Action Research at Longwill has been featured on the BEP website as an example of good practice. All our teachers engage in Action Research projects throughout the year, which explore how we can improve learning opportunities and outcomes for Deaf pupils.
Below you can see our action research posters, click on them to expand
Why action research?
In 2010 the Sign Bilingual Consortium launched a ‘Year of Reading’ to focus on ways in which action research by teachers in schools can enhance the reading experiences and outcomes for deaf learners (this is reported in the …. Issues of the Magazine). The emphasis on action research and collaborative working is fundamental to this initiative and to the work of the consortium as a whole which seeks to develop and maintain research/practice partnerships which directly impact on deaf children’s learning and benefit the educational community as a whole. As part of the Year of Reading interested members of the consortium met at Leeds University to talk about developing their research in schools using an action research methodology. At this seminar we discussed different schools’ research question and issues. We reviewed the action research cycle and looked at ways of relating this to individual enquiries. You can find a detailed ‘walk through’ the action research cycle on the www.readingrhizome.com
What did it involve?
As part of this national initiative practitioners at Longwill school decided they would like to ‘test’ both the inside and outside spaces at the school (classroom, corridors, indoor tents & dens outdoors) to see whether building alternative learning environments motivated the children to read and raise standards and rates of reading progress. Every teacher approached their action research question from a personal perspective. Some looked at increasing the use of the outdoor space, with greater imagination and creativity and with the aim of enhancing literacy, particularly reading. Others explored issues around motivation, engaging reluctant readers, using drama to promote higher level reading skills or how reading in different environments can improve recall skills. All staff planned and executed well thought through action research projects.
As part of a parallel ‘Creative Partnerships Project’ the school also worked with several creative practitioners throughout the year to develop thinking about the potential of action research and creativity to raise standards in reading. Two days were dedicated to developing staff skills, knowledge and understanding of creative approaches to teaching and learning and this encouraged professional dialogue across the school and reinforced a reflective culture. Twilight CPD sessions were devoted to talking about individual action research cycles and sharing new ideas. Staff were asked to consider what action research involved and then develop a sentence that described what ‘research’ entailed.
Ideas described by the words above were shared. Finally, they decided that research “is all about investigating and questioning in order to progress thinking and practice of one focused area.” It involves fact finding, planning, discovery, experimentation, reflection and also critical analysis and change.
After much preparation every teacher began their action research and at the end of the cycle all the teachers distilled their research process and findings into one poster and made a presentation to colleagues so that ideas were disseminated throughout school. Some colleagues went on to present their findings at the ‘Year of Reading Conference’ October 2011. Since then this team have agreed on the key messages and actions which will form part of their practice school-wide from now on.
What were the outcomes?
The Action Research posters produced by teachers from schools and services across the Sign Bilingual Consortium including Frank Barnes School and Exeter Academy were shared at the national ‘Year of Reading Conference’ in October 2011. Longwill School have provided some examples and some commentary on their work here:
Erin Straw describes her Year Four action research project:
I focussed on the higher ability boys in my group. The pupils were trying to translate English phrases into BSL. I realised that whilst they could read all the Y4/ Y5 Medium Frequency Words with ease, they could only decode words at a literal level (did they really believe that when “fires went out” they actually left the room?). So I prepared drama activities in the drama studio and outside reading den. This enabled pupils to act out the deeper meaning of the text within the context of the story. This was very powerful! Their engagement in reading increased dramatically and all showed substantial gains in their reading ability.
If you are keen to develop an action research project yourself the team at Leeds University will facilitate and support your work. You can get in touch with any of the team (Ruth Swanwick, Paula Clarke and Ruth Kitchen) via the Leeds web pages. http://www.education.leeds.ac.uk/research/inclusive/projects.php?project=111&page=1
You will also find a useful ‘action research pack’ on the www.thereadiningrhizome.com to help get you started.
You research may be about reading or another classroom issue or area of development for your school. Longwill are taking their action research skills forwards in 2012 to begin a new set of projects based around their ‘Year of Speaking and Listening’.
These examples speak for themselves but as a school that has fully engaged in this process Longwill’s conclusions that action research linked to classroom practice improves teaching and learning, engages colleagues in professional dialogue and raises standards is a strong recommendation for others to give it a go.
Alison Carter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Head Teacher, Longwill School, Birmingham.