I have been bored since summer semester ended two weeks ago. While I usually spend my free time in independent research, I had come to a stopping place in my research before spring semester started, and so I have been at odds and ends during this month-long break. All I have done for the past two weeks is complain about how bored I am.
Last week I ordered a book that looked promising, like something that may spur my research into deeper areas. I received the book in the mail on Saturday and was finally able to open it yesterday. Let me just say that I haven’t even made it through the introduction yet, and my research has not just been taken into deeper areas, but entirely new and promising areas.
These areas have to do with teacher research, which I spent time looking into yesterday, and co-inquiry, which I have been delving into today. I have to admit, the idea of doing either piques my interest; the idea of learning how to do them better stimulates it even more. Teacher research is the idea that the teacher is something of a scientist in their own classroom, looking at problems and situations in their classroom as a scientist would and hypothesizing and researching how to fix those problems or deal with situations. It involves a lot of documentation, research, and journaling – each of which I already do on a small scale. I used to do a lot of journaling in my old classroom, but I haven’t picked it back up since coming into my new classroom. The idea of doing something like this on a grand, scientific, professional scale is a great one; I would love to learn how to accomplish this kind of research in my classroom in an effective way, and in a way that can be passed on to others who may be able to learn from it.
The co-inquiry aspect of teacher research fascinates me as well. I have often dreamed about working in a center where teachers are working together to solve their problem areas – like a community of teachers, each working with the others to build their knowledge, solve their problems, and encourage each other on their paths as teachers. After all, each of us is working together in the same building with the same children. It makes sense to me to do anything possible to build that sense of community within the building. Building that type of support system could also lead to a group of teachers being better able to reach out to the community around them because they would be doing it in a unified, cooperative manner.
Teacher research and co-inquiry seem to go hand-in-hand; as each teacher deals with elements of their own classroom they apply teacher research to those elements. In presenting them to their co-teachers, they use co-inquiry.
The hard part has been finding a cohesive format in which to do teacher research. In order for this kind of research to be effective, it needs to be done right. I’m sure that something could be learned from any type of inquiry, but a standard format would be helpful. I have seen all kinds of articles relating to how teacher research and co-inquiry can help teachers, but not much has been written on the process to follow in doing teacher research. Here and here are great articles on how to conduct co-inquiries with colleagues.
I wish that I could summarize exactly how I feel about finding these valuable tools, but my brain is still processing everything that I have found (my own phrase for my cognitive dissonance: “My brain hurts!”). I do feel that these tools are extremely valuable and could not only change how I teach and view teaching, but they could change the entire atmosphere at the place that I work as well. My job now is to keep researching and find out how to do what needs to be done to implement these practices.
Oh, and I ordered a new book…
Update: Here is a great article about some of the issues surrounding teacher research.