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Teacher Research: Improving Practice and Developing Teacher Voice Among Diverse Students in Early Childhood Education


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Title: Teacher Research: Improving Practice and Developing Teacher Voice Among Diverse Students in Early Childhood Education

Teacher Research Improving Practice and
Developing Teacher Voice Among Diverse Students
in Early Childhood Education
  • Barbara Henderson
  • San Francisco State University

  • These materials describe Teacher Research (TR),
    and how we use it in the graduate program at San
    Francisco State University.
  • This slide show provides a resource for teacher
  • to see how TR programs can be developed, and
  • to introduce the concept and skills of Teacher
    Research to
  • graduate students,
  • upper level undergraduates, or
  • practicing teachers beginning a collaborative TR

Organization of these Materials
  • Defining Teacher Research.
  • Describing the graduate program at San Francisco
    State University.
  • Steps new teacher researchers can take to begin a
    study based on their practice.
  • Starred words throughout the document appear in a

Defining Teacher Research
  • Teacher research is undertaken by insiders in
    the schools.
  • TR studies address ones own practice
  • TR is systematically planned and involves data
    collection, analysis, and public presentation of
  • TR includes an action component, that is, the
    practitioner observes a problem, takes action on
    it, and observes the results.
  • TR studies have implications for others.
    Findings may speak to local, regional, national,
    or global policy on education, children, and

Teacher Research Components
  • Looks at children's learning and development
    using data that captures childrens voices
  • Looks at our own learning and development in
    personal professional ways
  • Highlights teachers administrators voices and
    demonstrates their role as knowledge creators
  • Requires self-study of our practice
  • Is inquiry-based reflective
  • Emphasizes qualitative research approaches

Student Demographics of ECE Graduate Students at
SFSU Linguistic Diversity
  • 25 are international students or adult
    immigrants who speak languages other than English
    as their first language.
  • 20 immigrated to the U.S. as young children or
    are first generation immigrant and bilingual
    (e.g., English-Spanish, English-Cantonese).
  • 55 come from families who have been in the U.S.
    for two or more generations. Most of these
    students are monolingual English-speakers.

Student Demographics of ECE Graduate Students at
SFSU Racial Ethnic Diversity
  • 25 European American heritage
  • 25 Asian American heritage (including Pacific
  • 10 African American heritage
  • 5 Latina American heritage
  • 10 Latinas from Central and South America
  • 15 Asian, from Asia, India, and the Pacific
  • 5 from countries in Europe
  • 5 from countries in Africa

Student Demographics of ECE Graduate Students at
SFSU Professional Diversity
  • 65 our students are teachers including
  • preschool teachers (45 of total),
  • infant-toddler caregivers (10 of total)
  • elementary teachers (10 of total).
  • 25 administer early childhood and afterschool
    programs including
  • district-run sites,
  • private non-profits,
  • state-sponsored preschools,
  • home-based day cares, and
  • Head Start centers.
  • 15 are in allied fields, including ECE
    evaluators, teacher trainers, and social service

Teacher Research is the Centerpiece of Graduate
Work in ECE at SFSU
  • Courses focus on teaching the skills of Teacher
    Research along with course content. Three
    foundational courses are
  • Cognitive Development for ECE
  • Social, Emotional and Physical Development for
  • Narrative Inquiry and Memoir for ECE
  • Students integrate TR skills through a 4th
  • Practitioner Research in ECE
  • Courses have a sociocultural perspective and
    value the home language and culture students
    bring to the experience of doing TR.
  • Courses lead to a culminating field study in TR.

Teacher Research Skills are Built throughout
Courses and Assignments
  • Courses and the major papers for each course are
    laid out in the following flowchart.
  • In this flowchart, 4 of the major courses are
    shown as boxes, with course projects shown as
    attached tags.
  • The flowchart shows how courses lead to the
    culminating field study, which is depicted as a

Flowchart Showing How Elements of Teacher
Research are Taught in 4 Major Courses
(No Transcript)
TR Skills Taught in the Graduate Course on
Cognitive Development
  • Design
  • Pre-test ? Post-Test
  • Chronological
  • Outcome seeking
  • Methodology
  • Discourse analysis of transcripts
  • Analysis of childs skill, or conceptual
  • Assignment
  • A TR study focused on ones own teaching and the
    learning development of a focal student or
    group of students

TR Skills Taught in the Graduate Course on
Social, Emotional, Physical Development
  • Skills Developed
  • Critically interpret literature in the field
  • Compare across literature from a range of related
  • Integrate literature into the argument of a paper
  • Integrate literature with your own experience
  • Improve clarity of writing
  • Assignment
  • Literature Reviews that also integrate teachers
    observations of children

