Monday, December 23, 2013

When organizational politic work within and against action research in a school community

For years, action research has been a tool teachers (and others) have used to address a wide variety of issues.  Whether addressing a school-wide curriculum concern,
addressing a problem of practice in their classroom, or struggling to connect with an individual student, teachers around the globe are using action research as a means to empower themselves and those around them to effect change.

Our article in the Action Research Journal looks at one principal’s attempt to mandate action research for all those in her school community.  Knowing the power of action research, the principal believed that this type of research would provide the teachers with a tool to enact change.  By empowering her teachers, she believed that she could ensure that ALL children receive the educations they deserve.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly according to the literature), this mandate—born out of her desire to empower teachers—caused a wide variety of tensions in the schools.  In our article, “Politics and Action Research: An Examination of One School’s Mandated Action Research Program,” we examine the ways that organizational politics worked within and against the action research program. 

While excellent work was produced by many of the teachers, the action research program uncovered historical tensions in the school and pitted factions of teachers against one another.  As researchers connected with the school and its teachers, we found these events fascinating.  Throughout our time with the school, we asked ourselves questions such as:

            • Why do some educators bristle at the thought of mandated professional development even when they are given the autonomy to enact their own agency?

            • What would it take to authentically engage an entire school in the action research process?

            • How do we encourage thoughtful administrators—who simply want to engage teachers in providing quality educational experiences for all children—to pursue action research as a viable option for professional development?

While our intent is not to support or reject mandated action research programs in schools, we believe the tale we tell in our article will give others pause as they design professional development opportunities for their schools.  

We truly believe in the power of action research, and we look forward to thinking through the questions above with you!

Ryan Flessner and Shanna Stuckey

You can access this article for FREE for the next 30 days by clicking HERE.

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