Wednesday, June 26, 2013

EDLD 5301 Course Reflections

The word “research” can be considered overwhelming. I realized that action research is the systematic collection of data to improve my practice as an educator and principal by addressing dilemmas that arise in my work. It allows you to take real life situations in school and learn from them while enacting positive change.

In the first week, I was able to establish what action research really is. Moving to the second week, I found the text to provide helpful examples of administrators who have experienced a problem in their practice and utilized action research to address these problems. These plans were laid out in detail and offered plenty of ideas to springboard from in trying to choose my own inquiry.

Week three proved very tough and time-consuming. Looking for research and literature that will give me direction in my own inquiry proved very difficult. Where I was not able to find an action research to model mine after, I was able to find studies and literature that apply to my topic and will help me in the implementation of my research.

The discussion board and blog became excellent tools to use for reflection on my own topic as well as to gain new ideas from others. Based on the comments of others in both the board and blog, I made a few changes to my own plan that may prove to save time and make my own research more efficient. I will definitely continue to use these two resources to collaborate with others who are traveling the same path of action research that I am.

Monitoring the quality of my study will help with sustaining improvement and continuing my impact as an action researcher. Sharing my work will prove useful as others will be able to transfer what I have found to answer similar inquiries they may have. I also have several methods that will help me in implementing my plan this year and the following year.

In All, I have received a plethora of information in the videos, literature, research, conferences, and the resource section that will aid me in my inquiry into the effectiveness of international connectivity on promoting cultural diversity within the classroom.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

International Learning Communities and Cultural Diversity


      1)   Setting the Foundation:  In beginning my work in my administrative studies, I learned that one of the Educational Leadership Policy Standards: ISLLC 2008 required of an administrator is to create a climate that supports cultural diversity.  Our district is lacking this quality due to several factors, hence my research began. Our high school is largely one ethnicity, and in teaching world history, I have experienced many negative, ethnocentric attitudes in my students.  With thirty-eight percent of our students categorized as low-income, most of them do not get to travel out of town; therefore, they are not exposed to other cultures.  My inquiry will focus on the cultural ideologies of our students and any change that occurs after being exposed virtually to other cultures around the world. 
Action Research Question: Can virtual connectivity to other classrooms internationally promote cultural diversity within our school, and what changes might occur in the ethnocentric attitudes of our students when they learn about other cultures and reflect on their learning?
       2)   Analyzing Data:  I will analyze the data from a cross-section of students that represents the ethnicity and income level of my students as a whole. I will use various methods of surveys among my students, the faculty and even parents to gain a baseline of cultural beliefs within our community and school.  As we carry out the sessions connecting with international classrooms, surveys, journaling (both students and myself), interviews, focus groups, and field notes will all provide me with the documentation necessary to evaluate the success of the program in promoting the appreciation of other cultures within my students. Using various Google searches involving scholarly articles on the appropriate implementation of multicultural education within a classroom as well as articles on assessing qualitative data will help me in this process. 
      3)  Developing Deeper Understanding- As the process of this research goes, I will be continually monitoring my students’ opinions and beliefs to assess trends taking place.  Through the breakdown of their surveys, journaling, artifacts, and my field notes on discussions, I should be able to identify in great detail the themes that develop.  I will be able to note initial beliefs, and any changes based on the detail of the data. 
     4)  Engage In Self-Reflection:  Throughout this research process, I will use self-reflection through questioning and colleague feedback.  I will make sure that my data has been thoroughly documented and analyzed in order to validate my findings.  If the program is successful in its objectives, I will seek to implement the same program into each of the social studies courses our school offers.  In doing this, I will also be able to change or tweak the process based on my reflections of previous research. 
     5) Exploring Programmatic Patterns:  Collaborating with my site supervisor and my community of fellow educators, I will address any issues that develop, and I will work with them to create solutions. 
6) Determining Direction:  The need for promotion of cultural diversity is clear in our high school.  I have set up an account for Skype Classroom, and I have already begun the process for connecting with other teachers. I need only to develop the lessons to center around the cultures that we connect with, and then I will monitor the data aforementioned. I am collaborating with my site supervisor on all activities, and I am working with others in our social studies department with ideas on how to proceed with lessons.  I am also using feedback from my fellow graduate students on incorporating this program effectively.  My timeline is designed to give me ample time to thoroughly analyze each item of data collected and to make changes as needed to improve my research.    I have a reasonable plan for monitoring the project through continual collection of data.  With each connection with another classroom, I will take the data and break it down to develop a deeper understanding of my students’ thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  This should help me to determine if my program is successful.  I will also evaluate my own research through continual reading of literature associated with my topic. Utilizing the information on quality indicators in Ch. 6 of the Leading with Passion and Knowledge text to continually check my research for quality will improve the efficacy of the final product.  I will be able to revise my strategies by continuing self-reflection throughout my research.   
     7) Taking Action for School Improvement:
A.    I have already begun to find other classrooms internationally with which to connect.  Over the summer, I will correlate each of my units of study with one location internationally.  I will develop a lesson around each of these Skype sessions that includes education about the culture of each location.
B.    At the beginning of school 2013-2014, I will use various methods of surveys among my students, the faculty and even parents to gain a baseline of cultural beliefs within our community and school. 
C.   Through the use of Skype Classroom, I will conduct sessions internationally with classrooms in areas that correlate with the units of study within my world history class.  These will take place at the rate of one session per six weeks.
D.   Students will complete various activities before, during, and after each session to assess their experience, knowledge, and impressions of these places, peoples, and cultures.  Students will acquire pen pals from these classrooms and will be required to converse with them on specific issues as a part of their assignments. These activities will be used as student artifacts to document any changes in cultural ideology. 
E.    Using open-ended questioning, I will also conduct interviews/focus groups/class discussions to perceive changes. 
F.    Field notes and Journaling will help me document changes as well as possible new wonderings that may arise.  At the end of the year, I will conclude my research with a student-created reception displaying the various projects of my students including the food, art, music, and traditions of the people and places we have studied. In this project, they will identify their original beliefs, what they have learned about other cultures, and any change in their ideology.  I will also survey students in the end to determine what their experience was in being connected to other classrooms internationally.
G.   Through a formative evaluation of all of this qualitative data, in collaboration with my principal and other social studies teachers, I will determine if there is a large change in the ideology of the students in my classes by exposing my students to this international learning community.  I will also be able to determine whether the international connection to other classrooms was responsible for promoting any changes in the cultural ideology of my students.
H.   I will conclude with a summative report of my action research in which I will explain the results of my findings.
8)  Sustain Improvement:  I look forward to sharing my results through a power point at a faculty    meeting at the end of the school year.  This will allow all of the people who have participated in giving feedback throughout my research process to see the final results. I will also share my findings with our superintendent and school board as they are also stakeholders in the education of the students involved in my study.  Finally, I will share my findings with my students.  I will do this after completion of my research as it might influence the result if they know I am doing research for a study. At the recommendation of my site supervisor or my research professor, I would seek to publish my findings as well in order to help other educators with the same inquiry needs.  The data will show whether or not the international learning community that is created for my students is successful in building within them an appreciation for other cultures. It will be vital to conclude with reflection on the quality of research I have completed, and based on my research, there might be possible implementation of the program in the future on every grade level.  As with any study, I will also look at wonderings that arise and consider them for other action research.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Week Two Reflections- Action Research


