Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 3, Part 3 - Steps to Follow in My Action Research Plan

Setting the Foundation:
Based on a discussion with a panel of high school advanced placement (honors) students several years ago, during which one panel member expressed how important memorization of multiplication facts had been to her success in pre-advanced placement and advanced placement mathematics classes, I have wondered about the impact of that statement on math students in lower grades. With a decline in scores on the math TAKS test the last two years on my campus, my site-mentor and I agreed action research in the area of mathematics would be valuable. The combination of these two events has lead me to my action research inquiry (How can using online multiplication games help low-performing students improve knowledge of multiplication facts?).

Analyzing Data:
I have already begun to look at information provided in the Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008). I also plan to review fifth-grade math TAKS scores for our incoming 6th graders to determine which students are low-performing. At that point, levels of mastery in regard to multiplication facts will be determined by analyzing the results of a pre-test. Throughout the year regularly administered quizzes will be analyzed to establish whether the action research plan needs to be modified in any way.

Developing Deeper Understanding:
In addition to quantitative data, we plan to analyze the observations of the math teachers and math curriculum coach as they supervise the online multiplication game time. Along with these observations, we find it helpful to interview a sampling of students to gain a deeper understanding of their level of engagement both at school and possibly at home as these students realize these multiplication games are readily available to them on the Internet.

Engaging in Self-Reflection:
Until I begin collecting data after the school year begins, I don’t have much on which to reflect. However, I have begun to wonder where my research might take me if we don’t see any improvement in levels of mastery of multiplication facts by the end of the school year. This would bring about a whole new action research project that will require additional thought and literature research.

Exploring Programmatic Patterns:
An analysis of the data collected during this school year might be used to guide the administration on my campus in its decision-making about such things as the master schedule, use of the computer labs, possible grants to procure the technology necessary for widespread implementation of continued practice through online math games, and best use of personnel. If the data indicates this additional practice is not beneficial in increasing mastery levels of multiplication facts, more research will be needed.

Determining Direction:
I feel I have a very clear vision of how my action research plan will proceed once the school year begins. As a veteran math teacher, I feel confident the activities planned for measuring progress and the methods for collecting the data will be adequate for the purpose of my action research topic. Because my topic is based in mathematics, the quantitative data collected will be very helpful in determining whether student mastery levels improve. The observations of the math teachers will further assist us in evaluating the success (or lack of success) we experience. This evaluation will help us revise the plan as needed throughout the year.

Taking Action for School Improvement:
I have already created an action research plan in part 2 of this week’s assignment that I will modify and adjust as the year progresses based on data collected, input from the math teachers who will be assisting with the implementation of the project, and my site-mentor.

Sustaining Improvement:
If the we determine the results of the action research are positive upon review of all the data collected throughout the school year, we will be sharing this information in a vertical alignment in order to help the elementary as well as grades seven and eight in our middle school. Typically we share effective practices with our sister schools in the district, so I anticipate this horizontal sharing of information as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What I know about action research so far…

Let me begin with a statement by Nancy Fichtman Dana (2009) I plan to keep on my mirror for a visible reminder each day.

With all the never-ending demands on a principal from a large and diverse number of constituencies, coupled with the numerous emergencies that surface on an almost daily basis, it is easy for principals to lose sight of why they aspired to be principals in the first place – leading and inspiring the teaching and learning that occur within their schoolhouse, a task that has become increasingly more complex in recent years. (p. 2)

Reading that almost makes a person wonder why someone would ever desire to be in a position of leadership in the field of education. However, action research provides a means and an end to help educational leaders face these many issues.

Action research is “one tool that can be used by principals to untangle the intricate web of demands in which they become entangled each day, take charge of their own professional development, and become the ‘head learner’ of their school” (Dana, 2009). It provides a method of continuous improvement through the process of determining what educational concern needs to be addressed. This inquiry is best when formed as an open-ended question rather than one that only requires a yes or no response. Once the inquiry is identified a plan of research is developed involving the gathering of data related to the concern. This data is then analyzed based on a perusal of current educational literature on the matter. This analysis and a new understanding of the problem in question lead to change in the educational setting. Interestingly, the last step of action research involves sharing what has been learned (or discovered) with other educators. In my opinion, this is a reminder that we’re all in this together, or as the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers.  

Dana, N.F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

How Might an Educational Leader Use Blogs?

I’m certain I will only hit the tip of this iceberg, but I have gathered a few ideas this week about how educational leaders can utilize blogs in their careers for a variety of purposes.  Blogs are great as tools for reflection, which is valuable to principals and other educators as well. This web 2.0 tool also creates the opportunity to gain input from others which can lead to rewarding collaboration. Blogging can even be used to set by the educational leader to show a continued love for learning.

In EDLD 5301, I am learning about action research particularly for educational leaders, but as a significant tool for all educators. A tremendously important aspect of action research is reflection. As one principal stated, “my blog permits me to ‘think big’ for an extended period of time…[and] it forces me to play with, develop, and challenge ideas in a way that makes learning interesting and engaging for me” (Dana, 2009). Basically, a blog allows educational leaders to keep on-going records of their original inquiries, thoughts, and ideas as they develop. With a blog, in addition to written expression, images and links to other blogs can be included which enhances the reflection activity.

I would venture to say all educators know the value of collaboration. Educational leaders can use blogs “to share [their] inquiry outside [their] school or district” (Dana). “Sharing [their] inquiry in the form of a blog automatically connects [them] to a large audience of principals” (Dana). The possibility of countless contributors exists if an open blog is used; however, some may prefer a blogging community closed to outsiders, thereby limiting the number of people who can add their comments. In essence, a blog in this situation could be considered a principal’s “personal learning community” (Dana).

In addition to these more traditional blog ideas for educational leaders, “principals can share their…blogging time with students to model a love of writing” (Dana). One principal in the text had a scheduled time each week when she would join some classes as they held a writer’s workshop. The students would see her blogging about her thoughts.

These are just a few ways educational leaders can take advantage of blogging, but all of them can result in far-reaching benefits.

Dana, N.F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.