The Question Cycle
The Question Cycle lies at the heart of teacher research.
Throughout a project, the teacher researcher's question should be continually modified to create a closer fit with the classroom environment. Each month the teacher researchers returns to their research group to cast and recast their questions and plan how to collect data on the new version of their questions.
As the teacher researchers collect data in order to answer their current questions, they are able to generate a closer, more appropriate understanding of the needs within their environment.
During teacher research group meetings it is important to take time to discuss each others' questions and for each person to then write reflectively about what they have learned during these dicussions. After that, the teacher researchers can then recast their questions.
Here is an example of how one question evolved during the course of a year-long teacher research project. [Take note of how the initial question became a better fit for the actual needs of the student and the student's environment.]
May 1997 (Pre-project planning):
- What kinds of literacy strategies and skills can I teach to newly-arrived immigrant families during home visits?
September 23, 1997 (Version A: beginning of meeting)
- What happens when semi- or non-literate parents acquire book skills?
- How do parents learn book skills?
- What skills and strategies do adults need to learn to be able to read books with their children?
September 23,1997 (Version B: Recasting the question at the end of the meeting):
- What happens when I teach literacy strategies while in the home environment?
- How do I teach literacy strategies to newly-arrived immigrant families? How do I overcome language and educational differences and show parents what I am doing?
- What kinds of literacy behaviors, strategies, and attitudes can be used easily in the home by an adult who comes from a different language and educational background from my own?
February 11, 1998 (Casting the question visually):
Directions: "Using colored markers, recast the question visually. After drawing or charting what your data seems to be telling you, respond to the following guided writing prompts:"
--In response, drew five pictures that showed Abdiaziz' growth as a student since the beginning of the school year.
Prompt: "If someone came up to you and asked you what your research question was, what would you tell them?"
The research question:
- How do you engage the minds of older elementary children who have weaker educational backgrounds?
- How does one reach them and teach them that the "world of literacy" is a wonderful addition to their lives?
Prompt: "Write down one thing you have learned."
- I've learned that kids can be grateful for real authentic (heartfelt!) attention. It can transform their schooling. My research has been more about a person than a technique.
March 25, 1998 (Final version of the question)
- How can I help a 5th grade Pre-Emergent reader learn to read?
- How can I help him want to become a life-long reader?
- How can I help him develop reading habits he can use in his home?
- How can I help his parents support him in these goals?
Willner, L.S. (1998). The click of contentment: 1997-1998 Teacher research project. Fairfax County Public Schools.