Using targeted, classroom-based action research to support teacher development and growth

Year: 2015

Author: Bell, Lisa, Aldridge, Jill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A large scale research program undertaken in 2008-2010 resulted in the development of two instruments which were used, alongside each other, to provide teachers with valid and reliable feedback information about how students perceived their classroom learning environment and their attitudes towards learning. This paper reports an investigation of how teachers used student feedback, gathered using these instruments, to guide the development and implementation of strategies aimed at improving the classroom environment and targeting issues related to students’ attitudes and academic self-efficacy beliefs.

To investigate the processes undertaken by teachers as they used the student feedback data as part of an action research process, multiple sources of information were gathered from 45 focus teachers. The information was gathered using unstructured and semi-structured interviews, field notes, written reports, summaries, reflective journals and teacher evaluation feedback. This data provided insights into the ways in which teachers made use of student perception data to plan and implement strategies for improvement. The data was also used to evaluate the usefulness of the two instruments as tools for teacher reflection, professional development and growth.

The results indicated that teachers were able to use feedback in ways that were responsive to the needs and preferences of the students. The findings show that the professional development activities undertaken as part of the study incorporated many of the key features for effective professional development. The process allowed teachers to take charge of their own learning and provided a good degree of flexibility. It gave opportunities for teachers to reflect on data and to work collaboratively or independently within their immediate school context, to devise and implement strategies to improve their respective classrooms.

This paper describes the ways in which teachers utilised student feedback information to guide their efforts to transform their classroom learning environments. The paper also describes how targeted, classroom-based action research, based on student feedback information provided teachers with opportunities to improve their classroom practice and support their professional growth and development. The findings of this study suggest that, i to better support teaching learning and build capacity for professional growth, teacher development activities should be systematic, classroom-based and supported by an approach which directs the focus of teachers squarely on students and their learning. These activities should also be school-based and provide targeted teacher development which is linked to school priorities.