"The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom."
- Donald Graves

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Action Research Update

I realized this week as I reviewed my action research plan that I bit off more than I could chew and needed to adjust the scope of the study. Today I met with my site supervisor and we decided to limit the participating grades to first and second for a couple of reasons.

  • Since our building does not qualify for any Title I money, we do not currently have an interventionist for these grades. We do have a teacher for third and fourth grade. Kindergarten has an aide that serves two classrooms. The need is greatest for first and second grades, so we decided to focus there in this study. Based purely on need, we agreed to limit the study to students in first and second grades.
  • The second reason has mostly to do with scheduling a building with 900+ students. Trying to schedule intervention time and specials (art, music, library, p.e., computer, Spanish) dictated a smaller study.
Overall, the study remains essentially the same and should provide information to inform decisions for the following year. We reached a consensus on the apps that needed to be installed on the iPads to collect data and on the need for meeting with the aides prior to the school year to address their perceptions of the research project. 

One of the issues we discussed is how to manage the change for the teachers in first and second grades and for the instructional aides. We discussed using force field analysis with the affected teachers as a means of gaining their support. As far as the aides are concerned, the greatest issue to overcome is their perceived value to the school. Currently the perception is that they don't feel valued. To address this we talked about creating a professional atmosphere through mentoring, accountability, inclusion in planing time with teachers and creating a physical space for interventions as a means to "professionalize" their purpose in the school community.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weak 3 Reflection

No, I meant to do that. I've typed so much that my fingers are weak. So's my brain. I've spent more time thinking about all the little details in an action research plan, I wonder if my plan makes any sense, especially since planning is not my strong suit.

It's not that I don't plan, it's just that my plans are usually big picture and flexible. I justify my method of planning due to the changeability of a group of seven year olds. And since I've become a one-to-one classroom, planning has become more of an exercise in anticipation. I think we're going to do this today because we're supposed to; however, in reality, sometimes things come up and I'd be doing my kids a disservice if we didn't explore what's got their interest. I'll find a standard to match it to later. Did I mention that they are seven?

So, I'm ready to spend a day recharging and prepping for week 4. It's hard to believe that this course in half over. It has definitely been a sprint and not a marathon. I hope my fingers and brain can make two more laps.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Action Research Plan Outline

Hello fellow action researchers! Over the past two days, I have been developing, refining and discussing my plan to study the effect of instructional-aide delivered, technology-based interventions on student learning. The process has really forced me to think about all the details; which is good, because I'm usually a big picture kind of guy. One of the most important lessons I learned in this process is that it really does help, as I believe Dr. Abshire stated, to start with the end in mind. I found my self visualizing meetings and anticipating the push-back from colleagues as I wrote a more detailed version of my plan in section 3 of this week's assignment. I'm certain I haven't thought of everything - and I think that's the point.

Here's the template for your perusal and comments:

Action Planning Template
Goal: To improve instructional aide efficacy in student learning through the use of tablet technology.
Action Steps(s):
Person(s) Responsible:
Timeline: Start/End
Needed Resources

Survey faculty to determine sentiment on current use of instructional aides and elicit opinions on how aides could be better utilized.

Paul Stolt – developed survey.
Stacee Freeman – site supervisor

(completed prior to beginning EDLD 5301)

May 13 – May 17, 2013

Google Doc survey

Survey resulted in valuable information from faculty used to determine scope and sequence of research project. Review with site supervisor lead to wondering about how to implement a program to incorporate aides more fully.

Research current literature on instructional aide use in providing remediation and small-group instruction.
Identify curriculum areas of greatest need for intervention.

Develop menu of applications based on greatest need(s) and determine what training in implementation would be required.

Paul Stolt

Grade level representatives

August 2013

Access to internet

Synthesis of current research on topic presented to principal and grade representatives.
List of 4 – 6 areas of critical need established by committee of representatives and applications identified to address areas developed.
Aides trained in app usage and student engagement with device. Guidelines established for student use and schedule developed for aide intervention times.

Develop data gathering protocol and methodology.

Begin interventions informed by STAR assessment data.

Collect data from standardized assessments, anecdotal evidence from instructional aides.

Paul Stolt

Instructional aides

Classroom teachers


Literacy/Math Coaches

August 2013 – September 2013

October 2013 -April 2014

Google Doc Form for recording aide’s observations
Standard measure(s) of student achievement tied to curricular subject.

Interview form doc

Standardized assessments
Raz-kids.com assessments of literacy
Scootpad.com assessments of standards

Qualitative and quantitative measures determined to access effectiveness of interventions. Standard reporting form created to collect information from aides and teachers.

Weekly interview of aides and review of interview form to discern thoughts on effectiveness.
Standardized measures  reviewed to determine growth in student learning of designated subject matter.
Conclusions drawn from various data collected.

Conclude research, conduct analysis, and disseminate findings.

Paul Stolt
Stacee Freeman

May 2014 – July 2014

Google doc spread sheet

Action research report created to show results of project including analysis of data collected and opportunities for future research.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Six Simple "Truths"

I've been wondering about action research all week long and in the process discovered some recurring themes. I really want to call them truths, but that would be presumptuous.

