The uses of writing in action research


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Carol was teaching English at a local comprehensive school on her second teaching practice. After much discussion and research she finally came up with the question: ‘How can I make ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ more accessible, enjoyable and interesting to my tenth year mixed ability group?’ In her final report she wrote:
‘In summary I have discovered that for me, the most satisfying mode of teaching is to involve the children as much as possible in all decision making processes, to force responsibility on them for their own actions and learning, and certainly to treat them as friends and adults. This has been perhaps the first step on the road to creating my own style of working and it is certainly due to the minute details of analysis which are used in Action Research. What is fascinating about this is that it reflects something which Moira declares as a stated aim in her own Action Research enquiry, which has to do with helping people like me on our first attempts at A.R.: “Something was needed that would give student teachers a sense of the importance of creating their own values and realities in their own classrooms based upon systematic research into their own practice.” Well it has certainly done that for me. The most surprising thing for me from the whole enquiry has been to discover that some of the best things I achieved during my teaching practice, were not among my original stated aims and objectives.. It seems to me that one of the greatest achievements of this Year Ten group was a high level of independence, the beginning of an ability to make decisions for themselves and perhaps even the awareness of of the fact that their opinions are as valid as those of their teachers. ...What I failed to do in this enquiry was to link up all the values and ideas that have emerged for me on this course and to try and see how these related to this particular enquiry...I think that the action research enquiry certainly benefited me and them for all the reasons outlined above. In the writing of this report as well I have come to realise that even though the gathering of evidence is certainly a most difficult task, the question of comparing what they learnt through my method of teaching with what they might have learnt with someone else is actually fruitless. As Moira wrote on 17.5.91.: “A.R. starts from the premise that interactions between human beings are unique and can be described and captured through sensitive and imaginative portrayals from which professional judgements can be made about likelihoods...That learning would have taken place with another teacher is not in dispute, but it would have been different learning with different outcomes. All we can do is to try and improve the quality of our own practice in our own environments.”

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