Graduate School of Education - George Mason University
Graduate School of Education - George Mason University

Our Graduate School of Education is the alma mater for one third of teachers and administrators in Northern Virginia’s world-class school systems. Each year, more than 3,000 graduate students enroll in our innovative academic programs, which include advanced study for teachers and school leaders, instructional design and technology, and a renowned PhD in Education program that is among the largest in the country.

School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism - George Mason University

The School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism (SRHT) offers exciting, career-ready majors in dynamic fields such as athletic training, tourism and events management, health and physical education, kinesiology, sport management, and recreation management. SRHT features renowned faculty, cutting-edge research, six laboratories and centers, and a diverse student body of more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. Each major requires one or more internship or clinical experiences, ensuring that students graduate not just with a transcript but with a resume that demonstrates their professional aptitude and skills.

Comparing TR to Other Forms of Professional Development

Teacher Research Continuum

Teacher research is often described as an effective form of professional development. It is that--and more. This chart is designed to show the ways in which

  1. regular professional development activities (such as after-school trainings)
  2. reflective practice (in which one, literally, takes time to reflect on one's own teaching practice)
  3. reflective inquiry (more traditional forms of action research in which one looks closely at a question--although only for one cycle of the question)

    compares to

  4. teacher research (aka, qualitative inquiry--in which one looks closely at a question from many different angles and also continually recasts the research question

The chart is also designed to highlight the fact that, as the reader moves from left to right, the items in the new column incorporate the previous forms of professional development as a subset of their characteristics.

For example, one could be doing reflective practice (i.e. journaling about what is going on in the classroom) without systematically testing/triangulating those assumptions. In most cases, when qualitative inquiry is taking place, some form of reflective practice is being used. Yet reflective practice can also occur independently of qualitative inquiry.

Guiding Question for reading this chart:
"A project that is _____________ has the following characteristics or leads to the following kinds of behaviors....."

Teacher Professional Development

Reflective Practice

Reflective Inquiry
(traditional action research)

Qualitative Inquiry
(i.e., teacher research)

  • Teacher has received additional training to improve his/her teaching
  • Teacher thinks and talks about how to improve.
  • Teacher uses and adapts new technique to fit his/her classroom
  • Teacher thinks about why he/she "does something in a certain manner" and talks about how to improve.
  • Teacher uses journal to write reflectively.
  • Use thinking to organize and prioritize work and life needs.
  • Begins to identify underlying assumptions and views that motivate how he/she teaches.
  • Highly subjective view
  • Teacher thinks about why he/she "does something in a certain manner" and talks about how to improve.
  • Has a central question that is being explored; Q. remains static throughout project.
  • Teacher uses journal to write reflectively and collects some data systematically.
  • Teacher has gotten feedback from others to refine his/her inquiry. But. generally, does not systematically consult to get other perspectives
  • The subjectivity of the view is checked by only a few types of data
  • Researcher begins to show how research is tied to others' research
  • Teacher thinks about why he/she "does something in a certain manner" and talks about how to improve.
  • Has a central question that is being explored. Uses cycle model: creates question; tests it; sees how it works and then recasts the Q. to do the whole cycle again (and again….)
  • Reaches some tentative conclusions during each phase of the project.
  • Teacher uses journal to write reflectively, collects data systematically, and then triangulates that data
    1. by reading the literature
    2. with other forms of data/evidence
    3. with other educators' perspectives
  • View is "systematically subjective"
  • Shows how research is tied to others' research

Product produced:

  • Improved classroom practice/new teaching techniques

Product produced:

  • Improved classroom practice/new teaching techniques
  • Reflective writing
  • Presentation story: Tells a personal story that contains specific, contextual details about how to improve teaching practice.

Product Produced:

  • Improved classroom practice/new teaching techniques
  • Reflective writing may be sculpted into a short essay with some back-up evidence.
  • Contains findings that can be backed up by some evidence.
  • Presentation story: Tells a personal story that is backed up by some specific pieces of evidence about how to improve teaching practice.

Product Produced:

  • Improved classroom practice/new teaching techniques
  • Reflective writing may be sculpted into a deadline draft, an article or book.
  • Evidence was collected in a systematic and rigorous manner so that findings can be strongly supported through other sources.
  • Presentation story: Tells a personal story that contains specific, contextual evidence from a variety of sources and perspectives about how to improve teaching practice.

Willner, L.S. (2000). Teacher research continuum chart. George Mason University.