Action research sounds a little like the last few years of my teaching career. When I started teaching elementary school five years ago I made some pretty big changes to my approach in the classroom. I used to worry when administrators and others would observe me in my classroom, and then it finally hit me that receiving the feedback from those observers was the best way to reflect and become a better teacher.
As this course progressed, I found myself digging deep for the right path for my plan and where my passion for education was leading me. Since finding out that I will no longer be in the classroom, and will be helping teachers instead of students; I really have had to reflect numerous times about my innovation plan and if it will be changing course. After a lot of contemplation I have decided to change gears and focus on the teachers I will be helping on a daily basis and not the students in the classroom.
Topic of Action Research Plan
With this change I have decided that my action research topic will be the effect of personalized professional learning on teacher growth. This topic will allow me to follow my passion for helping teachers find ways to learn and grow for the sake of their students. My outline for my plan on this topic can be seen here. I believe that personalizing and individualizing teacher professional learning will open doors to so many possibilities.
…action research is an effective means for teachers not only to develop and grow professionally but to actually customize their professional development.– Mertler, C. Action Research (p. 25). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
Purpose of the Study
Professional development in education has been a hot topic for many years now and continues to be front and center when talking about educational reform. With this in mind, I have decided to determine if personalized professional learning will improve teacher growth compared to the current professional development model. Since I have attended numerous Edcamps and other modern types of professional learning and have found it to be more engaging and beneficial; I feel that it can bring the same improved results to all teachers in my district.
Fundamental Research Question
After a lot of reflection, I was able to narrow down my topic to a specific question for my action research plan.
What is the effect of personalized professional learning on teacher growth for third through fifth-grade teachers in my district?
As I change positions for this upcoming school year and become a technology coach for the third through fifth grade teachers in the three elementary campuses; I feel like this question will help me focus on a specific area to help teachers during the school year growth and learn while helping their students boost achievement.
Research Design and Methods
Reflecting on my research question steered me to compiling and collecting qualitative data from the teachers as they begin the personalized professional learning journey during the school year. I will be conducting an introductory survey of the teachers. This type of survey will be conducted every six week grading period to check on the progress of the teachers as well. I will also be conducting personal interviews the last six weeks of the school year to ask teachers about their growth compared to previous years.
Type of Data Collected
Teachers will be surveyed initially to find out the thoughts, questions and concerns they may have before joining the personalized professional learning group. The survey will collect qualitative data on the following questions (questions may change):
– What is your professional learning goal for this school year?
– What support will you need to meet your goal?
– What concerns do you have about being able to reach your goal using the personalized professional learning model?
– What problems have you run into in previous school years when trying to meet your professional learning goals?
– What questions or concerns would you like to share at this time?
Teachers will also complete a similar survey (subject to change) every six weeks to check their progress and to give them opportunities to share feedback and any concerns they may have. The results from the surveys will be used to make changes to the program if possible during the school year. I will be checking in with the teachers during PLCs on a biweekly basis to provide support and assistance if needed.
Personal interviews will also be scheduled at the end of the school year by myself to receive feedback from teachers and administrators. These interviews will give an opportunity to teachers and administrators to answer the following questions (subject to change) and any other questions or concerns they may have:
– Did you prefer your personalized professional learning this school year or the previous professional development in previous years?
– What is the biggest takeaway from your professional learning this school year?
– If you were given the opportunity to change anything about the new professional learning model, what would it be?
The results of these interviews will be used to build on the successes and learn from the mistakes of the initial year, and to expand to other grade levels and schools if possible.
Measurement Instruments Used
Since our district uses Google, I will be utilizing Google Forms to conduct the surveys throughout the school year. This will allow me to track the results easily and provide updates to the Director of Innovation when needed with the information in the spreadsheets. The personal interviews will be conducted by myself during PLCs or planning time.
Reviewing the Literature
After completing my review of the literature, I have noticed that while there is a lot of literature about personalized professional learning; it is still a fairly uncommon endeavor. The amount of choice educators have in their own professional learning is increasing by the day, but much of these choices are outside of their district and many times not considered official in terms of contracted PD hours.
My action research plan will attempt to make the choice and flexibility of the professional learning of the teachers valid and official PD for the district. This will make it so teachers do not have to search on their own time to find the learning opportunities they desire. They will also be provided with ongoing support from technology coaches, like myself, during the implementation process in their classroom. This support is one of the main aspects that the research says is missing for quality professional learning.
The action research plan that I have laid out in the timeline will span an entire school year to allow for a full year of professional learning and growth. During the first year I will be focusing on the teachers in third through fifth grades that will have direct contact with me in my new technology coach position. This group should be a good size for the initial year and allow for enough time to check in and provide support. During pre-planning I will be speaking with each teacher to help them create their goal and get an understanding of what support they need from me.
During the PL day that our district holds a few days before school starts, I will be asking the teachers to fill in the before school year survey to collect the initial data and information needed. I will analyze this information to organize what teachers will need the most help and which teachers may require less support throughout the school year. After each six week grading period, I will be asking the teachers to fill out the other surveys during PLC or planning time. This will allow me to answer any questions that may come up during the survey to avoid confusion and provide the most accurate results. The information from these surveys will be analyzed before asking for feedback and ideas from the rest of the innovation team.
The discussion with the innovation team will provide the feedback needed to put a plan in place to allow for a successful implementation and how to provide ongoing support. Throughout the school year, as a technology coach I will be providing ongoing in and out of class support for the teachers. When necessary I will involve the other technology coaches to help with in class support. The support of the innovation team will allow me to analyze and reflect on the results in a timely manner.
A schedule will be set up after the initial survey to prepare for support with the individualized professional learning of the teachers. Observations of implementation in the classroom will also be set up to allow for support if teachers request it. Teachers can change the amount of support at any time and do not have to wait for the six weeks survey to convey the need for the change. At the annual district PL day in January, teachers will be asked to share their experience with the innovation team and possible other teachers or administrators that are interested in being involved in the action plan in the future.
The administrators at the three elementary schools will be informed continually about the progress of their teachers to allow classroom walk-throughs to include feedback on the implementation of the skill or strategy being mastered. The Campus Academic Leaders on each campus will provide support during PLCs and in class support if the teacher requests. The plan of including on campus administrators as well as the innovation team will allow for continual communication to improve the action plan throughout the school year.
Reflecting on this process will be done using my ePortfolio blog as well as weekly meetings with the innovation team to share any and all the positives and negatives of the ongoing plan. This support system will allow for ongoing reflection and adjustment of the action plan. The survey results will also provide official feedback that can be shown to the Director of Innovation and Associate Superintendent when needed.
Mertler, C. A. (2016). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1483389059