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
- 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
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
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
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
teacher-generated assessment data and disaggregated data
comparing students in project teacher classes with relevant school and district
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
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.
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
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 2: To
what degree are the development and support of teachers in action research
associated with improved student achievement and interest in science and
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
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).
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).
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.
eight individuals will constitute the TLEMSAR Project working team:
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
Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh, Co-PI --
director of website development and maintenance; science and technology
Dr. Marianne Barnes --
facilitator of real and virtual teacher leader action research network;
assistance with research design and analysis
Dr. Lehman Barnes -- project and
partnership evaluator; director of data collection and survey design
Dr. Ruth Senftleber -- science coordinator
for DCPS; liaison with DCPS policy makers and science teachers
Ms. Marita Eng --mathematics
coordinator for DCPS; liaison with DCPS policy makers and mathematics teachers
Dr. Carolyn Girardeau –director
of JUSI and co-facilitator of teacher leader action research network
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:
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
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.
TLEMSAR Networking Website is operational and used by
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.
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.
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