Action research papers in education

Systematization of the research. As previously mentioned the members of the groups met regularly to discuss what had been done, evaluate the results and plan the following actions. Monthly meetings occurred with the presence of the advisor, however, the public school teachers had other meetings as the group felt it was necessary. In order to help the members of the group better systematize their research, two seminars and written papers in English were scheduled. All the group members were supposed to present orally using the appropriate visual aids 4.

The seminars occurred in July and December and all the participants received feedback in terms of the presentation itself, the action research being developed and genre adequacy including format and linguistics aspect. As mentioned above, the groups also had to turn in a written paper discussing the research.

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Two versions were turned in and the groups also received feedback to improve them. The advisors called teachers' attention to the fact that the seminar and the written paper were very different genres and, therefore, language choices for each genre were discussed. Research phases. At first the groups discussed together with their advisor a definition of the broad problem.

The idea was that if the problem posed was too broad the group should try to narrow it down to an aspect that could be observed and intervened at during the year. At that point this narrowing down many times did not occur. Second, the members of the group set to visit each other's classes. When this was not possible due to the distance between teachers' schools or time constraints, the teachers were encouraged to film their classes and meet to discuss them.

Third, after one or two observations, the group started collecting data to narrow down the problem.

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Many groups used questionnaires to get information from their students. Others analyzed the results of ordinary activities they gave to their students. Fourth, the group analyzed the data collected and made plans to implement different actions in their classes. The implementation was not exactly the same for every teacher since they considered their students' needs, interest and age, the course program and time constraints. Fifth, all teachers brought the results of their actions and they were assessed by everyone in the group.

This led to new implementations, new observations and new assessment. This cycle encouraged teachers to see the new actions as part of the professional development they were engaged in. The results of this experiment can be understood according to three major aspects.

The first one is related to the understanding of the goals and meanings of action research itself, the second one is about the process of carrying on collaborative action research and the third one is associated with the different levels of participants commitment to the research. In addition to these aspects, it is also important to discuss the positive outcomes of this experience, which led us to improve our approach to developing teachers' autonomy as it will be discussed below.

In this article, we have decided to focus both on the difficulties that emerged during the year we first implemented the collaborative action research in the Continuing Education Program as well as on the positive outcomes of the experience, which made us believe that collaborative action research is a very important tool for professional development, as the final evaluation of the whole experience has revealed. Different processes: misconception of action research.

Although our experience predicted different ways of approaching the theoretical basis of action research, as well as the roles and importance of collaboration in order to have participants aware of the steps to be followed during the research process, some participants misunderstood what action research actually is and came out with results that differed from our initial expectations There was an alternative to present innovative activities developed in their classrooms; however, most participants chose to carry out the action research option.

This way, although some groups considered their work as being the result of action research, the outcomes in fact, were the development of teaching plans and projects, the implementation of new techniques, the development of materials and the production of theoretical papers. In analyzing these results, it can be concluded that because of its bottom up nature, the participants' choice still led them to become more autonomous, as well as more motivated to develop action research in the future.

Different levels of commitment. Another challenge we had to face was related to the different levels of commitment to the Collaborative Action Research Project. Some participants would complete their tasks according to the project schedule, others would delay most of the required activities. Some group members would skip meetings or be late with their activities, others would schedule extra meetings.

It was possible to infer that some of these problems could be explained by the inherent difficulties of the challenge of doing research for the first time. Participants continuously reported lack of confidence in the quality of what they had been doing. They found it difficult to formulate a research problem, define the objective of actions and narrow the focus of their analysis.

Three Purposes for Action Research

Also, the presentation of the results meant another problem to be overcome, as the participants were not familiar with that academic practice and some of them did not have the language skills necessary for it. Moreover, since the presentations were supposed to include the results of their achievement, some participants still seemed to be unaware of the meanings of the research process they had just experienced. Based on this set of observations, the coordinators decided to employ a more directive approach to providing feedback for participants written papers and presentations in the second semester of the project.

There was also the concern of reinforcing the theoretical and practical principles of action-research in all methodology classes. The collaborative aspect of the work was also a challenge for the teachers. Many participants did have a very heavy workload some of them had a three shift working day , so that it became very difficult for them to find time to schedule extra meetings with other group members. It is important to draw attention to the fact that online meetings or communication was not an effective possibility as only a small number of participants had either access to a PC or the necessary skills to work with it.

Certainly, though, we consider it extremely important to emphasize the fact that any teacher education strategy has to take into account teachers' working conditions as fundamental for the success of any approach undertaken to foster their autonomy Jorge At the end of the project, we realized that first year student-teachers were more motivated and committed to the research process than the second year students.

