Phase 1: Identifying a Classroom Problem

“A (classroom) problem adequately stated is a (classroom) problem well on its way to being solved.”
~ R. Buckminster Fuller

As an action researcher, teachers should begin the process by identifying an issue in the classroom that is an area of concern, e.g., a need that is reflected in a level of student learning that does not meet the teacher’s expectations. To adequately identify a classroom problem, an action researcher takes the needed time to investigate their initial areas of concern by collecting and analyzing information specifically aligned to the students’ learning needs. “Teachers who rush to complete the problem formulation stage are more likely to flounder in their later efforts, whereas teachers who take their time to reflect on and define their problem are more likely to pursue questions yielding meaningful results” (Sagor, pg 12, 1992).

To begin the action research process, teachers first observe, question, and reflect on the actual situation (the entire classroom or a group of students) in order to investigate the classroom concerns. By evaluating the current situation and comparing it to the expectations and curricular standards for all of the students, additional specific data will help identify the classroom problem or issue to study. This process may take time to observe and interview students while engaged in learning, to analyze their work samples, and to collect classroom assessments. It can be helpful to collaborate with another teacher, mentor, or instructional coach at this point – especially a knowledgeable resource that has observed the students in the class.

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