TR Skills Taught in the Graduate Course on
Narrative Inquiry Memoir in ECE
  • Elements of Collection
  • Vignettes that capture moments of life
  • Narratives about students and teaching
  • Poetry based on life experience
  • Other visual arts to express life experience
  • Assignment
  • Collection of personal narratives, professional
    narrative, and other expressive writing around a

TR Skills Taught in the Graduate Course on
Practitioner Inquiry in ECE
  • Skills Developed
  • Identify a question that holds your passion
  • Make that question researchable
  • Collect relevant data
  • Organize and analyze data
  • Collaborate with other TRs to give and receive
  • Develop the writing habits of an author
  • See implications of your findings that impact
  • Write to communicate with practitioners and
    policy makers
  • Assignment
  • Teacher research paper on topic of choice (serves
    as a pilot for many students culminating Field

Criteria for Quality Applied to Culminating
Teacher Research Field Studies Theses Completed
  • Is the question posed researchable by objective
    expressive means?
  • Is the question is significant within the field
    of ECE (e.g., current relevant, original, of
    the right scope)?
  • Has the author made links to the relevant
  • Was the study designed to effectively address the
    research question?
  • Does the paper use an effective writing style?
  • Do the findings use a range of qualitative and
    narrative inquiry methodologies to present
    evidence for claims?
  • Are there implications from the findings for
    others outside of the teacher him or herself?

Undertaking Teacher Research
  • Begin with a real question, a problem, or puzzle
    you have about your work
  • Research-based and practical/teaching-based
  • Action oriented -- one possible frame for
    inquiry, How can I?
  • Is done in conscious systematic manner

Outline of the Steps within Teacher Research
  • Wondering about an issue, challenge, or new
    situation -- a genuine prompt for inquiry that
    originates with the practitioner
  • Is the question Ive asked researchable through
    objective means?
  • Using question frames to clarify the research
  • How can I?
  • What is happening whenand what accounts for
  • Study design knowing how you will address your
    research question through data collection and
    organization of the final product
  • Data collection what to collect
  • Data analysis tools to interpret data
  • Writing data collection, data analysis, findings
  • Critical feedback on in-progress findings and
    early drafts
  • Implications of local findings
  • Making links to other literature
  • Realizing the impact of findings for other
    teachers and policy makers
  • Public sharing of products

Ask a Genuine Question,Ask a Researchable
  • Starting Question
  • Should war and weapon play ever be allowed in
    ECE settings?
  • Researchable Questions
  • 1. What changes did I observe in childrens
    play when we shifted our policy so that certain
    kinds of war and weapon play were permitted?
  • OR
  • 2. What effect did a change in policy have on
    my practice as an educator, in particular how I
    viewed girls and boys play styles?

Framing a Question by Using an Action Research
Frame, How Can I?
  • How can I improve
  • ? my teaching of emergent literacy with infants
    and toddlers?
  • ? my practices for engaging children with clay?
  • ? materials to develop childrens concepts of
  • ? childrens observation of natural phenomenon to
    develop science concepts?
  • ? my use of authentic experiences such as field

Framing a Question by Using Daily Events as a
Springboard for Inquiry
  • Ask, What is happening whenand what accounts
    for this? For example
  • What happens when children are called to circle
    and what accounts for their behavior during this
  • What is happening when children are in conflict
    and what accounts for my reaction to step in and
    solve the situation?
  • What happens when children use materials in novel
    ways and what accounts for their occasional
    ability to collaborate for extended periods?
  • What is happening when children engage together
    in goofy play, and what accounts for the energy
    this brings to their interactions?

  • Defining a question for a teacher research study
    demands flexibility on the part of the teacher
  • Teacher researchers questions will narrow as the
    research unfolds, but they may also shift. Both
    changes are positive.
  • For example, what starts out as a case study of a
    child, may become a self-study of oneself as a

Study Design
  • In qualitative research, the design, like the
    research question is also somewhat emergent.
  • Nonetheless, you must have some idea of how you
    will design the study so that you can get started.

Examples for Study Design Organization for
Teacher Research
  • Chronological documents changes that occur from
    the start to the end of a project
  • Case Study choose a child who poses an issue and
    describe ones teaching from the perspective of
    how it affects him or her
  • Comparative Case Study choose two children to
    illustrate how curriculum, materials, or the
    classroom environment are experienced differently
    by children
  • Self-study a case study of oneself as a teacher
  • Thematic uncover the pattern of overarching
    themes that run through data, and then present
    excerpts of data to document these aspects of
    teaching,learning, and development

Data in Teacher Research is Collected from a
Variety of Sources
  • Reflective teacher journals
  • Observational fieldnotes
  • Student work samples (art, writing, numbers)
  • Photographs of children, childrens work, the
    setting, and materials
  • Audiotape of class interactions, then selectively
  • Videotape of class interactions
  • selectively transcribed
  • used as still photos
  • Interviews with colleagues or families
  • Surveys collected from parents, colleagues, or
  • Chart paper you used during lessons
  • School documents (e.g., newsletters, faculty
  • Tallies of events or interactions (make a data
    collection sheet)

