This course has provided me with a much clearer understanding of the critical relationship between action research and educational advancement. Through the use of action research, we can discover and implement positive changes that will help to improve teaching methods, address unique learning styles, and enhance student outcomes. During this learning experience, I have learned to appreciate a variety of concepts, including: the importance of integrating technology in the classroom; the advantage of utilizing mixed-methods data collection when conducting action research; the possible challenges faced by action researchers and change agents; and the importance of a teacher’s role as a professional educator and, recently, a researcher.
The emergence of new technologies has provided educators with a new realm of possibilities and curricular opportunities. During this class, I have recognized that I can expand my capacity by transforming my thinking—I no longer “bestow” knowledge on my students; rather, I facilitate learning processes. This process is catalyzed by the use of technology, both in and out of the classroom. Studies show that the use of technology can encourage student collaboration, increase motivation, and ignite engagement. According to one study, the use of interactive white boards in the classroom were shown to significantly increase student engagement in class activities (Beeland, 2002)—a conclusion which is supported by a variety of other studies I have reviewed during this course. As someone who is passionate about maximizing my students’ personal and academic development, understanding how to utilize these digital tools in the classroom has been enormously helpful to me, and will certainly change the way I approach curriculum planning.
I have also gained a better understanding of how mixed-methods data collection can be used to enhance one’s action research and increase the likelihood of creating a positive impact. By utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods, an action researcher is able to show both the depth and complexity of the issue (through interviews, focus groups, etc.), and the palpable, hard figures. Often, this research approach is more convincing to school boards, administrators, etc. when considering whether or not to implement a change.
Thirdly, I have learned the various challenges that an educator may face during the action research process, as well as the obstacles that arise when attempting to implement positive changes in the classroom. As an agent of change, I may require resistance from other teachers or administrators, as well as a limited amount of resources. Because school funding has recently been in flux, gaining the support and encouragement of administrators may be difficult, especially if a change initiative requires a large “slice” of the school’s allotted resources. However, if the data has proven that this change would be beneficial to the learning and development outcomes of my students, I will make my case with persistent, resilience and passion.
Most importantly, I have learned that teachers can be even more powerful advocates for change and improvement when we engage in the action research process. I am excited to begin down this path as an advocate for my students’ education and for their wellbeing, and I am eager to put my new research skills to use.