Planning for Action Research II

Of the three topic options for my Teach-Now Global Education Master’s action research proposal (language and multilingualism, international mindedness, or self-defined), my research question will address international mindedness and how discourses around the need for such a mindset and skill-set in schools drives international education in my local school districts. Through a survey of recent literature, international education and 21st century learning implementation guides, internationally minded standards, and a cross-section of teachers and administrators working in local international schools, I intend to answer the following question:

 

What are the discourses that drive the creation and expansion of international schools and international programs in the greater Seattle area?

 

In pursuing an answer to that question I will use the discourse analysis outlined by Walter C. Parker of the University of Washington in 2008 and 2011, which identified two strong and three weak discourses pushing the international education movement forward in Seattle area schools. I will attempt a less exhaustive update to his analyses, but I will use his identified discourses as a tool to compare and contrast the current international education trends. In so doing, I will attempt to answer the following questions which will help me to answer my broader, primary question:

  1. What are the discourses that drive this particular “international” school or program? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  2. 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 development of international education, and the curriculum and instruction to go along with it?
  3. Do the current IE discourses reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  4. Is international education seen as the salvation to a current crisis of public education in the area?
  5. Do the WA OSPI 21st century Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards and resources stress the economic and military security discourse, or are Parker’s marginal discourses more prominent in their language?
  6. What discourses do the adopted CTE programs in the area, namely the IB Career Programme and AVID, reflect in their mission, vision and program descriptions?
  7. Does international education in Seattle Public Schools reflect the weak or strong discourses laid out by Parker, or has the power shifted in those terms?

 

The schools systems and districts I will be studying represent an education context that demands 21st century skills and knowledge of the world. The Seattle area is a major player in the global economy with many transnational corporations including Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, which create many well-paid STEM jobs that the education system in the state of Washington cannot come close to filling with its own citizens. The state of Washington is the third largest exporting state in the union and many of the public education systems in the state are clamoring to prepare their students for this dynamic, globalized economy, yet they can’t keep pace with the demand for engineers, computer programmers and business managers prepared for a diverse, cross-cultural workplace. In the meantime, those transnational corporations are importing an affluent, well-educated migrant class to work for them. Mostly coming from China and India, these immigrants are rapidly changing the demographics and economics of the Seattle area in profound ways, creating tensions around housing prices, new school boundaries and more.

Thus, the Seattle area and its international education programs offer a vital measuring stick for the notion that in the 21st century a good education is truly an international education. If that notion is not supported by the discourses used to justify the creation and development of international schools in the area we need to know why. And we need to know what discourses are employed by local educators instead.

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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