Action Research – Teachers as Leaders

– By Souvik Bhattacharya, City Programme Manager, ISLI Mumbai

How do we ensure that a school learns even after the two years of the leadership program? That was the question that confronted ISLI, as we approached year 2 of our program. One of the key ways to tackle the challenge was to introduce Action Research – a project owned by teachers in each school. Over 1000 teachers in ISLI schools could not have been more excited.

About Action Research

Action research primarily is a research tool owned by teachers. As the first step, a teacher identifies a glaring problem in his or her classroom using data such as student attendance, assessment scores, or even behaviour patterns of students in order to create a hypothetical solution. In the next few weeks, the teacher attempts to implement the hypothesis and document the results – the successes and areas of improvement. Through careful implementation and rigorous testing, the hypothesis, if successful, is passed on to other teachers in collaboration.

Action Research in Mumbai Schools

We initiated Action Research in the Academy training in July 2016. The main objective was to empower teachers to identify problems within the classroom. When teachers evaluated their classrooms, Programme Managers at ISLI supported them with more avenues of data – ranging from student assessment scores to attendance reports and reading fluency. Teachers were emboldened to analyze their classrooms for the first time and were relieved with not having to rely just on intuition.

The focus areas that Mumbai schools prioritized ranged from elementary classroom objectives, such as reading fluency or basic operations of numbers, to secondary topics like improving science instruction through inquiry and modeling algebraic expressions. While most teachers tested their hypotheses to solve such problems, the biggest challenge was to measure gradual improvement in student learning. Formative assessment workshops, conducted by ISLI for School Leaders last year, were key to create structures to assess students continuously and test whether the hypotheses were working.

Most teachers observed real improvements in student learning. One great example of an Action Research project is in People Welfare Society – a budget private school (aided) in Mumbai. Grade 9 Math teacher, Seena Mukesh, identified that the concept of Algebraic expressions was too abstract and was hindering her students from applying similar concepts across other domains such as linear equations and word problems. She created a diagnostic test, including concepts that were spiraled all the way down to grade 6. Gathering more information, she created a tailor-made curriculum over three weeks to ensure students get a stronger foundation to learn abstract concepts in Algebra.

The ISLI Mumbai team conducted its first Action Research meeting in November with teachers from approximately 15 schools presenting their research outcomes. We look forward to learning more with similar collaborations and are confident that similar
projects or initiatives in schools will lead to a long-term impact on student learning.

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