On our Staff Development Day at the end of Term 3, the Pre-school Educators engaged in a Zoom workshop presented by Terry and Alex on “Teachers as Researchers.”
This was an opportunity to collaborate, to deepen our knowledge and understandings and to bring us together by pursuing an action research project, that we could collaborate on as a whole staff team. A chance for us to work together, to support each other through the learning, the wanderings, and questions both we and the children might have and to help each other to explore meaning together. We recognise that sharing respectful dialogue and working through things together builds a culture of deep reflection and connects people to a concept or idea. Taking time to go deeply into a shared project enables educators to collaborate, discuss, reflect, and see where the research takes us.
During the day, we spent time as a team unpacking a few key ideas about the image of the child and about research.
Our image of the child is where teaching begins. We need to walk alongside children and learn from them daily. Research is a partnership and a relationship that opens many possibilities. Being together and collaborating with fellow colleagues is fundamental for professionalism. When children and adults share ideas, this influences their thinking, in a positive and meaningful way. They learn from each other and by being together.
Research is something that occurs in a relationship. We need to see ourselves as co-workers and co researchers. Just as the children are learning, so are we. We must not separate theory, practice, and research. Curiosity is the springboard of all learning. It’s our responsibility to keep the warmth of that desire alive and to feed children’s curiosity. We need to give the children’s ideas and theories a narrative by listening carefully and observing closely. Children must be encouraged to listen to each other’s point of view.
Therefore, teachers need time to focus on what happens in the classroom and to reflect on what they do and why they do it. One of the major strengths of teacher research is that it allows teachers to reflect on issues and problems and to formulate questions that may need to be refined and reframed throughout the research process. Researchable questions must be phrased in ways that direct the questioner toward inquiry and away from specific courses of action (Freeman 1998).
As Clifford and Marinucci (2008) emphasise, an important characteristic of inquiry is that it evokes stimulating questions that lead to further questions.
Teacher inquiry is the continuous engagement with questions worth asking, wonderings worth pursuing that lead to a greater understanding of how to teach and how children learn.
Inquiry may stem from teachers’ assumptions, identities, and images of teaching and learning. When teachers pose questions worth asking, they do so from an attitude of inquiry, and they see their classrooms as laboratories for wonder and discovery.
Questions worth asking have the power to change us and to cause us to see ourselves and the children we teach in new ways. They engage the mind and the passion of the teacher; encourage wonder about the space between what is known and what is knowable; and allow for possibilities that are neither imagined nor anticipated (Hubbard & Power 2003).
In general, researchable questions must be open ended, suggesting multiple directions and possibilities (Freeman 1998; Hubbard & Power 2003). This means avoiding yes or no questions and questions that have clear boundaries or solutions. In contrast, questions that begin with how or what allow a researcher to describe the process and changes as they emerge.
- Are always open ended
- Are investigative
- Seek possibilities and multiple responses
- Enable surprises and epiphanies
- Assume that knowledge and understanding are constructed
- Draw out experiences, perspectives, and beliefs
- Involve emotion as well as thought.
Teacher research is not an “add on” but a way to build theory through reflection, inquiry, and action and a way to make informed decisions based on data collected from meaningful inquiry. It takes practice, self-monitoring, and awareness to become proficient in asking researchable questions. The support and encouragement of an inquiry group and the willingness to give thoughtful consideration to one’s questions are essential. Throughout teacher research projects, the initial research question may need to be modified continually to create a closer fit with the classroom environment.
It’s important to think about the following:
- Am I asking the right question?
- What other questions may be emerging from my data?
- Is my question still meaningful, intriguing, worthy of investigation?
- Is my question more complicated than I had previously thought?
- Can my question evolve with time and with continued observation and reflection?
We recognise how good we all are at asking deep and meaningful open-ended reflective questions. Every Day Book reflects deep and critical thinking and thought-provoking ideas that give a voice and agency to the children’s ideas and thoughts. We are adept at recognising the comments children make and getting them to reflect deeply about their thinking.
During the Staff Development Day, educators reflected deeply as a whole group, as well as in breakout groups, on possible questions or wanderings that we could explore as a whole team. After much discussion and reflection, we came up with the following research question:
To understand how children develop a Jewish identity and to start with the research question
“What does it mean to be Jewish?”
We were very excited to begin this project at the start of Term 4. We have been using staff meetings each week to bring the wonderings, thoughts, and ideas of each group to the team, to discuss, share and support each other.
We are very excited at the possibilities this Action Research Project is bringing and the opportunity to collaborate as a whole staff team is extremely powerful and creates many rich possibilities to learn from and with each other. It’s also interesting to see how each group is responding to the research question and how the different age groups of the children, impacts their thinking and understanding. We are also learning so much about the children themselves, and what is important in their own individual families. It is helping us to understand the children on a much deeper level.
Next week, I will share some of the children’s thinking and ideas and some of the work we are doing.
National Bandanna Day
On Friday we collected money for Canteen by all wearing bandannas to support cancer research for young people. Thank you to all the Kornmehl families for all purchasing a bandanna.
We wish a very happy birthday to Ava Greenberg (5) and to our special Educator, Lindi Bloch. We hope you all had a wonderful day.