Ultimately, the field of action research is limitless.  There are so many areas in schools that could be improved, and action inquiry can flourish.  I look forward to beginning my research on promoting cultural diversity within my school, and this week’s study offered several ideas.    
This week’s focus in my Action Research class was on what others in the field of education have researched.  There were several videos of administrators throughout Texas describing the success they have had with action inquiry.  Two things stood out from those videos.  One was that you do not have to “re-invent the wheel.”  There is a plethora of information and studies that can benefit people performing action research.  Utilizing that information to gain my own results will benefit me as well as other educators looking for the same evidence because the education field can be one big learning community.  The second thing that I gleaned from these administrators is that the ability to disaggregate data is the key to success.  Every educator and administrator should be skilled in breaking down data to find weaknesses in students, faculty, and schools that need to be addressed. 


There were also several action researchers highlighted in our reading this week.  One inquiry was a principal looking for ways to achieve exemplary writing within her school.  Another was a principal seeking to pull a veteran teacher from a teaching rut by moving her to a different grade level after twenty-six years on the same level.  Another action inquiry involved a whole school seeking to improve the lunch experience in the cafeteria.  Finally, one creative way to spark an inquiry was a principal who used a book for staff-development over the summer.  The staff was required to read a book related to understanding poverty, and they were to respond online with their thoughts.  Due to the collaboration of ideas, the faculty began a research inquiry into ways they could  work towards breaking the cycle 
of poverty with their students. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Blog, Blog, Blog...This is not Charlie Brown's Teacher!

There are several ways educational leaders can make use of blogs.  They might use them as a springboard for question and response among fellow administrators or educators. Principals could utilize a blog with a staff to communicate ideas and gain feedback from teachers.  Blogging not only allows principals and educators to reflect on their practice, but it also allows them to join a learning community interested in helping others grow professionally.

Action Research/Inquiry

Ultimately, action research validates the effectiveness of a teacher's strategies within the classroom or a principal's practice of school management.  Focusing on a question or wondering, principals engage in data collection, strategy, and design of a plan around their question at hand.  It allows the administrator to become a stakeholder by investigating their own dilemmas and facilitating change based on the research they produce.  Action research involves a spiraling of reflection and action.  First, they will diagnose a problem needing resolution within their practice or school.  Next, through evaluation of data, administrators develop action strategies, implement them, and evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies.  Action research allows educators and administrators to be actively involved in their own professional growth which allows them to be role models for other stakeholders in the district.

 I could use action research in my own classroom as I implement my "Cardinals Connect" project for my administrative internship plan.  Through Skype in the Classroom, I will connect my classes with classrooms around the world in order to promote cultural diversity, and it will be used as a tool to teach about historical locations, events, and people through the eyes of locals.  My goal would be to determine if the use of international connectivity to other classrooms would be effective in promoting cultural diversity in our culturally similar district.  I have also considered evaluating the implementation of the STAAR testing within our history department over the last two years.  I could analyze the testing data to determine strengths and weakness and to determine the skills needing improvement.  Working collaboratively as a department, we could then find ways to address these skills and evaluate the success of intervention.  I could also predict the progression of scores as the STAAR implementation continues.  Ultimately I feel the most advantageous action inquiry I could do would be to determine how to incorporate cross-curricular writing in a way that is most beneficial to the student.  I am a former English teacher, and now as a history teacher, I see the great opportunity for cross-curricular writing.  I would need to analyze our writing scores across grade levels, identify the weaknesses in the writing skills based on the STAAR objectives tested, and research successful programs that have been implemented in other school districts.  Being involved in addressing any of these dilemmas should prove to be very rewarding for me.