Planning for Action Research

Action Research

Action Research is conducted by a reflective practitioner in a given field. A professional who is determined to improve his or her practice, knowledge or skill base through “planned and systematic inquiry.” According to Nancy and Gary Padak, there are four stages of the action research process for an educator. These four stages encompass the seven step cycle that Richard Sagor defines as the inquiry cycle for action research. Below is a synthesis of both frameworks for education research:

  1. Identify the question – this should include three major characteristics:
    1. Importance, needs-based (clarifying theories)
    2. Relevance, addressing a problem (selecting a focus)
    3. Answerable, the criterion should be appropriately limited in scope (identifying research questions)
  2. Collection of information – student assessment data, record of observations, surveys, interviews, daily notes, demographic data, tallies, official documents, conversations with groups or individuals:
    1. Develop a clear set of questions in advance
    2. Acquire multiple independent sources of data
    3. Be effective and efficient in your collection of data, uses sources close to you because “data can come from almost anywhere.”
  3. Analyze the information and data – “You will know that you have gathered enough information when new data bring no surprises”
    1. “Data saturation” or redundancy
    2. “Triangulation” of multiple independent sources
    3. Follow these four steps once data is collected:
      • Reach data saturation, ie no surprises
      • Thorough review of all data collected
      • Categorization, ie sift, sort, rank and examine to FIND THE STORY!
      • Identify the answers in the data (answers to the question or problem)
  4. Reports results – Research can lead to more research
    1. Write and publish for documentation
    2. The writing process allows one to refine, deepen, and reveal insights from the research
    3. Sharing with fellow educators allows them to leverage your work and reduces teacher isolation
    4. Will allow for informed action to be taken in the future

 

Potential Questions for my Action Research

I recently read Walter C. Parker’s piece in the journal Globalization, Societies and Education entitled, ‘International education’ in US public schools (2009), and found his analysis of discourses used to justify the creation of international schools very intriguing. Specifically, the classification of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ discourses interested me. Along with the crisis and salvation education reform history to which the current IE wave is connected. This is relevant to me, as I will be assessing the mission and vision of international schools over the next few years in search of an excellent school community abroad for which my wife and I will teach. A school’s mission and vision are essential to its effectiveness, so the stated justification for an international curriculum or 21st Century Skills integration, will speak volumes about the school. Plus, I would like to be a school leader one day and lead an effort to infuse daily instruction with international mindedness, therefore I must be able to communicate our reasons for this effort to my staff. Below is a list of potential questions:

  • What are the discourses that drive this “international” school? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  • If not, what are they, and do they reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  • If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the curriculum and instruction?

 

Educatore Action Research Requirements

For our Action Research project in Module 14, we must follow the above mentioned steps of a quality and effective research project. We must produce a report of at least 20 to 30 pages with the following sections:

  1. Statement of Question or Problem – The scope must focused and it must draw on prior knowledge to achieve proficient on the evaluation rubric.
  2. Literature Review – References must current and pertinent to the topic or question. Must make clear connections between the literature gathered and the action research question.
  3. Proposed Methodology – “planned and systematic research” with consideration for privacy, safety and ethical concerns
  4. Analysis of Results – “The results were directly related to the research question…and followed a logical sequence.”
  5. Summary and Conclusion – “The conclusions/summary were based on outcomes and included some appropriate recommendations.” Tie to related literature and also question results against related literature.
  6. References – Academic level sources, ideally peer-reviewed
  7. Writing Mechanics – Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  8. APA Format – Bibliography is all in APA Format!

 

Challenges and Opportunities

I definitely feel comfortable putting together a research paper that ties the data collected to the action research question, compares and contrasts the data against the relevant academic literature in the field of inquiry, and draws logical conclusions and recommendations. I also feel confident in conducting a sufficient literature review, finding the relevant source material and gleaning the appropriate lessons tied to my action research question. However, the trick is going to be focusing the scope of my action research project in such a way that I am able to gather the data that I need. I know that I am going to have to leverage my professional connections in the the schools and districts in my area in order to interview the right people in the field of international education. I am not teaching at an international school, so my challenge will be access to data. Thus, I am going to need to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare my questions ahead of time in order to give myself the time necessary to access the data I need that is not readily at hand. I am thinking that I need to develop a survey, in short order, for international school administrators and teachers with the focused questions I desire answer. This way, I can give busy educators the time they need to respond to my inquiries, while not pressing me up against the wire of our early April deadline.

 

Sources

Sagor, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1. What Is Action Research? Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

Padak, N., & Padak, G. (17, September 28). Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm

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The Semantics of International Schools

In an interview with Professionals in International Education News, Nick Brummitt, the founder and Chairman of the Board of International School Consultancy (ISC), defines an international school as “one that delivers a curriculum to any combination of infant, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country” for the purposes of market research and analysis. As an educator, based on my readings and understandings of the history of international schools and the current variations in definition of international schools, I would have to disagree slightly with Mr. Brummitt’s definition. And indeed, he does make mention of the exceptions to this definition, but neglects to mention the historical difficulty in defining international schools in the first place, and the modern dilemmas facing the field in terms of the need for an expanding definition of international schools.