This information can be explained by the teachers' working conditions. In the second year of EDUCONLE, it was harder for them to be out of schools to attend our course, and the school staff would not be very responsive to or supportive of the teachers' participation in our Continuing Education Program. So far we have mentioned some of the challenges we had to face while carrying on a collaborative action research project with student-teachers.

From this point on, we will highlight the successful outcomes of the experience based mainly on the results of the groups' performance as well as our reflection that lead us to implement changes in our Continuing Education Program in the following year. Successful outcomes and new actions. One of the most prominent aspects we noticed is that the student-teachers, in spite of all new challenges to be faced, were quite motivated to organize their research and present their results.

The most successful groups were able to determine the research topic and choose the suitable instruments to determine the research problem, such as questionnaires to assess students' desires and beliefs. These types of questionnaires have been used, from time to time, by different action research groups. The student-teachers, who at first believed their students were not interested in English, taking into consideration their lack of participation in class, surprisingly discovered that their students were eager to learn English.

It was also possible for some of the groups to make a clear connection with the theory studied in the methodology classes.

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As mentioned above first year student-teachers seemed to be more willing to try alternatives in their professional life and some of them have spontaneously referred to collaborative action research as the door to envision new possibilities in their pedagogical practice and a chance to put into practice the theories they had been studying. In a study that aimed at detecting teachers' resignification of beliefs and professional changes, Arruda's 43 participant explicitly talked about collaborative action research as the dividing line in his first year in the continuing education program as his lesson plans started to include issues not yet explored in his practice:.

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Actually, I only started to change my way of teaching when the "action-research" project began in our course. Our group started to think and practice the theory with together with our experience and reality of each member with the support of our supervisor. From then on, I followed new perspectives when planning a class.

However, this did not mean that I totally abandoned my old expository class, but, now, I can count on more flexibility to prepare my class. Various topics were chosen by the groups to be worked on, and the problems posed were narrowed down or redefined during the course of the year. Some of the problems teachers wanted to solve in their classes were students' problems in a writing, b listening comprehension, c reading, and d doing grammar and translation exercises. One of the groups first determined that their students used the target language very little in the classroom.

Upon group reflection they realized that they should investigate the implementation of listening comprehension activities in their classes, as students were not comfortable with this essential skill for oral production and neither were they with carrying out such activities. In their written report they wrote:.

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The need of doing an action research with beginner students of English was a consequence of five teachers' perception that the listening skill must be practiced since the beginning of students' contact with the target language so that they are acquainted with it and feel it as natural as possible. Besides, the action research participants found out that they also had great difficulties in working with this skill and wanted to get to know how to deal with this problem and solve it.

Fernandes et al. This group had two participants implement the listening comprehension activities in their classes and the three other members were observers. They reported on all the steps the group planned from a questionnaire about students' difficulties to the observation of the class. The group presented both students positive and negative feelings about the activities as well as their opinions. One student said:. I feel more comfortable in listening to English and the teacher pronouncing English words. But it isn't every day that I listen to the teacher speaking English because I have just an English class a week.

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I like to listen to someone talking in English. The student-teachers concluded that. The teachers believe that the positive results of this research are due to their preparation in advance for each activity proposed. Some of the groups presented role-plays, videos and also invited some of their actual students to join them during the presentations at UFMG. The general reaction was associated with a sense of achievement and the realization of what action research is about.

The seminars made action research seem more "concrete" and "possible" to be done. After a whole year focusing on the use of collaborative action research as a tool for promoting teacher's autonomy and reflection, we had several questions to be answered. Why did the first year students' outcome seem better than the second years'? Were second year participants suffering from the burnout syndrome? What should we know about the teachers before leading them into a process of self-awareness and research?

To what extent were we successful? Was there real collaboration? Some of the questions had their answers presented above, and others are still to be answered. However, all the experience reported here has led us to introduce some changes in our own practice as teacher educators.

The first thing we decided to do was to consider the portfolios used as part of student-teachers' assessment as the initial instrument to analyze classroom practice. Although the participants had a previous experience in doing portfolios in the program, we decided to reinforce the ideas that the artifacts included in the portfolios could be a starting point to detect a problem in their classroom and even find solutions to previous practice. Second, we decided to approach collaboration in a more innovative way, creating a course on "Classroom Ethnography" which requires undergraduate students from our college to pair with EDUCONLE's students and develop an ethnographic project in school settings.

This way, we have the expectation that in-service education and pre-service education can be integrated in order to have the newcomers and the more mature professionals help each other in finding new ways to autonomy. This paper aimed at discussing autonomy in the light of a collaborative action research initiative with fifty English public school teachers engaged in a continuing education program.