Exploring Action Research's Role in Education
By Robert Schroeder
For the tenth consecutive year, National Louis University will host Chicagoland's premiere action research conference.
The University's Center for Practitioner Research hosts its annual Practitioner Research Forum on Saturday, April 30 at National Louis University's North Shore campus. The meeting brings together teachers, faculty, community activists, artists and non-profit educators to share current trends in action research and explore future research projects.
National Louis University's Dr. Eleanor Binstock, associate professor in the National College of Education, founded the forum a decade ago as a clearing house for teacher research in Chicago. That first conference spawned the Center for Practitioner Research and fortified a University-wide commitment to developing action research techniques in students, alumni and non-affiliated teachers across the city.
"Since we believe so foundationally that teacher action research is a foundation for formalizing teacher reflection, it just makes sense that we also provide a place for teachers to share what they have done," said Dr. Linnea Rademaker, assistant professor in the National College of Education and director of the Center for Practitioner Research. "I think the only way we can see teacher action research impacting change in education is to provide a vehicle for sharing and disseminating that research."
This year's forum will be highlighted by presentations from two interactive research projects. Teachers from Skokie District 73.5 in Skokie, Ill. will discuss action research they have conducted exploring elements of the district's school improvement plans, while teachers from the Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette, Ill. will present their initial findings from collaboration with National Louis University faculty exploring "how do we know what children know?"
Conference organizers are stressing technology adoption with action research. Both the District 73.5 and the Baker School presenters will feature video from their research, and the Center for Practitioner Research is seeking grant funding from the American Education Research Association to video stream next year's conference.
A focus on expanding the forum's reach is reflected in the research submitted. In 2010, alumna Doris Wells-Papanek (M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction '09) presented on a student action research project she in conjunction with Waukegan Public School District 60's Alternative/Optional Education Center The project had students explore three central questions: why should I engage in learning, is the information really worth the investment, and why should I care?
"Sharing this somewhat-controversial study in a safe forum allowed me to experience firsthand how teachers might respond to this somewhat-progressive approach to teaching and learning," Wells-Papanek said. "The interaction truly opened my eyes to the extent in which teachers currently integrate student perspective into their classroom learning experiences."
Binstock sees growth in the diversity of topics presented.
"When the forum first started it was teacher action research, and it's changed through time to practitioner research," Binstock said. "We're really looking to have people representing different fields, all of whom are interested in some sort of activism…and to reveal to us what needs to be changed."
The 10th Annual Practitioner Research Forum takes place on Saturday, April 30 from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at National Louis University's North Shore campus. For more information on attending, visit the Center for Practitioner Research's website.