Improving Teaching and Learning
through Action Research
REL Appalachia
Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC)
June 19, 2015
Hazard, Kentucky
Overview of Regional Educational
Laboratory (REL) Appalachia
Michael Flory, Alliance Researcher,
REL Appalachia
Please Tweet!
• To tweet during this event:
– @REL_Appalachia
• Use hashtag:
– #ActionResearchKY
What Is the REL Program?
• Authorized by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.
• Charged with helping to build a more evidence-reliant
education system.
• Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of
Education Sciences (IES).
REL Appalachia’s Mission
• Meet the applied research and technical assistance needs of
Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
• Bring evidence-based information to policy makers and
– Provide support for a more evidence-reliant education system.
– Inform policy and practice for states, districts, schools, and other
– Focus on high-priority, discrete issues and build a body of knowledge
over time.
How We Work: Research Alliances
• What is a research alliance?
– A partnership between education stakeholders and REL Appalachia.
• What is the purpose of a research alliance?
– Develop and carry out a research and analytic technical assistance
agenda on priority topics.
• Who are the education stakeholders in an alliance?
– Schools, local education agencies, state education agencies, regional
cooperatives, and other organizations (e.g., colleges and universities).
Kentucky College and Career Readiness Alliance (KyCCRA)
• Member organizations:
– Southeast/Southcentral Educational Cooperative (SESC).
– Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative (CKEC).
– Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC).
– Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC).
– Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES).
– Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC).
– West Kentucky Educational Cooperative (WKEC).
– Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
– Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).
KyCCRA Goals and Topics
• Goals
– Understand the use and effectiveness of strategies to prepare
students for college and careers.
– Understand and increase student engagement in schools.
• Topics
– Dual enrollment/dual credit programs.
– Student engagement.
– College and career readiness interventions.
– Educator effectiveness.
– Data use.
Introduction to Today’s Workshop
Bernadette Carpenter, Instructional Lead, KVEC
Abbie Combs, Educator Effectiveness Lead, Appalachian
Renaissance Initiative (ARI), KVEC
KVEC Schools and Districts Engaging in Action Research
• Purpose: Why conduct action research?
• Benefits:
– Professionalize teaching and learning.
– Empower teachers.
– Enhance motivation and effectiveness of school faculty.
Workshop Goals
• Learn about what action research is and its relationship to
data-based decisionmaking.
• Learn the steps in the action research process.
• Practice developing an action research plan around a specific
problem of practice.
• Become familiar with resources to support action research in
the classroom.
Overview of Action Research
Patricia Kannapel, Alliance Coordinator,
REL Appalachia
References for this Presentation
• Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems.
Journal of Social Issues, 2(4), 34-46.
• Mertler, C. (2006). Action research: Teachers as researchers in
the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
• Mills, G. (2000). Action research: A guide for the teacher
researcher. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
• Rust, F. O’C., & Meyers, E. (2006). The bright side: Teacher
research in the context of educational reform and
policymaking. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice,
12(1), 69-86.
What is Action Research?
• “Action research” coined by psychologist Kurt Lewin (1946).
• Seeks to involve ordinary people in research to solve
• Used in many fields, including education.
What is Action Research?
• Various definitions in the educational literature, including:
– “…the essential activity of a reflective teacher, as a viable means
for teachers to question the impact of their practice on student
achievement and as a way of bringing teachers’ voices into the
discourse around education policy” (Rust & Meyers, 2006, pp.
– “…any systematic inquiry conducted by teacher researchers,
principals, school counselors, or other stakeholders in the
teaching/learning environment, to gather information about
the ways that their particular schools operate, how they teach,
and how well their students learn” (Mills, 2000, pp. 6).
