive model that supports teacher research
    • Importance of using video as evidence to examine teaching
      • Only 12% of teachers in 78 studies used video evidence (Roth, 2007)
    • Importance of self-directedness in teacher research
      • In many teacher research studies, teachers were not self-directed. (e.g., Honan, 2007)
  • 31. Limitation and future research
    • Limitation
      • Coding for frequency
      • Reliance on self report data
      • Lack of evidence on teacher learning and student learning
    • Future research
      • Case studies of teacher research
      • Impact of teacher research on teacher learning and student learning