NEFSTEM logoNEFSTEM
The Northeast Florida Science, Technology, and Mathematics Center for Education
NEFSTEM homepageNEFSTEM Mission NEFSTEM Contact informationAction Research for TeachersNEFSTEM Gifted Summer CampsNEFSTEM projects
Action Research for Teachers Action Research Information Project Sample Action Research Journals
Project

Full Project Description

The research project will answer the following questions:

  • What are the effects of networking teachers who have participated in graduate courses and professional development programs that emphasize action research on teacher leaders in science and mathematics and their practice in their own settings?
  • To what degree are the development and support of teachers doing action research associated with improved student achievement and interest in science and mathematics?
  • What are the factors that promote ongoing partnerships between institutions of higher education and K-12 schools to sustain inquiry-oriented professional development in both contexts?

 

Rationale and Related Research:

Teacher leadership is heralded as a key to school improvement, with teacher leaders serving as change agents in providing higher quality education for all students.  Designed to give teachers the tools they need to promote positive changes in mathematics and science learning, professional development experiences designed to develop teacher leaders have been offered to more than one hundred mathematics and science teachers in Duval County Public Schools (DCPS, Jacksonville) – the 16th largest school system in the nation. The proposed research project, Teacher Leaders Engaging in Mathematics and Science Action Research (TLEMSAR), will study the sustained effects of action research by a group of these teacher leaders in K-12 mathematics and science classrooms, specifically the impacts on student achievement and teacher collaboration.   Effective teaching strategies and school-wide change through teacher leadership especially benefit underrepresented students who continue to lag behind as a group in achievement in science and mathematics.  Action research is a platform which is proving successful in helping teachers identify and solve problems they encounter, promoting improved teaching strategies, support, and retention, and positively affecting school accountability.

 Well-conceptualized teacher leadership training has been cited as the central component of many successful programs impacting student outcomes, with the positive effects of teacher leaders further emphasizing the need for more specialized programs together with strong partnerships (Patterson, 2002; Zimpher, 1988).   To be effective in leadership roles, teachers need to participate in programs that develop the content knowledge and pedagogical skills they need for success, including skills of mentorship and knowledge of adult learning principles.  While there are many courses and workshops in administration, curriculum, and specialty areas, there are few opportunities for teachers to prepare for leadership roles which allow them to remain in the classroom while participating in significant school wide activities designed to promote change (Clemson-Ingram & Fessler, 1997).  Katzenmeyer (2001) contends, “Within every school there is a sleeping giant of teacher leadership, which can be a strong catalyst for making change.” Research supports the idea that teaching practitioners who engage in their own collective, self-reflective inquiry are likely to improve and understand their practice far more than those who do not (Boles & Troen, 1997; Goodlad, 1994; Holmes Group, 1986; Kemmis & McTaggart; 1988; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989).  

Embracing reformed science and mathematics instruction initiatives, a UNF graduate course (Teacher Leadership in Science and Mathematics) was developed around the needs of existing and aspiring teacher leaders in the Duval County Public Schools, a school district with a large percentage of low socioeconomic status (SES) students challenged to bolster their achievement in science and mathematics.  Under the Jacksonville Urban Systemic Initiative (JUSI), a National Science Foundation-sponsored program designed to reform science and mathematics instruction, one goal of teacher training is the development of teacher leaders.  This course was specially designed by the lead UNF faculty member in science education in collaboration with the JUSI director (members of the proposed project team) to focus on teachers’ inquiry into their own practice.  JUSI supported enrollment of Duval County teachers in this course over three semesters, resulting in participation by 45 teachers.  DCPS is committed to the implementation of differentiated instruction to meet the diverse learning needs of students, especially those who are underachieving. In addition, the district is supporting a model of distributed leadership, thereby acknowledging that leadership must be shared by the many who are involved in the education of K-12 students.

Preliminary findings from a graduate research project (Teacher Leadership in Science and Mathematics:  The Impact of a Graduate Course - a graduate research project funded by the Florida Center for Public Policy & Leadership) involving assessment of the impact of this graduate course support action research by teacher leaders as a tool for positive change.  The course participants reported changes in self-efficacy at both professional and personal levels - feeling empowered through data-driven decision-making and revitalized through sharing and collaboration with other teacher leaders.  Most significantly, teacher leaders implementing action research saw a relationship between positive changes in their practice and enhanced student growth, with many experiencing reduced absenteeism, heightened engagement, and increases on standardized test scores.  Those who conducted action research longed for more time to share their work with other teacher leaders, administrators, and teachers and to formally document and share their findings, and looked forward to future opportunities to look at teaching and learning by conducting research on their own practice.  This project networking will provide the means for such action research practice among teacher leaders.

