Tuesday, August 9, 2011

EDLD 5301 Week Five Final Reflections

Research for research sake!  At the beginning of this class, I thought I would be researching an assigned topic just for the sake of researching.  Through the lectures of Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Arterbury I began to learn what an action research project would involve.  Their discussions on the  videos were produced with such quality.  It made one feel they were sitting in the office transferring their knowledge or action research.  The information I gained from the text, the videos, and the discussion boards, helped me to formulate my project. 

At first, I was a little hesitant about the research.  Research for me was something I had done in my last undergraduate class back in 1979.  To my surprise, I discovered that this action research was simply, “systematic, intentional study of one’s own professional practice.”  (Dana, 2009, p. 9)   This is a practice I have done the last twenty years while reading and studying myself.  I have posed questions and had wonderings that led to collecting and analyzing data while making decisions that would lead to change in my classroom and my school. 

Through our readings, I discovered that the things we are passionate about can become the source of our questions and wonderings.  As a professional development provider, I have been involved in the more traditional approaches to staff development.  Chapter 1 of the Dana text revealed the movement to change the traditional professional development practices to that of the practitioner inquiry movement.  At first, I was a little hesitant to think about how this would affect my career, but then I read the following from Dana’s book.  “The ultimate goal is to create an inquiry stance toward administrator practice.  This stance becomes a professional positioning, owned by the principal, where questioning one’s own practice becomes part of the principal’s work and eventually a part of the culture within the principal’s school.”  (Dana, 2009, p. 10).  This became a reality while working with McComb School District this past month.  The administrators wanted me to analyze their data and tell them what professional development they needed this next year.  I soon discovered I was using the very knowledge I had gained from the class and the readings about inquiry research.  To my amazement, I lead the administrators in developing their questions/wonderings and developed an action plan for researching to find their answers.

One of our assignments was to develop a personal action research plan.  This plan was to be birthed from something we were passionate about and one that our advisor would approve as a project.  In chapter 2 of The Passions that Drive Your Journey, Dana explained in depth the nine passions that drive researchers. Before reading this chapter, I had not realized that these nine areas would lead to the “wonderings and questions” that one would have in their profession.  What are your wonderings in each of these areas, and what burning questions do you have about your administrative practices?  These were questions that began to develop in my mind and in the discussion with my advisor. 

In the EDLD 5306 class, we began the journey of reflective processing with the creation of a blog.  This made it easy to continue into this class.  Dana’s text in chapter 5 supports the significance of a blog and how important they are in the action research process. Dr. Abshire required each of us to keep up with our postings and to comment on each other’s action plans that were posted.  As we read each other’s action plans, it reinforced the importance of sharing information with others and soon our class began to collaborate more than before.  We were also required to post weekly reflections to chronicle our journey through the process.  As a result, we each became more open with each other and our thoughts. 

Each week we would post our reflections to questions on the discussion board. During the process, I realized how important it was to post early in the week and then continue to read the postings of others.  I learned valuable pieces of information from my colleagues.  At times, I would catch myself thinking, “I don’t remember reading that.”, only to go and search the text and reread the information.  Sometimes when reading it through the first time you focus on a specific detail of the text and find yourself wondering in depth.  Before you know it, you have skimmed right over something that someone else gleamed valuable information.  The discussion board allowed us to reflect, wonder, and inquire with each other throughout this entire course. 

As we collaborated with each other, I found myself feeling responsible for analyzing my cohort’s action plan just as they had analyzed mine.  Nancy Halwell recommended I change my question to one that did not have a definite answer.  This was something I was pondering and her suggestion reaffirmed I needed to restate my question, which I did.  Alfroze pointed out in one of my blogs that I had made a reference to Dana’s book when it should have been Harris’s.  Wow!  I was delighted to know someone had actually taken the time to read thoroughly the blog and would share with me for my benefit.  Allison Wells read my action research plan and noticed where I had copied a line twice in two different locations.  I was able to go back and delete the two extra lines.  Everyone in the class became a unit as we read each other’s plan and shared our thoughts.  The entire process was uniting. 

Now, it is the end of the fifth week of my second graduate class and I am excited about implementing the action research project plan.  Tomorrow will begin my first meeting with the staff at the high school where I will share the plan that I have developed.  My hopes are that the teachers and the students at San Marcos High School will benefit from my research and that other schools will be able to transfer the findings to their schools. 

Dana, N.F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge: The principal as action researcher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Harris, S, Edmonson, A., Combs, J. (2010).  Examining what we do to improve our schools, Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

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