The Ontario Action Researcher


Bringing Standards of Practice to Life

Jackie Delong and Ron Wideman

In the first issue of the Ontario Action Researcher Jackie Delong and Jack Whitehead (1999) encouraged teachers and other practitioners to make the standards of practice for the teaching profession (Ontario College of Teachers, 1999) living and regenerative through writing narratives of their ongoing development as teachers. Seeing standards of practice as dynamic and regenerative involves teachers in using the general standards of practice of the collage to clarify and examine their own standards specific to their own classrooms, schools, and communities. If teachers embark on this process and write their stories they will resist the tendency to apply standards as static, linguistic checklists and avoid the errors of the kind made by the United Kingdom Teacher Training Agency. (Graham, 1998; Wragg, 1998).

Action research is imbued with the process of self assessment and evaluation and enables the teacher to act on that evaluation in constructive ways designed to investigate and improve practice. It is in tune with what Ruth Sutton (1997) refers to as the key to assessment and evaluation – "feed back: feed forward." What we learn through research, by looking at the effectiveness of our practice, informs our efforts to improve student learning and leads to further assessment activity. This is the action reflection spiral referred to by McNiff. (1992)

If the teachers’ action research projects are shared, a body of knowledge is developed over time that informs understanding of the meaning of the standards and enables their further clarification and improvement. Thus, writing and sharing of one’s investigations is critical to the improvement of practice not only for the individual teacher but also for the profession as a whole. Sharing not only increases validity and promotes accountability (Taylor & Bogdan, 1984) it is also the vehicle for developing the necessary body of professional knowledge on education.

In our experience, growing numbers of school boards in Ontario are integrating the standards of practice for the teaching profession into their teacher performance review processes. Action research integrates easily with the professional growth strand model of performance review because it assumes the professional’s responsibility to take control of, and be accountable for, his/her individual professional growth (Barkans, MacDonald, & Morgan, 1996). When teachers articulate improvements in student learning as a result of their improvements in practice, they have evidence to substantiate their claims based on the collection and analysis of data from their own classrooms.

Action research is a research process different than the stereotyped notion of research many hold. It includes flexible design, emergent process, qualitative and quantitative methods, and alternative forms of representation. The use of research methods is informed by general principles of effective research design rather than fixed and formulaic procedures (Mills, 1959; Taylor & Bogdan, 1984; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Action research is also inclusive, collaborative, and dialogical. The voices of others enhance and extend the understanding of the individual and may in fact validate or disturb that understanding. Critical dialogue among trusted colleagues (critical friends) about the data challenges the teacher to think beyond his/her own conclusions and assumptions. If readers respond to and discuss the articles in this journal, using the listserv provided for the purpose, they become part of the dialogue that contributes to the research process.

In this issue

In this issue Fran Squire writes about the development of standards of practice for the teaching profession. She shares the concerns of Delong and Whitehead (1999) that teachers be able "to see the work they do described in the standards" (Ontario College of Teachers, 1999, p. 5) and contribute their stories to the clarification of the standards. Fran argues that action research is a powerful means of professional learning and expresses "the dilemma of the College in encouraging reflective practice while struggling with the issues of institutional recognition."

Linda Miller’s article in this issue describes her work teaching mathematical problem solving strategies to Grade 4 students for the purpose of increasing students’ confidence and independence as learners. Linda describes how she has changed as a teacher of mathematics as a result of her action research and writes that her belief in the value of games and activities as learning tools has increased.

Ruth Mills writes about action research into early literacy in five schools. The article describes the results of efforts to improve students’ skills in reading comprehension using a guided reading process. Data was collected in a variety of ways including standardized reading comprehension tests, observation, teacher journals, and student questionnaires. Student reading ability improved as did teachers ability to use guided reading effectively.

Resource List

Barkans, L., MacDonald, B., & Morgan, A. (1996). "A journey through action research." In N. D. Halsall & L. A. Hossack. Act, reflect, revise: Revitalize. Mississauga, Ontario: The Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation.

Delong, J. & Whitehead, J. (1999). "Continually regenerating developmental standards of practice in teacher education: A cautionary note for the Ontario College of Teachers." <u>The Ontario Action Researcher</u> 1(1). Available:

Graham, J. (1998) "From new right to new deal: Nationalism, globalization, and the regulation of teacher professionalism." Journal of In-Service Education. 29(1) pp. 9–29.

Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverley Hills, California: Sage.

McNiff, J. (1992). "Creating a good social order through action research." Bournmouth: Hyde.

Mills, C. W. (1959). The sociological imagination. London: Oxford University Press.

Ontario College of Teachers. (1999). Standards of practice for the teaching profession. Toronto: Author.

Sutton, R. (1997) The learning school. Salford: RS publications.

Taylor, S. J. & Bogdan, R. (1984). Introduction to qualitative research methods: The search for meanings. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Wragg, T. (1998). Times Educational Supplement. P.22, 16/9/99