According to Ian Hill, the history of defining international schools appears to start with Bob Leach and a report for the International Schools Association in 1962. At the time, Leach’s 7 typologies of an international school emphasized ‘overseas’ schools that were parent-owned, English-speaking, and American-programme-centered. This is the legacy definition of an international school as “national education abroad for expatriates”. These typologies sufficed for many years until the beginnings of the current international school boom which began in the late 1980’s, thus prompting the creation of ISC by Brummitt.

Another influence on the definition of international schools is the immortal Kurt Hahn. A German Jew, influenced by his experiences in WWI, his exile to the UK following his objection to the rise of Nazism, Hahn had a keen sense of the power of common experience and meaning in the lives young men during wartime. His aim in founding the Salem School in Germany, the Gordonstoun in Scotland, Outward Bound and the United World Colleges seems to be a response to this William James’ challenge to educators in The Moral Equivalent of War:

James hated war but he admits that war satisfies a primitive longing of men which will never be extinguished, to lose yourself in a common cause, which claims the whole man.

The intention was to develop an educational program that provided a positive outlet for that ‘primitive longing’ and an authentic physical test of self-discovery and ‘common cause’ to engender ‘self-respect’, esteem, challenge weaknesses, purge negative self-talk, and create compassion among diverse groups of young men. Speaking in 1936, three years after his exile from Germany, and at the precipice of the breakout of WWII, laid out the loftiest of aims of his vision for boys education in the 20th century, by which he laid the cornerstones of international education as a classless, multicultural compassion for all of humanity:

Nothing but goodwill between nations and classes can save this generation from wars and revolutions. And education can help to build this bedrock of goodwill as a foundation of the society to be.

The definition of international education thus remains clear and intact from Hahn’s time; an internationally ‘minded’ education which creates what we call today, a global citizen who possesses mutual-understanding with people of other countries and cultures, along with an ability for cross-cultural communication.While this entreaty failed to save that generation from the horrors of WWII, his work at Gordonstoun did serve as the philosophical impetus for the creation of international education initiatives like UNESCO and the pedagogical basis for many internationally minded programs like the International Baccalaureate curricula.

However, the definition and identification of international schools, while generally being related to international education, is not as clearly defined and continues to evolve. It started as elite education for families with a foreign affinity or living in an expat community in a foreign country. Terwilliger began a refinement of the definition in 1972, by identifying “four main requisites”:

  1. A student body made up of a significant number of students who are not nationals of the host country
  2. A board of directors which proportionally reflects the student body, thus foreign parents
  3. A teaching staff that ‘experienced a period of cultural adaptation’
  4. A curriculum utilizing the best instructional practices from all nations involved

These requisites have become complicated by the current landscape of traditionally international schools and also those schools newly claiming the title. Hill calls this expansion of the defintion in late 20th century and early 21st century the ‘dilution’ and ‘dilemma’ of international schools.

So the classic notion of an international school a la ISA/Leach becomes diluted with the establishment of other well-meaning and often perfectly sound educational institutions. The concept of an international school becomes complex and confusing if we consider the range of manifestations it can have…

The wide spectrum of international schools now includes market-based overseas schools serving expatriate populations (both for-profit and nonprofit), IB programs serving under-served populations in the developing world, ECIS, CIS and other membership association international schools, English-medium schools in Asia and the Middle East, cross-nation partnership schools like those funded by the U.S. State Department, transnational corporation schools for the children of employees living abroad but employing a strictly nation-specific curriculum, along with the government schools in U.S. combining IB programs taught in non-English languages.

International Schools Infographic

Hill first attempts a new definition of modern international schools by drawing distinctions between national schools and international schools:

Using this comparative definition, he then develops a continuum for the typology of schools:

Lastly, he created five criterion and the corresponding descriptors to allow educators and researchers to score the ‘purity’ of a national school or international based on a rubric:

  1. Raison d’etre – weighted by Hill, considered the hallmarks of national schools or IS
  2. Education programme – nationally or internationally minded
  3. Nature of the student body – nationals or wholly international
  4. Cultural diversity of governing body (board or proprietors) – all nationals or only 10% represent the host nation
  5. Student tuition fees – none to full tuition

Personally, I don’t have a stake in any particular definition, past or present, of an international school, and I do think schools like Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle, and any other U.S. school with a diverse immigrant population and an identified international or culturally responsive raison d’etre should be able to call themselves an international school. For me, the only non-negotiable for an international school is a mission and pedagogy that is international minded and matches the international makeup of the student body. This is a clear distinction from a national school which lacks diversity outside of student nationals and a curriculum reflecting national values and instructional practices. That distinction from national schools may not provide for a well-delineated international school definition, but it does allow for the diversity and innovation needed to provide quality education in a globalized world.