This graduate research project involved gathering and analyzing primarily qualitative information from participants broadly and individually in order to assess the impact of the course on teacher leaders, their classroom practice, and their students.   This assessment involved a collection of information from participants in the (inaugural) spring 2003 and fall 2003 sessions provided through (1) journal writing, (2) responses to questions as the course progressed (while participants formulated plans for action research), and (3) responses to surveys and focus group discussion questions after course completion as teacher leaders implemented action research in their own settings. 

Although anecdotal information was compiled through this graduate research project, no formal quantitative study has been undertaken to determine the degree to which changes in classroom practices of teacher leaders in science and mathematics have resulted in quantifiable changes in student achievement - and to identify the characteristics inherent in changed teacher leader behaviors that are associated with action research around classroom practice. 

 

Relevance of Findings to K-12 Education in Florida

"Action research is any systematic inquiry conducted by teacher researchers to gather information about the ways that their particular school operates, how they teach, and how well their students learn.  The information is gathered with the goals of gaining insight, developing reflective practice, effecting positive changes in the school environment and on educational practices in general, and improving student outcomes."  (p. 4)   Mills, 2003

 Recently, Florida Department of Education added action research as a viable form of teacher professional development.  Studies are beginning to demonstrate the positive effects of action research on school reform.  The outcome of this proposed project is significant in the context of current research on professional development programs, as it attempts to connect teacher leader development that emphasizes action research on classroom practice with student achievement. Lessons learned from this project will be shared broadly, thereby helping to establish a culture of teacher leadership, informing future research into the efficacy of professional development models, and potentially impacting policy changes in the way we approach school change and teacher development.   Findings will be of local, state, and national significance in understanding how teacher leadership and action research positively impact the preparation and support of teachers and schools.

 

Proposed action plan:

The goal of the project is to study a model of in-service professional development experiences that supports action research by teacher leaders to improve mathematics and science teaching in grades K-12.  Results to date suggest that teacher growth occurs through reflective practice around action research. The context is a large urban school district where inquiry-oriented, standards-based mathematics and science learning is a critical portion of the district Framework for Implementation of Standards-Based Instruction.  Higher education faculty and community partners have been collaborators in a number of initiatives supporting these district plans. As a result of this project, data documenting the experiences and performance of the teacher leader action research network and student outcomes will be shared among the partners to effect policy changes in both the school system and the university.

In order to foster inquiry skills among teachers, reflective practice has become a hallmark of graduate teacher education and alternative certification programs at the University of North Florida. Faculty teaching the methods courses have integrated inquiry approaches into teacher education courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Instructors model standards-based, inquiry-oriented mathematics and science teaching. Reflective practice approaches are integrated into the teacher preparation curriculum, and an action research course has been developed for graduate students in some Master of Education degree programs. Findings from this study will be used to modify both undergraduate and graduate programs.

 

The anticipated products of the research project are:

  • a real and virtual network of teacher leaders implementing action research,

  • teacher-generated assessment data and disaggregated data comparing students in project teacher classes with relevant school and district performance data,

  • a model for teacher development that includes characteristics inherent in changed behaviors associated with action research leading to enhanced student performance,

  • a dedicated website describing the project and sharing teacher action plans and experiences, and

  • a manual describing action research for teacher leaders including real examples of teacher-generated problems, data, and results. 

 

The expected outcomes of this project are the following:

  • increased interest and ability among participating teachers to collaborate as they use inquiry-oriented action research methodology to improve science and mathematics education in their classrooms and schools;

  • improvement in K-12 student grades, standardized test scores, class attendance and completion, and interest in further science and mathematics education;

  • a set of guidelines and professional presentations and publications reporting the results of this work that can be shared at the school, district, and state levels;

  • strengthening of the partnership between UNF and Duval County schools to support ongoing teacher development and leadership;

  • an increased pool of highly qualified science and mathematics teacher leaders; and

  • a teacher leader model utilizing action research in the classroom as a tool for positive change.

 

Dissemination Plan:

Reports based on the findings will be disseminated by way of professional conference presentations and papers, the project website, and publication of the guide to action research for teacher leadership.  Presentations will be made at practitioner conferences and in practitioner journals in Florida and outside the state.   In addition, findings will be shared with stakeholders in local forums.

 

Description of Methodology

 Research Design and Data Collection

 The teachers' role in successful, standards-based inquiry instruction is a fertile area for sustained investigation. Keys and Bryan (2001) suggested that a research agenda must be developed to measure teacher beliefs, knowledge, practices, and student learning as they deliver inquiry lessons.

