Monday, July 31, 2017

Effective Teaching and Learning Through Implementation of Class-Wide and Systemic Action Research

It is not enough to want change or to need to change, we must experience change!  Although this profound truth can be stated in manner ways, to attain related goals this axiom clearly supports the need for vision and purpose that is followed by right action.  Ideally, those goals are honorable and the purpose of the desired change is to make better possible.  "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds" (James 2:17-18). 
As part of educational improvement processes, the impact of a specific instructional practice on student learning can be measured based on data collection and analysis.  The results then form the basis for educational planning, innovation, and effective decision-making.  Action research is a process in which teachers systematically investigate instructional practices and techniques to improve their teaching and student learning.  The impact of a specific instructional practice on student learning is measured.  The resulting data becomes the basis for further educational planning and decision-making.

However, action research can also be utilized for promoting continual professional development and providing a direct route for systemic teaching and learning improvement (Calhoun, 2002).  Respective of the correlates of Effective Schools Research (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011) and tenets of Invitational Theory and Practice (Shaw, Siegel, & Schoenlein, 2013), using effective leadership to encourage action research with the collection and analysis of data to monitor and adjust programs, policies, people, places, and processes, facilitates school-wide change.  Thus, systemic action research offers the opportunity to transform the school’s climate and level of educational effectiveness. 

When the effective educational leader begins to investigate the practicality of implementing action research school-wide, the following questions should be addressed:

  • What does the disaggregated classroom data reflect about student and teacher learning?
  • What do teachers need to learn in order to impact specific student learning needs?
  • How is the school going to support teacher learning to ensure student achievement?
  • How will teachers and the school evaluate classroom instruction and professional learning? What evaluation tools will be used?
  • How will teachers and the school use the information collected through the evaluation to make specific and targeted decisions regarding research-based instructional strategies?

Through utilization of action research as a systemic process, the educational leader increases development of the disciplines required to promote a learning organization.  The five primary disciplines of a learning organization were identified by Senge (1990) as: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.  By utilizing these disciplines, facilitating the learning of teachers and students, and transforming itself as part of a continuous improvement process, a school will thereby begin to exhibit the essential features of a learning organization.  In addition to Senge’s (1990) systems model, Steiner's (1998) organizational learning model garnered a lot of attention. 

An effective change leader’s new role and additional responsibilities would be to support staff transitions throughout the change process.  This is optimized by helping build resiliency during change.  It is also essential for the change leader to willingly destabilize the system to promote innovation, provide workplace balance, and thereby create a learning organization.  Since this requires a change in the educational leader’s primary purpose, the creation of organizational structure that encourages a culture of learning (Senge, Kleinder, Roberts, Ross, and Smith, 1994) requires the right people becoming part of the organization.  Therefore, the role of an educational change leader needs to be much more proactive, inclusive, trusting, supportive and trustworthy.  Being proactive will mitigate reacting to or worrying about conditions over which the educational leader has little or no control. 

As a result, the proactive educational change leader is better able to focus time and energy on what can be controlled.  Covey (1989) identified the importance of allowing problems, challenges, and opportunities to fall into two areas--Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.  Proficiency in this area allows the educational change leader to attend to the appropriate details within his or her sphere (Senge et al., 1994).  Ideally, the result can then be a school that is a learning organization prepared to promote the learning for all mission!

To cite:

Anderson, C.J. (July 31, 2017) Effective teaching and learning through implementation of class-wide
and system action research.  [Web log post] Retrieved from


Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New

                York: Free Press

Lezotte, L. W., & Snyder, K. M. (2011). What effective schools do: Re-envisioning the correlates.

Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Purkey, W. (1992). An invitation to invitational theory. Journal of Invitational Theory and

Practice, 1(1), 5-15.

Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline. London ENG: Century Business

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., & Smith, B. J. (1994). The fifth discipline

                fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York:


Shaw, D., Siegel, B., & Schoenlein, A. (2013). The basic tenets of invitational theory and

practice: An invitational glossary. Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 19, 30-42