After looking over the preliminary data, the teacher research will want to consider what appears to be emerging. These are important considerations when analyzing data:
- Curriculum/assessment matches- do the assessment methods fit into the curriculum or ways that match the teacherÃ‚ ¹s teaching style?
- The context of the data- is it possible to collect the type of data the teacher research has in mind considering the classroom routines and the classroom environment?
- Degree of change over period of time- will there be enough time during the year to see a difference?
- The number of students and variables in the study.
- The questions the data are supposed to reflect- are the questions too broad or too focused for the data that can be collected?
Ways to Analyze Data
Brenda Power (1996), Susan and William Stainback (1988) and Marion MacLean and Marian Mohr (1999) recommend several ways teacher researchers can analyze the data that they have collected. They should:
1. Triangulate. Study the research question from at least three separate pieces of data and three points of view. For example, those three pieces of data might be the teacher researcherÃ‚ ¹s observations in the research log, recorded comments by a student or students (such as the tape recorded comments or quotes the teacher researcher has noted in the research log) and examples of student work. Does the research question still fit the data that is emerging from the study?
2. Compare constantly. Look through the data and keep comparing the data that was collected earlier in the study with data collected later in the study. Use different bases for comparison. For example, if the teacher researcher has compared what the students did in October with what they did in January, the teacher researcher may try comparing the studentsÃ‚ ¹ written work with their oral work.
3. Categorize and sort. Set up charts, columns, outlines, and ways of counting occurrences. The teacher researcher can make up different categories that fits the teaching situation(s) or use categories developed by another researcher. Watch for ways that the data develops into categories different from other researchers and explore those differences. Coding your findings will help categorize the data.
4. Order. Decide on a way to order the data findings such as data chronologically, by importance and by frequency (how often an occurrence occurs, for example).
5. Contrast. Look for what doesn't fit the assumptions or theories of other researchers and note what sticks out, goes against the grain.
6. Speculate. Try out different hunches about what the data means. Make an educated guess and then see if itÃ‚ ¹s supported by the data. DonÃ‚ ¹t stick rigidly to an assumption or hypothesis that was originally held.
7. Restate the question. Rewrite the question many times, changing it when necessary to fit whatÃ‚ ¹s important from the data that has been collected. What is it that the teacher researcher really wants to figure out? Sometimes the teacher researcher will want to make the question more global, sometimes the question may become more tightly focused.
8. Visualize. Create a visual representation for what you have collected. Map out your data; draw it all on one page. Sketch the metaphors that come to mind when thinking of the data and what it all means. Use colors and shapes to separate ideas. Use diagrams, sketches of things, people, happenings to show different ideas and groupings. Inspiration software can help map your data by making connections through webs.
9. Abstract and distill. State the essence of your findings as if you had to explain them in 50 words or less. What matters most in this data? Write the findings as an abstract such as one that would be part of conference program.
10. Talk and validate. Talk with others about your research. Explain the data interpretations to others; see if they can see the same things. Consider their different interpretations and use them to clarify, broaden and otherwise validate the findings.
11. Confer with students. Ask your students what they think about what you are observing and writing about in your log. They may offer new ideas about their learning or validate what you are finding. Students may become co-researchers,but be careful of compromising confidentiality.
12. Take a break. Sometimes it helps to step back from the research process in order to clear your mind and give yourself a rest. Coming back to the process with a refreshed outlook will often lead to new understandings and perspectives.
13. State your theories. You build your ideas about teaching as you try out new strategies Theories come from and are grounded in practice. Your research group should help you look at your data from multiple data sources and help you interpret your findings and draw conclusions and implications for future teaching.
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MacLean, Marion S. & Mohr, Marian M. (1999). Teacher- researchers at work. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, p. 56-66.
Power, Brenda Miller (1996). What to Do With What You've Written. Taking note: Improving your observational notetaking. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.