May Your Journey be Your Destination!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Action Research

An action research class does not sound like a warm and fuzzy course that will allow for creative input and flexibility; however, I found this particular course to exhibit these two qualities. It was interesting to see the product unfold as we worked on the assignments and geared our action research project toward our "wonderings". The readings were relevant and useful. I am currently in the process of progressing with the rigorous guidelines Klein ISD has in place, so that I may conduct my action research project.
I have acquired help from many individuals along the way and I attribute the final plan to be a product of collaboration. I will continue to post updates on my research as it unfolds.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You Mean a Force Field Can Help My Action Plan?

Force Field Analysis. When I first read this, I envisioned Dr. Spock analyzing my action research data on the Enterprise. It may seem like a strange name chosen for this tool; on the contrary, it is quite fitting. The idea behind a Force Field Analysis is described by Sandra Harris from our textbook: Examining What We Do to Improve our Schools: Eight Steps from Analysis to Action, is this:  “…the driving forces of the change must exceed the resisting forces of the change,” (Harris, pg.94). Sounds much like a physics lesson! But if you really delve into what Kurt Lewin, social scientist, was saying, one realizes how essential his points are to consider prior to making a change or to even decide whether change is needed. Essentially, if change is to occur, the need for change must exceed the resisting forces against change (Harris,pg. 94). It really does sound very scientific, but it makes perfect sense. Consider this example to help explain this concept:
It reminds me of Dr. Seus's Star-Bellied Sneetches with the "stars upon thars..." and how they had to overcome the general consensus that having stars on their bellies was a necessary trend. Once they decided that it was ok to have both star-bellies and non-star bellies (after a great expense), they had surpassed the resistance of change. It took a while to arrive to this consensus, but arrive they did!
We come upon so many obstacles when change is iminent. This is because humans are creatures of habit, as we prefer the coziness of our routines, homes, places, and knowing how things have been and must remain. So when our version of a "Sylvester McMonkey McBean" and his "fix-it-up chappie" show up at our door with a solution to a problem that we were hoping would just fix itself, we need to remind ourselves that change is essential to improvement in our schools, and that we need to research the need for change. 
If one looks at where we have been and where we are heading in education, the largest ingredient in the "Salad Bowl" change. As an educator, change is ever-present in our lives. It is in how we approach the need and evaluation for change that will foster an environment for improvement. 
As you can see, Force Field Analysis is not rocket science, but does have a valid and useful purpose. Of couse, having Dr. Spock read our analyses for us is quite appealing; however, quite an impossibility.

Harris, Sandra, Edmonson, Stacey, & Combs, Julie. (2009). Examining what we do to improve our schools. 2009.

Seuss, Dr., Blumenthal, Bob, & Emery, Francenia. (2002). That. Trafford.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pond? Stones? Ripples?

What do these things all have to do with an action research project, you might ask? Nancy Fichtman Dana, author of Leading with Passion and Knowledge The Principal as Action Researcher, provided a story with these words to describe how essential it is to share one's action research project with colleagues, district administrators, and beyond. The story goes like this: 
Imagine you notice a large pond that is stagnant and that you are enticed to create some type of movement or change in the water. As you near the edge, you notice that the pond is surrounded by numerous stones. You reach down, pick up a stone, and toss it as far out into the center of the pond as your strength allows. While lying beside the pond, the stone had no impact on the water, but once tossed in, it disturbs not only the stillness of the water where it lands but also emanates ripples from its landing place that eventually reach the perimeter of the pond.
Dana continued by likening, our action research projects as the rocks on the shore. If we do not throw them into the pond they will create no ripples. Once thrown in, there is no telling how sharing your project could impact those around you. I believe this to be true with educators in general. Sharing is what we do, or so, that is what we should be doing. It is how we improve our teaching practices- both through the use of others' ideas or through collaboration. Our projects will set in motion a catalyst that will make changes both large-scale and small-scale, as well as create a need for additional action research projects as a result of our findings.
It may begin small-scale like the ripples; eventually, we will begin to see some pretty big waves. 
She continues by stating that without this change, action, movement, ripples, there is very little need to do an action research project.
Rocks sitting on the shoreline create no movement, no change, no ripples. Once thrown in the pond, wow! So with that, test the waters. Throw that stone in, you might even want to jump into that pond yourself! Be prepared, however, a storm's a brewing!
Dana, Nancy. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge (pg 135). Corwin Press.