“Developing a Definition of Teacher Researcher” defines teacher research as being intentional, systematic, public, voluntary, ethical, and contextual.
Teachers choose research questions that matter to them, and their research is responsive to their learning needs. While teachers can’t predict their discoveries, they approach the process of research with the intention of learning more about their teaching and their students’ learning.
Teacher researchers analyze both quantitative and qualitative data. They collect a variety of kinds of data in order to triangulate findings. They formulate theories in relation to their analysis.
Often, students and colleagues are enlisted as co-researchers. Teacher researchers discuss data, hunches, assumptions, methods, and their interpretations. They also make an effort to make their research public and join the professional discourse.
There is a potential risk and vulnerability to this kind of work because teachers publically examine their beliefs, assumptions, and understandings.
A teacher researcher’s primary responsibility is to the students. They should seek student affirmation and acknowledge discrepancies.
Rather than attempt to control variables, teacher researchers “strive to define, articulate, and elucidate the context as a whole”. The research shapes and is shaped by its context.
Marian M. Mohr’s article, “The Teacher as Researcher”, was very interesting. Mohr begins by mentioning that she began work as a teacher researcher almost by accident—at least not intentionally. She started keeping a journal of her day to day experiences in the classroom in order to make sense of her seemingly overwhelming introduction into life as a teacher. She mentions that there was just too much going on each day to really process any of it fully.
Mohr notes that teacher researchers are like students in their own classrooms. They need to pay attention and notice the details of their classes’ experiences. One of the learning experiences that she writes about came from an experience of misspelling a spelling word. She writes about the “humiliation of not knowing everything”—a teacher’s worst nightmare. But the class as a whole seemed to grow from the experience. She also writes about discussing her students’ writing habits with them. At first, she thought some students made noise or could not sit still while writing because they were not paying attention. She thought this was something that had to be stopped. It happened to be the opposite; the students were paying so much attention to their writing that they simply tuned out their habits and those of their classmates.
In closing, Mohr writes that she became more of a professional because she became more of a student in her own classroom. She learned and grew from her experiences and observations.
In “A Teacher-Research Group in Action”, Schecter and Ramirez conducted a study which sought to address several concerns about teacher research. The authors were concerned with the kinds of support that a teacher researcher needs in order to conduct classroom research, the effects of becoming researchers on teachers’ views of classroom practice, and the kinds of knowledge that teacher research can provide.
The authors used audio recordings, field notes, formal interviews, participant journals, and participant progress reports in order to conduct their research. They found that a theme of professional self-growth emerged amongst the teachers. Many reported positive effects as they sought to address the question: “what works in the classroom?” There were some concerns surrounding support. Some teachers expressed concern with “being able to find time to sit down and concentrate and do some writing”. Others were concerned with “the structure and content of the group meetings”. However, the research seemed to point to more benefits than not.