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EDU 6980 – Applying Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3

EDU 6980 Applying Action Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3


Standard 3 – Teacher leaders improve teaching and learning through the use of education research at the classroom and school levels.

“Teacher-led professional learning is critical for supporting teachers to innovate, own, share and spread their professional knowledge and practices” (Campbell, 2015, p. 58)

            This class was one that I was very much looking forward to taking from the moment that I learned I was going to need a book about statistics in education! As a math teacher, the idea of thinking about the role that statistics could play in an educational setting was very intriguing, and I must admit, something that I had not fully considered until now. Thinking about my learning and understanding at the beginning of the course, I realize that I understood the importance of using research, both action research at a local level, as well as published professional research, when making decisions for my classroom, department, and school, but I had never thought or been taught about how to make critical decisions about the research and or whether a secondary source article used primary research appropriately.

At the beginning of the course, we worked to create a basic understanding of statistics, how different statistical measures are found, and how to use them appropriately. For me, this was a review of mathematical understand I already had, but it was interesting to put it into application when considering it as it related to educational research. We also chose a secondary source article that we would be critiquing by the end of the course. Although it probably should not have been, even considering the difference between a primary and secondary source article was something new to me. Prior to the start of this course, research had always been something I searched for, found the articles that were on the topic I was researching, and then used as needed. I had never put much thought into whether an article was primary or secondary, or how a secondary source article used the primary source research.

Then we moved on to the beginning critique of a primary source article. Reading a researcher article critically, with a focus on the actual data and how it was used was one of the most interesting pieces of learning throughout this program to me. I really appreciated the idea of working through an article considering each step along the way. This also helped me consider what I would do if I ever attempt to write or publish a formal article. We also interviewed an administrator to determine how they used research in their professional responsibilities.

After we began our critique of a primary source article, we spent time analyzing provided data and considering the implications of the data. That was done in my data analysis paper. This assignment opened my eyes to what type of data is useful in an educational study, and how it can be best used.

Then we put together all the pieces and completed my critique of the original primary source article we started with as a whole class. The process of reading the article, considering the critique questions, working with our cohort to answer the questions, fine-tuning our understanding, and then putting the whole thing into writing was a process that left me with a much greater understanding of what appropriate data and research is, as well as how I can use that understanding to promote learning in my classroom, as well as my department and building.

Lastly, we returned to the secondary source article that we picked at the beginning of the course. My article was How Mathematics Counts by Lynn Arthur Steen and published in Educational Leadership. Originally, the article was interesting, and seemed to have a lot of appropriate sources to back up the claims made by the author. For the final paper, I was asked to read the article, identify a primary source article used by the author of the secondary source article, and then critique the primary source article and how the secondary source author used it. Imagine my surprise when I found that the article I originally chose and felt so positively about, did not even have a true primary source article behind it! My critique of the one primary source research article and the way it was used can be found here.

Reflecting on my learning this quarter has caused me to consider many aspects I did not originally expect. With a math background, the actual statistics was not as much of a stretch for me as it was for others of my colleagues, however, the real learning for me came from realizing just exactly how much published research is actually lacking many important requirements to be making the connections that authors make. As I move forward in my role as a teacher leader, I will be working to do two things: make sure any research I present is appropriate, that the data provided is used correctly and that the researchers made appropriate determinations from the data, and I will be working to make sure my colleagues understand the concerns that are associated with research. Learning how to be critical readers of educational research and data will allow myself and my colleagues to use research in the most appropriate way to make the best educational decisions for students. Making the best educational decisions for my own students, and helping my colleagues do the same for their students is a primary goal that I have developed for myself as a teacher leader as I have worked through this program.



Bok, D. (2005). Our underachieving colleges. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Campbell, C. (2015). Teachers as leaders of professional learning. Education Canada, 55(1), 54-59.