Citations:

Hill, I. (2015). What is an international school? International Schools Journal, XXXV(1). Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Hahn, K. (2018, January 25). Outward Bound. Address presented at Annual Meeting of the Outward Bound Trust in UK, London.

Hahn, K. (1936). Education and Peace: The Foundations for Modern Society. The Inverness Courier. Retrieved January 24, 2018.

International schools and international education: a relationship reviewed. By: Hayden, Mary C.,

Seattle Public Schools International Education Page

Hill, I. (2016). What is an international school? International Schools Journal, XXXV(2). Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Teach-Now in Korea

This article originally appeared in the November issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Teacher Certification Debate

In America, there are two debates going on about teacher preparation programs; one is happening in the media, among education policy experts and at the highest levels of education administration. The other is happening around kitchen tables in the homes of career-changers, and in coffee shops with college graduates and undergrads, who are interested in becoming a teacher. Both debates are concerned with the structure, quality and quantity of preparation needed to sustain an effective teaching career in U.S. schools in the 21st Century. However, the latter debate also includes concerns about the costs associated with taking a year or two off from making money and instead taking on the prohibitive costs (read: student loan debt) of getting a teacher certification from a traditional school of education.

Case in point: my own path as a teacher has been varied and circuitous because I was most interested in gaining actual experience in the classroom over acquiring more formal theoretical knowledge in grad school. And I found many opportunities in my own community and around the world to get into the classroom, develop a style and a toolkit of my own and grow immediately as a professional. Adding to my uneasiness about grad school was the fact that I was debt free when I finished my undergraduate studies and vehemently wanted to stay that way.

Furthermore, I knew many alums of the many prestigious teacher prep programs at the local universities while working as paraprofessional in a Seattle public school. Many of those teachers told me that the experience I was gaining in the classroom as a teacher’s aide was preparing me as much as or more than a formal Master’s In Teaching program would by itself. I felt frustrated by the limbo between having the relevant experience and lacking a flexible, affordable and high-quality path to teacher certification. It turns out I had to come to Korea to discover the answer to my teacher prep woes!

We should not forget Martin Haberman’s research showing that long-serving “star” teachers are often from low-income backgrounds, have graduated from non-elite colleges, or are people of faith. Others, like Alex Caputo-Pearl, have somewhat radical politics. What makes these nontraditional teachers special is that they are mission-driven to help struggling students succeed, and they are enthusiastic about holding all children to high intellectual standards. Those are the attributes teacher preparation programs should seek.
-Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

Teach-Now, Literally

Emily Feistritzer worked for the U.S. Department of Education studying alternative-route teacher certification programs across the country. After 30 years as a preeminent expert on the subject, she decided to create a program which addressed the holes and inadequacies that she saw in many alternative-route teacher prep programs. Thus, Teach-Now was born; a rigorous, practical and affordable teacher certification program aimed at “preparing tomorrow’s teachers for tomorrow’s learners in tomorrow’s world”.

Apart from the student-teaching portion of the program, the Teach-Now classes and coursework are completed fully online. Assignments, readings, teaching videos, discussions, and professor interaction are all facilitated via the Teach-Now online learning platform which is similar to those of EdX and Coursera. Small cohorts of 15 or fewer teacher candidates and their module instructor meet weekly online, in real time, using the AdobeConnect video conferencing program. Lectures, discussions, flash collaboration mini-projects and analysis of exemplary teaching videos happen in the VC’s (virtual class) by the cohort members and their instructor who could be many thousands of miles apart. In fact, my cohort consisted of three English teachers in three different Korean provinces, five international school teachers in three different provinces of China, an American school teacher’s aide in Germany, and a paraprofessional working in an Arizona charter school.

Teach-Now relies on open source readings and resources from the web, as opposed to expensive textbooks. The resources range from podcasts about Lev Vygotsky and the importance of play in learning, Rick Wormeli YouTube videos on differentiation, and, of course, the writings of John Dewey on progressive teaching methods.  

Where the Teach-Now program really excels and differentiates itself, thanks to Ms. Feistritzer’s vision, is in the hands-on experience teacher candidates get with valuable education technology tools. Assignments ask teacher candidates to analyze and dissect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in an electronic mind map, create an academic data infographic, collaborate on a debate about blended learning via Voicethread, participate in an ed policy Twitter chat or develop a Pinterest board rich with lesson plan ideas. All individual and group writing assignments are completed, shared and submitted in Google Docs.

