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Comparison of Definitions


INQUIRY

  • equally questioning
  • less rigorous and systematic in connotation, a more general term
  • less directed toward findings

EXAMPLE: Several teacher researchers might get together on a regular basis to discuss and analyze their work and call themselves an inquiry group


ACTION RESEARCH

historical term (British teachers investigating curriculum initiatives)

  • equally focused on teaching and learning
  • research question may not be freely chosen, included as part of curriculum initiative
  • less theory based, not striving to contribute to knowledge base  · more specifically directed toward changes in practice, therefore may be regarded primarily as professional development

EXAMPLE: A school system decides to begin the use of math manipulatives in the elementary grades. A group of teachers tests out their use and reports to their colleagues on what they found. NOTE: Sometimes this term is used interchangeably with teacher research.


REFLECTIVE PRACTICE

  • adapted from David Schon's ideas of the reflective practitioner
  • more descriptive of a way of teaching, not a way of researching

EXAMPLE: A teacher-researcher might use this term to refer to his or her work during years when he/she is not conducting research.


LORE

  • Term used to describe teacher knowledge
  • focused on teaching stories, handed down, may be valuable information
  • not reached by a process of systematic investigation
  • not valued as theory-based knowledge
  • sometimes a way of discrediting teacher knowledge

EXAMPLE: Don't smile during the first month of school if you want to establish who's in control. A teacher researcher might decided to change lore into a research question and investigate it: "What happens during the first month of school?"


Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Teacher research is a type of qualitative research, meaning that it involves the researcher in the lives of his/her subjects- observing, participating and reflecting on what happens within the context of the study environment. The chart below comes from "Understanding and conducting qualitative research" by Stainback and Stainback (1988, p. 8-9). They compare qualitative research to quantitative research (which is a positivistic approach of seeking facts through the collection of objective, quantifiable data under experimentally controlled conditions).

Dimensions Quantitative Qualitative
Purpose Prediction and Control Understanding- seeks why
Reality Stable- reality is made up of facts and do not change Dynamic- reality changes with people's perceptions
Viewpoint Outsider- reality is what quantifiable data indicates. Insider- reality is what people perceive it to be.
Values Value free- values can be controlled with appropriate methodological procedures. Value bound- Values are important and need to be understood during the research process.
Focus Particularistic- selected, predefined variables are studied. Holistic- a total or complete picture is sought.
Orientation Verification- Predetermined hypotheses are investigated. Discovery- Theories and hypotheses are evolved from data as it is collected.
Data Objective- data are independent of people's perceptions. Subjective- Data are perceptions of the subjects in the environment (context).
Instrumentation Non-human- reconstructed instruments such as surveys, questionnaires, rating scales, tests, etc. Human- the human person is the primary data collection instrument such as observing and reporting on behavior and expressed feelings.
Conditions Controlled- Investigations are conducted under controlled conditions. Naturalistic- Investigations are conducted under natural conditions.
Results Reliable- the focus is on design and procedures to gain replicable data. Valid- the focus is on design and procedures to gain rich, real and deep data.