  • The process is as important as the product.  
The process of arriving at a topic through reflecting on current practices creates value in an of itself. Simply by thinking purposefully about the subject under scrutiny, the researcher discovers new information.
  • Reflection is key.
Inquiry derived from reflection creates ownership in the research. Starting a project by wondering how to solve a problem, change a procedure, acquire new learning, motivate and train faculty or understand students better directly connects the researcher to the outcome.
  • Data-informed is more purposeful than data-driven.
Research requires data. Traditionally, data would be "hard" i.e. impersonal, mathematical, quantifiable. Action research factors in the "soft" data that personalizes the research. It does matter how research is perceived and how the subjects feel. While arguably less "scientific", the data-informed conclusions of action research provide greater insight, and, I would argue, increase the validity and potential for buy-in by those affected by research conclusions.
  • Purpose + practicality = significance 
Both Dr. Kirk Lewis and Steve Jenkins spoke on the requirement that action research be practical and not theoretical. The point of action research is to learn and apply that new learning to a real situation. Purpose determines the scope of the research and practicality provides the boundaries all leading to significant findings that can be implemented presently and applicable to the future.
  • Don't re-invent the wheel
Does this really require explanation? Given the wealth of knowledge literally at our fingertips, one of the first steps in any wondering should be to search for topical research on the Internet. Even if the project under consideration is unique, in the process of seeking, knowledge is found.
  • Students, students, students . . .
Action research not grounded in positively affecting student learning runs counter to the purpose of engaging in research. It's always about the students! Students are the reason schools exist. and their benefit is the number one priority of research. 

Let me know if you agree or disagree with the six "truths" above, or if you think of others that should be included by commenting to this post.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Reflection on Action Research

Is anyone else thinking about action research in their sleep? I know I haven't thought about much else this week!

I'll admit that I held pretty traditional notions about research when I noticed the title of this class. My mind immediately started thinking about hypothesis, control groups, data collection methodology, etc. But as I did the readings for the week and worked on the assignments, I started to realize the difference between traditional research practices and action research. I really like how the process of action research requires the researcher to use personal reflection to develop inquiry and aid in developing the study. This "connectedness" between researcher and research, and the ownership that it engenders, makes the process meaningful; and, I believe, more valuable. Additionally, through the process of reflection, thought is given to the actual effect of variables on the focus of research. Instead of being rigidly controlled, variables are embraced as determinants that do factor in the outcome. Without acknowledgement of the emotional, philosophical, cultural, and social realities present, it becomes more challenging to elicit the collaboration necessary from the community to make the research meaningful and ultimately viable as an agent of change.

I can see action research being used to study the many and varied issues that face education today. Action research is driven by reflection - a pause for a cause. There are so many issues faced by administrators, teachers, students and other stakeholders that without taking time to pause and reflect, opportunities to bring about meaningful change could be missed.

My Action Research Plan (So Far)

I met with my site supervisor after identifying three possible topics of research. This project requires me to practice many of the 12 Major Skills outlined in School Intern Leadership (Martin et. al. 2012). I have tentatively titled by project: Creating an Environment to Effectively Provide Instructional Aides with Technology Tools for Remediation and Enrichment.

Project Overview

Instructional aides are underutilized resources for student learning. Many aides are relegated to menial tasks only marginally involved in student learning. At the same time teachers lament the lack of support. In a recent survey of faculty, many respondents mentioned that they would like aides to be more involved in instruction, but felt the aides lacked sufficient training. New teacher accountability standards and evaluations heighten anxiety among teachers over giving control to instructional aides without clear, achievable goals and expectations. The question to be researched is twofold: How to structure the learning environment temporally and physically to facilitate student access to instructional aides; and what technology tools can be incorporated to mitigate the need for extensive training in pedagogy and provide accountability for the instructional aides, thereby lessening the anxiety among teachers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Welcome to my blog

If you're reading this blog, you are quite likely in Lamar University's Graduate School of Education. And probably taking EDLD 5301 Research. So welcome colleagues! I look forward to collaborating with you over the next year as we journey toward a life goal.

Why Should Educators Blog?

I have to admit that I only recently committed to making blogging a part of my life routine. I decided to engage in blogging mostly for the opportunity it provides for thinking logically and communicating my personal thoughts, ideas and philosophy. It's reflective, cathartic and, at times, crucial to developing understanding. Educators who blog interject themselves into a larger, connected world and open themselves to scrutiny and criticism. And by doing so, exponentially increase their opportunities for learning from other people as passionate about their thoughts, ideas and philosophy. Blogging creates a forum for this dialog. An important dialog that allows educators to connect with the world. Educators need to blog because collaboration, not isolation, is the future of education.

Brief Biography

Next school year will be my 11th year teaching after a mid-life career change. In early 2002, I felt a calling to do something meaningful with my life and went back to school for a teaching credential in California. After finishing that program, I taught first grade at a very progressive private school that, I now realize, was on the cutting edge of infusing technology in the classroom. Since that time I have been interested in how technology can positively affect how students learn and teachers teach. I now live in Northwest Arkansas with my extremely supportive wife and two children. I taught 2nd grade in public school for the past 5 years and will move to 3rd grade next year.

iPads in Elementary Classrooms

Two years ago I convinced a friend of mine to donate 4 iPads to my classroom during a camping trip. I made the case for the devices based on the need to reduce my class size. Basically, to keep 20% of the class busy. The devices quickly caused me to transform my ideas of teaching and learning. Last year, I was awarded a grant for a classroom set of iPads and became one of only 4 one-to-one elementary classrooms in my district with 10 elementary schools. My goal was to make the device as ubiquitous as a pencil.

My passion is creating entrepreneurial learning environments for elementary-aged students. I believe waiting until junior high or high school to incorporated problem-based learning and 21st Century skills is too late. By then standardized testing and the attendant pedagogy has sucked the creativity out of learners. I am a huge proponent of genius hour/20% time as a way for learners to practice "soft skills" and take ownership of their learning. I'm looking forward to developing an action research project to study how technology can be used  for academic intervention.