Data-Based Decision Making and Action Research
The Action Research Process
Mills (2000)
Mertler (2006)
ARI Cycle (2014)
Identify focus area
Identify/limit topic
Identify focus/research
Collect data
Review literature
Collect/analyze evidence
(learn more about the
Analyze/interpret data
Develop research plan
Develop action plan
Develop action plan
Implement plan/collect
Implement/monitor plan
Analyze data
Communicate results
Develop action plan
Continue reflection
Communicate results
Reflect on the process
A Sample Action Research Project:
OneNote Close Reading and
Rachel Holbrook, Ed.D., English Language Arts Teacher,
Johnson County Middle School
ARI Action Research Cycle
STEP 1: Identify Area of Focus and Research Question
• Problem of practice: Effective reading strategies to improve
comprehension of informational and literary text.
• Research question: Does the use of Microsoft Surface Pro 3
and OneNote software for close reading accompanied by
annotation improve students’ reading comprehension?
STEP 2: Collect and Analyze Evidence
• Research reviewed:
– Personal connections facilitate valuable outcomes that result from
reading and interacting with the text (Brown, 2007).
– Linking personal experience with texts helps students make
connections between existing literacy skills and those necessary for
success in disciplines outside English/language arts (National Council
of Teachers of English, 2007).
• Data reviewed: All students performed poorly (less than 70%
success rate) on initial evaluation using Achievement First
annotation rubric.
STEP 3: Develop a Plan of Action
• Strategy: Implement close
reading strategy accompanied by
explicit instruction on
annotation for each major
teaching unit.
• Resources: Use Microsoft
Surface Pro 3 and OneNote
software as tools for enhancing
close reading and annotation.
STEP 3: Develop a Plan of Action
• Students: All students in
Dr. Holbrook’s 7th grade
language arts class completed a
selected reading strategy and
annotations using traditional
paper and pencil as well as
digital tools (Surface Pro 3,
• Timeline: October 2014 – April
STEP 4: Implement and Monitor the Plan
• Evaluation plan: Monitor student progress using Achievement
First annotation rubric.
STEP 5: Communicate Results
• Findings:
– Increase in overall interaction with text.
– Increase in textual comprehension.
– Increase in ability to make inferences.
• Dissemination: Findings shared with interdisciplinary team
members, administrators, attendees at Action Research
STEP 6: Continue Reflection
• Implications for practice:
– Introduce to students early in school year. Before using
Microsoft Pro 3, introduce students to OneNote using Office
• Strengths/limitations of strategy:
– Improved student skills, enthusiasm, and responsibility.
– Surface 3 is fragile, limited to single student use at one time, and
difficult for students to record voices. Students still needed hard
copies of material.
• Next steps for teaching practice:
– Obtain multiple devices, seek alternate devices to allow access
to OneNote.
Sample Project: Table Discussion
• At your tables, discuss Rachel’s project:
– How closely did the steps in this project align with steps in the ARI
– Do you have questions about particular aspects or steps of the
– Which aspects of a project such as this one would you feel
comfortable implementing?
– Where would you need additional support? What kind of support?
– What questions do you have about conducting action research?
• Share out:
– One key question or comment your group has about action research
or this particular action research project.
Planning an Action Research Project
Michelle Scott, Mathematics Teacher,
Pikeville High School
Problem: Teaching the Same Way to 28 Different Students
Each year I have a classroom of mixed ability students all trying
to learn the same topic.
• How am I supposed to teach Johnny to find the mean if he can’t divide?
• What do I do with Ella, who already knows how to find the mean?
• What is the best way to personalize learning for all students with just one
Planning an Action Research Project: What is the problem?
• Step 1: Identify area of focus and research question:
– Problem of practice: Personalized learning in 7th grade mathematics.
– What is the research question?
• Step 2: Collect and analyze evidence (learn about the issue):
– What research will you review to learn more about this issue?
– What data will you review (including data on current student
• In your groups:
– Develop a research question and your plan for learning more
about the issue (10 minutes).
• Share out.
Michelle’s Question
• Research question: Will homogeneous, personalized learning
stations improve academic performance?
• Learning about the problem:
– I researched effective differentiation practices.
