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Definition of Teacher Research


About the Term "Teacher Research"

Marion MacLean and Marian Mohr (1999) explain that the term teacher-researcher is an important term to them because it has redefined their roles as teachers.

Teachers are subjective insiders involved in classroom instruction as they go about their daily routines of instructing students, grading papers, taking attendance, evaluating their performance as well as looking at the curriculum. Traditional educational researchers who develop questions and design studies around those questions and conduct research within the schools are considered objective outside observers of classroom interaction. But when teachers become teacher-researchers, the "traditional descriptions of both teachers and researchers change. Teacher-researchers raise questions about what they think and observe about their teaching and their students' learning. They collect student work in order to evaluate performance, but they also see student work as data to analyze in order to examine the teaching and learning that produced it" (p. x).


So, What is Teacher Research?

By Marian M. Mohr

Teacher research is inquiry that is intentional, systematic, public, voluntary, ethical, and contextual.

What Do Teacher Researchers Do?

  • Develop questions based on their own curiosity about their students' learning and their teaching
  • Investigate their questions with their students systematically documenting what happens
  • Collect and analyze data from their classes including their own observations and reflections
  • Examine their assumptions and beliefs
  • Articulate their theories
  • Discuss their research with their colleagues for support as "critical friends" to validate their findings and interpretations of their data
  • Present findings to others
  • Talk to their students
  • Give presentations (talk to teacher in room next door, go to conferences)
  • Write about their research (school-wide publication, national) á participate in teacher research web sites, online forums, and e-mail communications

Marian Mohr was a retired Fairfax County Public Schools English teacher who worked as a consultant assisting school systems in establishing and sustaining teacher research groups. She was the co-director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project and a trustee of the N.C.T.E. Research Foundation. Her publications include articles about teacher research including Revision: The rhythm of meaning, a book co-authored with Marion MacLean entitled, Working together: A guide for teacher researchers and their newest book co-authored book entitled, "Teacher- researchers at work."

See also:

Bryan Bardine from Kent State University also has an essay about research to practice entitled, "Teacher research: Getting started."


The Importance of Teacher Research to the Classroom Teacher

By Gail Ritchie

Why is Teacher Research important to me? Many teachers, already overburdened with curriculum requirements, accountability requirements, and all the day-to-day pressures of keeping a classroom running wonder why they should take on one more thing. To them, I can truthfully say, Teacher Research is not an add-on; it is a way of being! When you look at your classroom from a stance of "How can I make teaching/learning better?" you are taking a Teacher Researcher stance. Teacher Research is not something done TO us; it is something done BY us. The goal of Teacher Research is to put "Best Practices" about teaching/learning into actual practice in your classroom. And the person who does that is you, the classroom teacher.

My first experience with Teacher Research occurred seven years ago. A colleague and I conducted research about how multiple intelligences theory could impact student learning. We saw effects far beyond those we had read about. That research affected me so profoundly that I now organize my classroom within a multiple intelligences framework. My classroom centers are related to the different intelligences, I teach children to value and respect the "different kinds of smart," and I invite children into the classroom community of learners by "opening windows" (Gardner) to their strengths and interests.

Two years later, I changed the way I organized my writing and art centers to reflect a philosophy of "communicating in one hundred languages" (Reggio Emilia, Italy). I discovered that children are capable of communicating emerging understandings in many more ways than simply via pencil/paper. Again, the "Communication Center" is now a major part of my classroom.

This past year, I conducted a year-long research project on the relationship between play and learning. The twists and turns of my research journey opened many doors for my students and me. The enriched classroom environment that resulted would not have occurred without the research stance, question, and journey.

Teacher Research empowers teachers to make a positive difference in terms of classroom practice; it enables us to provide relevant information about teaching and learning in actual classrooms. Most importantly, by engaging in reflective practice, the Teacher Researcher improves the lives of students by always seeking to discover better, more effective ways of implementing teaching/learning.

Gail Ritchie was a K-1 teacher at Kings Park Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. She was named Fairfax County Teacher of the Year in 1999-2000. She is now co- leader of the Teacher Research Network and during the school year 1999-2000 completed a teacher research paper concerning Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL) integration entitled Playing with History.


See also:

Cochran-Smith, Marilyn & Lytle, Susan L. (1993). "Inside/ Outside: Teacher research and knowledge." New York: Teachers College Press.

MacLean, Marion S. & Mohr, Marian M. (1999). "Teacher- researchers at work." Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, p. vii-ix.