The final module or unit of the Teach-Now program is in the mold of a traditional student-teaching practicum in which teacher candidates need to complete 250 hours of in-class instruction in their subject area or grade level of certification. Similarly to traditional student-teaching models, teacher candidates need an experienced mentor teacher to support, observe and evaluate the candidate’s performance. What is different with Teach-Now, is that you also record a class once a week, upload the video to your Google Drive, share it with your instructor and cohort-mates, receive notes on your performance and discuss it at the weekly VC. This professional development method is precisely what the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project calls for in order to better identify and develop the best teachers and teaching strategies.

 

My Experience with Teach-Now in Korea

I had a wonderful experience completing the Teach-Now program from here in Yeosu. The opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a certificated elementary teacher while living and working abroad, and not going into serious debt, has been a huge gift for which I am grateful. However, there were a few key factors which made the experience possible, as well as a truly rigorous and meaningful preparation that was flexible enough to work with my unique teaching situation. Keep these in mind if you are reading this and are interested in the program.  

First, I had some great cohort-mates who were located in similar time zones in East Asia. They were serious professionals with years of teaching experience before joining the Teach-Now program. I learned a lot from them and received a lot of valuable feedback on my teaching as well.

Second, my Korean co-teacher at my elementary school in Yeosu is a wonderful, progressive teacher with nearly two decades of experience in the classroom as a homeroom teacher, head teacher, English teacher and low-level administrator. Despite her years of experience in Korea, she was eager to learn from my American-style teacher preparation and therefore allowed me to experiment with some distinctly Western-style teaching methods in our English classroom.

Last, I teach a few extra classes on my own, without a co-teacher and without a curriculum. This also allowed me huge amounts of freedom during the practicum especially, but also during the academic modules. I used those free form classes to complete an assignment or put into action an emphasized teaching method.

If you do not have these elements; solid cohort-mates in your time zone, a great Korean co-teacher and some flexibility in your teaching schedule, then you may need to think twice before applying to Teach-Now. Otherwise, go for it!

  

Teach-Now in the News:

Teach-Now as a great alternative-route certification option for military spouses abroad.

Teach-Now program revolutionizes teacher preparation.

Education researcher moves into the certification business.

On Twitter you can follow Teach-Now @teachnowprogram or via #tncohort.

Student Survey Infographic

Nearly six months ago I conducted one of my first student interest surveys as a teacher. It was a modest attempt to learn about the learning habits and preferences of some of my 5th and 6th grade English students. To fulfill the requirements of the Teach-Now assignment I had to create and execute the survey using the Survey Monkey site. Since then I have learned to create Google Forms, added the Google Forms template gallery to my GAFE repertoire and played around with the results of such forms in Google Sheets.

Lo and behold, what arrives in my inbox just today? An update from the incredible infographics web creator, Piktocharts, announcing that you can now import Survey Monkey results and instantly make eye-catching charts! And what do I find when I start playing around with the beta version of Survey Monkey imports in Piktocharts, that I am able to link Google Sheets (and thus, the results of a Google Form) into a beautiful Piktochart infographic as well! You can watch a quick tutorial of how to import your Survey Monkey results into Piktochart here.

Needless to say, it was a good and productive day. Below you will find the results of my student interest survey in the form of an easily created Piktochart infographic. So easy and so cool and just the first of many to come!

Heads up: click on the infographic for best viewing on the web.

TN Student Interest Survey

Innovative Teaching and Learning Pilot Year Report – Microsoft Partners in Learning

Microsoft Partners in Learning is supporting a long-term global Innovative Teaching and Learning research project focused on information and communication technology (ICT) use in the classroom, student-centered 21st Century Skills development and extended learning opportunities outside the classroom in a global context. The pilot year of this research project was in 2009 and it included classrooms in Finland, Russia, Senegal and Indonesia. In Module Two of the Teach-Now certification program, we were asked to explore the world of ‘Tomorrow’s Teacher’. One task in this exploration was a reading of the Innovative Teaching and Learning pilot year report and the creation of an infographic to visually represent the key findings of the report. Below is my submission:

Innovative Teaching and Learning Infographic

The Context of Teaching – Student Demographics

Student Data Analysis - KWS (1)

In Module Two of the Teach-Now certification program we are asked to collect, analyze and create an infographic representing essential student data in our own school, district or national teaching context. While I am currently teaching in South Korea, I do plan to return to the classroom in the United States, and more than likely in my home city of Seattle.

The infographic will show the English Language Learner numbers as a percentage for Seattle Public Schools as over against those of the nation and Washington State. You will see the same national versus district and state comparison with the numbers on Special Education and percentage of white students. In the last two Piktochart blocks there are graphic bar graphs comparing the 4th grade ELL reading growth and the 4th grade urban student math growth for Seattle Public Schools and the nation as a whole.

Here is where I found the district, state and national data:

1. Seattle Public Schools district reports and scorecards

2. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Report Card

3. National Center for Education Statistics