The Teacher Leaders Engaged in Mathematics and Science Action Research (TLEMSAR) project will use quantitative and qualitative designs matched to the research questions.  Instruments will be developed based on previous research and others will be selected by the project team (e.g., the Survey of Teaching Practice and the Professional Development Assessment form used by the state of Pennsylvania, the Survey of Good Practice in Inquiry-Based Teaching in the Sciences from the University of Sydney, the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative Survey, or the Constructivist On-line Learning Environment Survey).

Research Question 1:  What are the effects of networking K-12 science and mathematics teachers who have participated in graduate courses and professional development programs that emphasize action research on the teacher leaders themselves and on their practice in their own settings?

 Data: Surveys and focus group interviews of teachers; action plans with supporting data generated as part of teacher action research; evidence of collaboration among teachers, such as use of website, attendance at meetings, sharing of action plans across classrooms and schools. See Appendix A for sample surveys.

Methods: Analysis of surveys and interview transcripts using coding and development of themes (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Strauss and Corbin, 1990) and display of quantitative data

Research Question 2To what degree are the development and support of teachers in action research associated with improved student achievement and interest in science and mathematics?

Hypotheses: Students of teachers who have participated in action research programs will be significantly more likely to take higher level mathematics and science courses, attend school regularly, consider mathematics and science careers, have passing grade point averages, and reach target levels on teacher-generated and standardized assessments than students of teachers in similar settings in the school and school district.

 Data: Numbers of students expressing interest in higher level mathematics and science courses, numbers of students considering mathematics and science careers, test score data, GPA’s, teacher generated and standardized assessments

 Methods:  Quantitative data gathering and relevant statistical analyses; collaboration between Duval County Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Office and TLEMSAR Project Team.

Research Question 3:  What are the factors that promote ongoing partnerships between higher education and K-12 schools to sustain inquiry-oriented professional development?

Data: Partner interviews, meeting notes, policy modifications, course modifications, artifacts generated in project

Methods:   Analysis using coding and development of themes (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Strauss and Corbin, 1990).  

 

Program Description

 The University of North Florida has a long and successful relationship with DCPS in the professional development of mathematics and science educators. UNF and Duval partnered in the Jacksonville Urban Systemic Initiative (JUSI), which developed a strong cadre of teacher leaders experienced in using reflective practice to improve their abilities in inquiry science and mathematics teaching. This cadre of leaders is prepared to network with one another to meet the learning needs of their students through action research (see Appendix B for Action Research Planning Guide) and to work with other teachers in their schools and across schools. The teacher leaders have stated that both their own continued development and the mentorship they provide to other teachers would be strengthened by an electronic networking system and a guide to classroom-based action research and reflective practice. Recently, UNF and Duval County Public Schools were awarded national recognition for their urban elementary professional development schools by the Association for Teacher Education (ATE).

 Research Sample

 The research sample will emanate from the population of teachers who have participated in action research programs who still teach K-12 mathematics and/or science and who agree to participate in this study. The sample is expected to be about 25 teachers.

Project Team  

The following eight individuals will constitute the TLEMSAR Project working team:

  1. Dr. Faiz Al Rubaee, PI -- overall project director; methodology and statistical analysis direction; facilitator of policy discussions with UNF and Duval County Public Schools; mathematics specialist

  2. Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh, Co-PI -- director of website development and maintenance; science and technology specialist

  3. Dr. Marianne Barnes -- facilitator of real and virtual teacher leader action research network; assistance with research design and analysis

  4. Dr. Lehman Barnes -- project and partnership evaluator; director of data collection and survey design

  5. Dr. Ruth Senftleber -- science coordinator for DCPS; liaison with DCPS policy makers and science teachers

  6. Ms. Marita Eng --mathematics coordinator for DCPS; liaison with DCPS policy makers and mathematics teachers

  7. Dr. Carolyn Girardeau –director of JUSI and co-facilitator of teacher leader action research network

  8. Ms. Dona Kerlin -- project manager; assistance with data analysis and final report writing and editing; communication with project teachers 

 

Project Plan and Timeline

 The project will begin on August 23, 2004 and be completed by May 31, 2005.

Timeline with Activities:

Fall 2004

  • Project team will meet to determine meeting times and finalize goals, roles, responsibilities, and action plans.

  • Current DCPS mathematics and science teacher leaders who have participated in the action research course or intensive action research workshop will be contacted regarding participation in the project.  The target number of teacher participants is 25.

  • Teacher leader participants will be oriented to project and asked for their input. Teacher meetings times will be planned and networking plans initiated.

