Action research for teacher development
It is inspiring to see that the National Institute of Education has
initiated a very comprehensive project to involve a selected number of
teachers and teacher advisors in doing action research aiming at their
professional development under the guidance of Dr Godwin Kodithuwakku,
himself a professional researcher and the Director of the Research
Department and ADG of the Faculty of Languages, Humanities and Social
Reading these reports not only enlighten us about the effectiveness
and usefulness of the project but also throws light on to what can be
done for the continuous professional development of teachers and
enhancing the quality of their remedial teaching.
Training necessary for professional development of teachers
What is important about action research is that it is a very
productive way of researching into one's own learning. In other words,
it provides rich opportunities for the teachers to look at their own
practice so that they can check whether what they implement brings in
the expected results. Since action research basically focuses on the
researcher himself, it involved teachers carefully thinking about what
they do. This quality of action research makes teachers reflect on their
own work in order to improve their practice through the learning they
acquire from the research.
Action research is not merely doing activities; rather it is a form
of practice that involves data gathering, reflection on the action,
generating evidence from the data and making claims to knowledge based
on the conclusions. Trying to find solutions for the problems teachers
encounter in the classroom, from outside sources is of no use due to a
number of reasons.
One important argument for this is that teachersí problems are
situational, and making therefore attempts to employ strategies
practised elsewhere does not seem to bring in the expected results.
For example, studentsí learning is to a great extent influenced by
the socio-cultural factors found in the society they live in. One
important feature of action research is that it is situational. Thus,
action research provides real situations for the teachers to reflect and
improve their own work and their own situations.
A different perspective
As was discussed elsewhere in this article, action research helps
teachers interlink their reflection with classroom practice with a view
to be professionally mature and to evaluating the effectiveness of their
own work as a basis for further development. Another interesting
phenomenon is that teachers gather data in relation to their own
question so that they can productively involve in decision making for
their own work. In addition to the self-reflection and self-evaluation,
it allows space for collaboration that leads to create a critical
community working towards a common goal.
It has been observed that teachers mainly learn from their colleagues
rather than from other sources such as supervisorsí instructional role,
books and magazines on teaching etc. In this context, collaborative
action research is an immense help for the teachers to work together
with common interests for their own professional development. Further,
emancipatory interests found in action research help teachers free
themselves from the dominating forces which control their knowledge and
think independently of their own work. It is evident that teachers are
expected to work in a politically constituted nature of their own social
practice. Doing action research liberates teachers from their
conditioned frame of reference for them to look at their own problems
with innovative perspectives.
In action research, teachers review their own practice and identify
the aspects they want to improve. This quality becomes significant
because every problem a particular teacher faces is specific with its
own characteristics. Since he finds facts regarding his problem, it
creates opportunities for him to identify its nature in order to take
action towards it. This understanding helps him imagine a way forward
and implement it and take stocks of what happens in the classroom. He
has a pre-planned set of measurements for him to evaluate how he
progresses with his teaching and to reflect on it. The learning he gains
from this in turn enables him to modify his plan and continue until he
achieves his goals. These procedures reveal that action research
contains a cycles of actions to be carried out until the expected
results are obtained.
It is a fact that application of educational theories and strategies
imported from Europe to solve our own problems has not produced fruitful
results, for the socio-political cultural conditions of the society tend
to have a big impact on the teaching learning process.
In action research, there are ample avenues for the teachers to
generate theories from the data they collect in implementing their own
actions. It is these theories which help them find practical solutions
for their problems.
There is no denying the fact that teachers at the grass roots level
come in for innumerable problems related to their own social contexts.
Therefore, what the Department of Education can do in this respect is
to take a policy decision to equip all the teachers in the country with
the skills of doing action research.