Lutsky, N. (2006). Quirks of rhetoric: A quantitative analysis of quantitative reasoning in student

writing. Proceedings of the section on statistical education, American Statistical Association, 2319-2322. Retrieved from

Mergendoller, J. R., Maxwell, N. L, & Bellisimo, Y. (2006). The Effectiveness of Problem-Based

Instruction: A Comparative Study of Instructional Methods And Student Characteristics. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based  Learning, 1(2).

Ravid, R. (2011). Practical Statistics for Educators (4th Edition). Landham, MD:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc

Steen, L.A. (2007). How mathematics counts. Educational Leadership, 65(3). Retrieved from

Stigler, S. M. (1999). Statistics on the table. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.





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EDU 6975 – Action Research in School Settings – Meta-Reflection Standard 3

As I entered into this course, I had some experience with action research having written and implemented an action research grant in my last school. Interestingly, even though I have this experience, it was very much a “learn as I went” process, so having the chance to start a project and work through it with guidance and a set procedure gave me multiple opportunities to expand my learning and experience.

In the beginning of this course, we focused on identifying what makes good action research. We spent time journaling to identify areas in our classrooms that are places where we could dream about a change (Sagor, 2011, p.17). This made such an impact on me, I loved being able to consider, “If my classroom looked exactly like I want it to, what would it look like?” From my journaling, I determined that I wanted my students to focus on their ability to solve a problem, confidently, effectively, and creatively. From there, we moved into coming up with rationale and literature to support our focus. Here I found many examples of research that supported my action research. Two articles really helped me direct my achievement targets. The first article summarized information from 14 group studies and found that directly teaching problem solving strategies, and then providing students with problems to solve that will utilize the strategies is a very effective way to help struggling math students (Jitendra et al., 2015). The second article that strongly influenced my direction found that combining both verbal strategies with visual strategies was the most effective way to create growth in students (Swanson, Orosco, & Lussier, 2014). Additionally, while researching my focus, I found that the problems I was seeing in my classroom were not unique to just my students. In fact, one article summarized a NCTM report that specified that high school math must undergo a fundamental instructional shift. Our students must be put into an atmosphere that supports and requires critical thinking and problem solving in order to be successful at the common core state standards, and to be appropriately prepared for a global marketplace (Nichol, 2009).

Armed with all this information, the course moved into creating achievement targets, performance continua, and a graphic reconstruction of the process that was going to go into our action research. With all the effort in the beginning of the class about a focus, and true rationale, it was relatively easy to create achievement targets for both students and teacher. I created a graphic representation of the process and changes I, as the teacher, would make, and then connected it to the changes I expected my students would have. This was a huge tool as I moved to create specific changes in my teaching. A copy can be found here – Graphic Reconstruction. I narrowed my focus to one specific type of problem, and determined a progression for instruction that would hopefully create an increase in my students’ overall score on a 10 point rubric (see here – Problem Solving Rubric 2014-2015). I created a sequence where I taught students how to solve a liquid mixture problem in multiple ways. I started with a physical representation, and then used that representation to create an algebraic model. Then I taught students how to use a graphic organizer to create an algebraic model. After that, I connected the 5-Step Problem Solving Process that I use to this type of problem. Lastly, I asked students to transfer their knowledge to a problem that could be modeled and solved algebraically using a variety of options. Together, this process took four weeks to implement. You can see a presentation on this process with sample work here. I designed it as such so that students could see the connection between the content we were studying and problem solving strategies I had taught them, all from problems set in a real-world context.

At the end of my action research, I used the final assignment to gather data on students’ overall score on the 10-point rubric referenced earlier. I found that my class average went from a 7.4/10 to a 9.1/10, which was so encouraging. Although I only focused on a very small area of instruction in my classroom, seeing such results validated the need to continue this type of work in the future.