  • Teacher action research projects will be modified and revitalized.  Action plans with problem statements, rationale and literature reviews, data collection methods, analysis approaches, presentation formats, and timelines will be developed with assistance of Project Team.

  • TLEMSAR  Networking Website will be designed and tested.

  • Survey, interview, and focus group protocols for teachers and students will be created and/or adapted and finalized.

  • Liaison work with Duval County Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Office for data collection needs will commence and background demographic on teacher participants and their students will be collected.

  • Partnership data collection will begin.

  • Planning for manual that describes action research for teacher leaders will occur.

Spring 2005

  • TLEMSAR  Networking Website is operational and used by teacher participants.

  • Teacher leader meetings continue and focus on teacher-generated data analysis; action plans are modified accordingly.

  • School and district student data are collected and compared to teacher participant student data.

  • Action research manual is finalized and critiqued by partners and teacher participants. 

  • Final surveys, interviews, and focus groups occur with teacher participants, partners, and students.

  • Final quantitative and qualitative data analysis occurs.

  • Project reports are written.

  • Teacher development model is finalized.

  • Sustainability meetings occur at UNF and DCPS.

  • Project team presents TLEMSAR project and findings at local and other conference venues.

  • The results of the data analysis, the guidebook and the summary report will be available by May 31, 2005. The manual, model, papers and presentations based on the results will be published and presented in the year following the project.

 Evaluation Plan:

The TLEMSAR research and evaluation team will oversee production of project evaluation reports and coordinate communications with the partners. 

Evaluation will focus on the degree to which the research questions have been addressed and the partnership has been actively involved in the current project with planning for sustainability.

Summary of Deliverables

The guidebook, papers and presentations based on the results will be published and presented in the year following the project. The plan for dissemination will be available by August 1, 2005.

The anticipated products of the research project are:

  • a report on a real and virtual network of teacher leaders implementing action research,

  •  report describing teacher-generated assessment data and disaggregated data comparing students in project teacher classes with relevant school and district performance data,

  • a guide summarizing a model for teacher development that includes characteristics inherent in changed behaviors associated with action research leading to enhanced student performance,

  • distributing and advertising a  dedicated website describing the project and sharing teacher action plans and experiences, and

  • ·a manual describing action research for teacher leaders including real examples of teacher-generated problems, data, and results. 

 

References

Barnes, M., Kerlin, D., Thomas, F., & Biehler, S. (2004).   A Study of Teacher Leader Professional Development with Action Research, paper presented at National Science Teachers Association, Atlanta, GA.

Boles, K. and V. Troen.  (1997). How the emergence of teacher leadership helped build a professional development school.  In M. Levine and R. Trachtman (Eds.), Making professional development schools work: Politics, practice, and policy (pp.52-75).  New York: Teachers College Press.

Clemson-Ingram, R. & Fessler, R. (1997).  Innovative programs for teacher leadership.  Action in Teacher Education, 19, 95-106.

Goodlad, J. (1994). Educational Renewal: Better Teachers, Better Schools. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Holmes Group, Inc. (1986) Tomorrow's Teacher: A Report of the Holmes Group. East Lansing, MI: The Holmes Group, Inc. ED 270 454.

House, E. (1983).  Assumptions underlying evaluation models.  In G.F. Madaus, M. Scriven & D.L. Stufflebeam (Eds.), Evaluation models.  Boston:  Kluwer-Nijhoff.

Katzenmeyer, M., and Moller, G. (2001).  Awakening the Sleeping Giant:  Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders.  Corwin Press, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA.

Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (1988, 3rd ed.). Introduction: The Nature of Action Research. In S. Kemmis and R. McTaggart (Eds.). The Action Research Planner, 5-28.

Kerlin, D. & Barnes, M. (2004).   Teacher leadership in science and mathematics:  The impact of a graduate course.  Final report to the Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership, University of North Florida.

Keys, C. and Bryan, L. (2000)   Co-Constructing Inquiry-Based Science with Teachers: Essential Research for Lasting Reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(4) pp 631-645.

Miles, M.B. & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative date analysis: An expanded source book (Second Edition).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Mills, G.E. (2003).  Action research:  A guide for the teacher researcher.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], Commission on Standards for School Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum and evaluation standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

National Research Council. (1996). The national science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Patterson, J.H. (2002).  Resilient teacher leaders for urban schools:  reflections for teacher education.  (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 457154)

Strausss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Zimpher, N.L. (1988).  A design for the professional development of teacher leaders.  Journal of Teacher Education, Jan-Feb, 53-60.

 

 


NEFSTEM logoUNF LogoNortheast Florida Science, Technology, and Mathematics Center for Education (NEFSTEM)
A partnership of the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Human Services