– I found information on homogeneous grouping, but mostly for gifted
– I learned about personalized learning stations at an ARI summer
training and focused my research on this particular topic.
– Research is limited on whole-classroom personalized learning, but one
study reported that it worked in the mathematics classroom so I had
to try it.
• Questions about Steps 1 and 2?
Planning: How will you solve the problem?
• Step 3: Develop a plan of action:
– Strategy to address problem of practice.
– Resources/personnel needed.
– Students involved (who and how?).
– Timeline.
• Step 4: Implement and monitor the plan:
– Evaluation plan.
• In your groups:
– Develop an action plan that addresses the points above (20 minutes).
• Share out.
Michelle’s Action Plan
• Step 3: Develop a plan of action:
– Strategy: Teach first unit as follows:
 Monday: Whole group.
 Tuesday: Practice with some sort of formative assessment.
 Wednesday–Friday: Personalized learning stations, students grouped
based on formative or summative assessment.
– Resources: Khan Academy videos (cycle 1), electronic tablets (cycle 2).
– Students involved: This year’s 7th grade math students were compared
with last year’s students, who were demographically and academically
– Timeline: One (9-week) unit.
Michelle’s Action Plan
• Step 4: Implement and monitor the plan:
– Collect assessment data throughout the unit, compare with last year’s
• Questions about Steps 3 and 4?
Did You Solve the Problem?
• Step 5: Communicate results:
– What findings might result from this project?
– With whom would you share results, and how?
• Step 6: Continue reflection:
– What are the implications of your findings for practice?
– What were the strengths and limitations of your research design?
– What are your next steps for teaching practice/action research?
• In your groups:
– Consider the findings your research might produce and the
implications of those findings (20 minutes).
• Share out.
Michelle’s Results and Reflections
• Step 5: Communicate results:
– Findings: Results of unit tests showed that personalized learning
stations improved academic performance and retention of
information more than traditional whole-group instruction.
– Dissemination:
 Shared at faculty meeting.
 Invited to elementary school to share findings and discuss how to
implement personalized learning.
 Will present at Title I conference this summer.
Michelle’s Results and Reflections
• Step 6: Continue reflection:
– Results indicated that personalized learning was effective.
– Implement personalized learning with tablets available for each group,
gather data on results.
• Questions about Steps 5 and 6?
Resources, Q&A, and Wrap-up
Patricia Kannapel
Michael Flory
Abbie Combs
Bernadette Carpenter
• REL document provided to KVEC earlier this year.
– Describes action research,
data-based decisionmaking, and
collaborative inquiry.
• Summary of action research: It’s a process that will take time
to learn and put in place!
• Lingering questions.
• Next steps for KVEC teachers.
Presenters’ Contact Information
• Patricia J. Kannapel, Alliance Coordinator;;
(502) 581-0324; (502) 645-6423.
• Michael Flory, Alliance Researcher;;
(703) 861-9557.
• Abbie Combs, Educator Effectiveness Lead, KVEC;; (606) 436-3161 X 5083.
• Bernadette Carpenter, Instructional Lead, KVEC;; (606) 776-9930.
• Rachel Holbrook, Johnson County Middle School;; (606) 789-4133.
• Edie Michelle Scott, Pikeville High School;; (606) 432-0185.
Stakeholder Feedback Survey
Michael Flory
Connect with us!
• Brown, Matthew D. (2007) I’ll have mine annotated, please:
Helping students make connections with text. English Journal,
96(4), 73-78.
• Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems.
Journal of Social Issues, 2(4), 34-46.
• Mertler, C. (2006). Action research: Teachers as researchers in
the classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
• Mills, G. (2000). Action research: A guide for the teacher
researcher. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
• National Council of Teachers of English. (2007). NCTE
principles of adolescent literacy reform: A policy research
brief. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
• Rust, F. O’C., & Meyers, E. (2006). The bright side: Teacher
research in the context of educational reform and
policymaking. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice,
12(1), 69-86.

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