Casting a Question
Casting Your Question
After you have found a research colleague or formed a Teacher Research Team (TRT), begin your first meeting with a discussion of the importance of maintaining a journal. Some teachers may tell you that they do not like to write. Emphasize that no one will "see" the journals, but it is important in the process of reflective-research that each teacher use one. Start with a "free write" activity based on asking these questions:
- What do I want to figure out?
- What do I want to know about my teaching?
- What do I want to know about student learning?
- What classroom situation do I want to analyze?
After sharing highlights from the free write session, brainstorm with your colleagues your interests, curiosities and questions. Marian Mohr, a teacher-researcher consultant, talks about the evolution of a research question. She suggests that TRT members recast their questions several ways. Write your question first as a why statement:
- Why do my students do....
- Why do I do....
Next, recast your question:
- What happens when...?
- How does....?
- What is happening when...?
Settle on a question that you feel comfortable addressing and then brainstorm ways that you can collect data that may address the question you have chosen.
As you begin collecting data, Mohr warns that you may discover that it will be necessary to revise your research question to fit the data. You may find yourself asking, "Is there something else more interesting emerging from my data?" She encourages TRTÃ‚ ¹s to conduct a midyear review of the research question by asking:
- What data do I have?
- What does the data tell me about my question?
- What other questions does my data tell me about?
- Is my question more complicated than I had previously thought?
Do not worry if you need to revise or even change your question. Remember, the research that you are doing is helping you become more aware of what is happening in your classroom.
The Question Cycle: contains an explanation of how the question might evolve during the project and gives an example of what this evolution might look like.
Hubbard, Ruth Shagoury & Power, Brenda Miller (1993). "The Art of Classroom Inquiry." Portsmouth, NH: Heineman Publishers,p.1-8.
MacLean, Marion S. & Mohr, Marian M. (1999). "Teacher-Researchers at Work." Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, p. 2-11.