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action research

September 18, 2012

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Annual review is typically undertaken in fourth term after year 12s have vanished from our classrooms, lacunae become opportunities for curriculum review and reflection of what worked in the year’s practice, so consideration is paid to what needs to be done differently.

Well, this year, things are already different because I’ve been asked to submit a paper which involves action research.

Stringer says “Action research is a systematic approach to investigation that enables people to find effective solutions to problems they confront in their everyday lives” (Stringer, 2007, p. 1).  Here’s the task:

Lead a small piece of action research in your school/workplace.  The action research will focus on improved student learning.  Your involvement with students can be direct or indirect.  You are to undertake the research while participating in a small support network of student peers who are also completing this unit.  

Jenny Kuhn

Leading Curriculum Innovation; Master of School Leadership unit at University of WA

And what a difference this task is making…. Collaboration with colleagues in particular has lifted one of my perspective-shrouding veils. Meeting arrangements have also modeled capacity building for and with our community.

To begin, I drew on the surveys already completed by lower school students evaluating Gifted & Talented delivery at our school. Findings revealed some common areas of concern as well as year-specific issues. Here’s an overview of one group’s feedback:

Year 8

Positives included excursions, enrichment, iPads,  making the documentary in Science, class size, teachers pay more attention to you, getting top marks, Olympiad, Science experiments

Challenges included tests, stress, workload, essays, handout overload, speaking in public, exam pressure and “changing my mind flow to suit high school

Suggestions for Improvement: more variation in group work; less homework; more practical activities; more choice of themes/ focus

Comprehensive overview of the program, I thought. Possibly confronting issues for G&T teachers to address (in particular, workload expectations). Also clear signposting of desirable improvements. Thanks year 8s, pictured below inside Fremantle jail during an excursion to research Crime & Punishment.

Feedback became our focus to improve outcomes in the G&T program <umbrella issue>. Next steps were identified:

  • share findings with staff and parents
  • survey parents to determine their views (Survey Monkey – still collecting findings; will they overlap with/ contrast to students’ observations?)
  • initiate weekly Techie Brekky sessions to embed iPad strategies with G&T teachers
  • review planning documents designed for this G&T cycle (2010-2012) which targeted student needs during a major re-build and relocation process
  • meet with Primary Extension & Challenge teachers in order to improve transition into our secondary context
  • maintain enrichment for engagement and sense of fun

School is a busy place right now: Senior students are heading into the exam zone; performance management review is also scheduled; there’s an athletics carnival on Friday.  My belaboured point is that there never will be an ideal time to conduct this process, other than the time we make together. So, serendipity rules. Leonie emailed to say she can fit in our meeting when everyone else has absconded to the sports’ fields on Friday. Terrific.

Tomorrow, we gather in the conference room with parents and year 10 student leaders will chair our formal G&T review. This is the agenda we devised together:

Welcome to everyone:

Timing outlined – 15 minutes per topic
Encourage talking/ discussion

1. What is working in G&T program delivery?

2. What is ineffective about G&T program delivery?

3. What should we do differently?

Discussion questions at the end including summary of new ideas

I will revisit this post to evaluate my thinking and process. At the moment, I feel optimistic and energised; staff have said that my coordination of G&T is supportive and positive. This is something that otherwise would have no outlet for sharing. Meeting is regular – weekly with key stakeholders – and I do wonder how this will sustain.

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Other issues include how do we hold people accountable? And what are the measures of success?

Like the sign suggests, this is a work in progress. I’ll be keeping you posted.


Stringer, E.T. (2007). Action Research, Third Edition. California: Sage Publications.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori Polachek permalink
    September 22, 2012 10:02 pm

    This sounds very interesting- what does G&T stand for?

    • September 23, 2012 5:54 am

      Hello Lori,
      G&T stands for Gifted & Talented; I am responsible for coordinating an extension program for centrally selected high achievers at a secondary school. Great job! Apologies for acronym bamboozling.

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