The concept of action research has really changed the way I am considering my instruction and how I am going to plan in the future. Overall, I believe that great teachers are those that keep learning throughout their career. An action research model allows me to do that. I love the concept of starting with a dream or a wish for my classroom and using that wish to design a focus for new work. I plan to spend some of my reflection time this year, and this summer, to come up with a new wish for my classroom next year. Once I have determined my wish, I am going to make the time to research what others have found works and does not work as related to my goal. Then I am going to create a baseline, and go. My learning will directly impact my students’ learning, and my students should benefit from this. Having a goal that will span a few months, or even an entire year, backed by research, will allow me to monitor my students’ growth and make appropriate changes. I even have an idea about where I want to go with my next, personal, action research. I am noticing throughout this year that Algebra 1 students are struggling with modeling situations in multiple ways, including algebraically and graphically. I intend to spend some time this summer looking into best practice for making this connection in students, designing and creating a change in my curriculum to hopefully help students in a skill that has been notoriously difficult as long as I have been teaching Algebra 1.

This class has empowered me to consider my classroom as a perfect place to make changes that are supported by research, for the best of the students. Change can be hard, and it can be easy to fall into a rut as a teacher where you continually do what you have done before because it worked before. This class reminded me that you can always improve upon what you did before, and that a defined plan, with research to back it up, can be better for everyone.


Jitendra, A.K., Peterson-Brown, S., Lein, A.E., Zaslofsky, A.F., Kunkel, A.K., Jung, P.G., Egan, A.M. (2015). Teaching  mathematical word problem solving:the quality of evidence for strategy instruction priming the problem structure. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48(1), 51-72.

Nichol, M. (2009, October 28). NCTM advocates teaching reasoning in high school math. Eductopia, retrieved from

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four Stage Process for Educators and School Teams. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Swanson, H.L., Orosco, M.J., Lussier, C.M. (2014) The effects of mathematics strategy instruction for children with serious problem-solving difficulties. Exceptional Children, 80(2), 149-168.

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Twitter Chat Instead of Edcamp

This week I wasn’t able to attend the Edcamp in Seattle because I was working with my National Board cohort. I was really disappointed to miss this event, especially because my husband had just recently completed a conference run in a similar style – where the participants drive the sessions – and he had such amazing things to say about it. My make up assignment was to research about twitter chats, and participate in one related to my teaching area. This was also something that I wanted to do as part of my technology growth plan. It is very hard for me to participate in off-site conferences – largely due to the fact that I have young children, so I was really looking forward to a way to connect with other educators without having to leave my house! I did some research and decided to try my hand with the #mathchat chat that supposedly happens every Thursday at 4pm. Unfortunately, I was not successful. My understanding of a twitter chat is that a moderator often posts a question, or series of questions, and then others respond and crate a dialogue. There was nothing happening today at 4pm…I have read through the twitter feed for #mathchat, and have discovered some fun resources, silly stories about teaching math, and plenty of sale pitches, but not the community coming together that I had hoped for. I’m not giving up! I will try to find and participate in other twitter chats, but I can’t say my first try went very well.

I don’t want to focus on just the failure, so I would like to share some successes of this last week too. My Foundations for Calculus students just completed a problem solving project that involved them creating either a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation of their solution to a complex problem, then posted it on a Haiku discussion board and commented on the work of 5 of their peers. This activity went beautifully, and the students were able to come up with some amazingly creative and informative projects. I’ve used in my Algebra 1 class almost daily as a way for students to give me information. I’ve used it for exit tickets, and had students take pictures of their work for the post. I’ve used it for warm ups and to access prior knowledge, and I’ve used it for students to work as a group and then share out their thinking to the rest of the class. It’s a collaborative tool as well – there are times I use one Padlet for both periods of Algebra 1, which allows them to see the work of others who aren’t in their class period. These are all very powerful tools that have allowed me to create assignments that are authentic and applicable in my classroom. Currently, my Algebra 1 students are working on infographics for diagrams of real world functions. I’m very excited to see how it all turns out.

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