Data Analysis
  • Discourse analysis of speech samples
  • Analysis of photographs
  • Analysis of childrens work
  • Quantitative summary and analysis of something
    you counted (e.g., event, response, words, time
  • Patterns found in interviews
  • Grounded theory analysis of fieldnotes and
    teacher journal
  • Narrative Inquiry narratives to pose questions
    and provide perspectives on the situation
  • Memoir use of your life story to illuminate
    current teaching practices

Habits of Writing
  • Writing is part of data collection fieldnotes,
    teacher journals, interviews.
  • Qualitative data analysis requires writing.
  • Data memos written to a collaborative group of
    teacher researchers help to verify findings as
    research is in-progress.
  • Sharing the results of TR is part of the cycle of
    inquiry, so teacher researchers must be prepared
    and supported to write final products on their
  • TR findings have implications for policy
    therefore, documents should be distributed beyond
    education (e.g., op-ed piece, policy input for

Embarking as a Writer Diverse Populations of
Teacher Researchers
  • Writing within the inquiry cycle goes to
    different audiences and serves different
  • Not all writing should be corrected, or even seen
    by others.
  • TRs need to ask their own questions about the
    response they need to their writing.
  • Different audiences give different responses.
  • Good writing is well edited. All writing
    presented publicly will have gone through editing
    and revision.
  • By reading and responding to other teacher
    researchers work, TRs learn more about the
    structure, content, and form of written English.
  • TR is about finding ones voice and seeing its

Giving Receiving Feedback from Critical
  • Teacher research is collaborative in nature.
  • Critical colleagues at ones school site offer an
    important insider perspective.
  • Critical colleagues from other sites provide
    distance that can strengthen the trustworthiness
    of an account.
  • Data based ones own perceptions, practices, and
    judgments need external response for
  • TRs see their own projects more clearly when they
    work with others.
  • Collaboration provides emotional and practical

  • Teacher researchs central goal is to increase
    access and equity within schools.
  • TR can improve conditions at school sites for
    children, families, and teaching staff.
  • Classroom-based, insider, qualitative inquiry
    like TR has implications that stretch beyond a
    classrooms walls.

Next Steps Roles for Teacher Educators
  • Teacher researchers need support to see links to
  • Teacher researchers need to share resources to
    find similar educational research that can be
    compared with their findings.
  • Teacher researchers need confidence to see that
    their findings can make a difference to other
    teachers and for policy makers.
  • Teacher researchers need support and facilitation
    to reach public outlets, so their findings can
    take this next step.

  • critical colleagues a term from action research
    that describes peers who participate in research
    to provide one another with feedback on the
    accuracy, trustworthiness, and depth of analysis,
    findings, and implications of the inquiry
  • discourse analysis an approach to interpreting
    conversations where transcribed speech is treated
    as text and taken apart to find patterns, for
    example by focusing on turn-taking, initiation of
    content or linguistic style, or types of
    responses given by each conversant
  • emergent developing in-progress through a
    feedback loop with other people who are impacted
    by the process. Curriculum may be emergent when
    it is initiated by children and facilitated by
    teachers. Qualitative research is emergent when
    the exact question addressed or the types of data
    collected and analyzed develop once the inquiry
    has already begun.
  • fieldnotes a term from ethnography that
    describes writing done in a classroom or
    community to captures details of what is said and
    done by the participants. The researcher attempts
    to distinguish between observed data and ones
    own judgments on a situation.
  • grounded theory an idea developed by Glaser
    Straus in 1967 where knowledge about a set of
    data arises from an ongoing conceptual analysis
    of the observed phenomena. The researcher
    develops knowledge by creating an explanation
    that can predict and account for the recorded
    phenomena, that is, a creates a theory. This
    theory is then checked back to the original
    situation to check its truth. Data collection
    and analysis approaches are modified based on
    the new perspective provided by this theory of
    events. At the same time, the theory is
    fine-tuned through a cycle of interpretation and
    rechecking with events and informants within the
    setting. The theory is, therefore, founded or
    grounded on the details of those events.
  • narrative inquiry an artistically influenced
    research approach that uses stories, vignettes,
    and narrative poems to capture and question
    events. Representing multiple perspectives on a
    situation in a believable manner is crucial.
    Different audiences will interpret findings
    variously based on their own readings and
    experiences, which is valued within this
  • teacher journal a personal document that
    includes reflection, critique, celebration, and
    ranting on teaching practices, reactions to
    instruction, students, administration, families,
    and the research process. These notes can serve
    as data or may provide support and direction to
    the teacher researcher for data collection in
    more public documents.
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