Practitioner Inquiry Case Studies
Let's launch into examples of what practitioner inquiry could look like in practice.
Case Study 1: Embracing Constructivist Teaching in a Science Classroom
Mrs. Harper, an experienced middle school science teacher, was passionate about constructivist education. However, she realized her teaching didn't fully reflect this active, student-centered approach. Recognizing this discrepancy, she committed to a six-week teacher research sprint with a guiding question: "How can I shift my science instruction towards a more constructivist approach?"
During the first week, Mrs. Harper spent her time scrutinizing her current teaching strategies and researching constructivist methodologies. By the second week, she had a plan: replace direct instruction with more inquiry-based activities that encourage exploration and problem-solving.
She began week two by introducing the new approach to her students, explaining the shift towards experimentation and inquiry. Simultaneously, she established her data collection strategies, which included video recording lessons and analyzing student work for signs of increased understanding. She also introduced reflective writing sessions, providing another avenue for data collection.
As weeks three and four unfolded, Mrs. Harper consistently applied the new strategies and collected data. She noted an increased level of student engagement, with students asking insightful questions and actively participating in the new, exploratory activities.
Despite these encouraging signs, she identified potential areas for improvement. In particular, during week five, she noticed some students struggling with the unstructured nature of the inquiry-based activities. To support these learners, she began incorporating scaffolding techniques in week six to guide their learning process.
At the end of her six-week sprint, Mrs. Harper analyzed the data she had gathered. She was encouraged by the overall increase in student engagement and understanding. Furthermore, the introduction of scaffolding had been beneficial for students struggling with the transition.
What were the main elements of Mrs. Harper's research question? How did this question guide her actions?
What data collection methods did Mrs. Harper employ in her research sprint and why? How can these methods be useful in your own practitioner research?
How did Mrs. Harper use the collected data to inform her teaching strategy and evaluate its effectiveness? What does this tell you about the cyclical and reflective nature of practitioner research?
Case Study 2: Improving Reading Comprehension
Mr. Douglas is a seasoned 3rd-grade teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School. Over the past month, he has been concerned about a consistent issue: his students are struggling with reading comprehension. Despite their ability to read fluently, they struggle to understand and interpret the content effectively.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Mr. Douglas decides to conduct a quick teacher research sprint over the course of two weeks. His main research question is: "How can I improve reading comprehension skills among my 3rd graders?"
On Monday of the first week, Mr. Douglas spends time reviewing his current teaching strategies, and after school, he dives into existing literature on reading comprehension techniques. He discovers a strategy known as "reciprocal teaching" where students are taught to summarize, question, clarify, and predict while reading.
On Tuesday, Mr. Douglas introduces this new method to his class and models the steps for the students. He documents his initial observations and student reactions in a research journal.
For the rest of the week, Mr. Douglas gives the students various reading tasks, encouraging them to use the new technique. Each day, he collects data by observing the students, taking note of their interactions and conversations during the reading tasks, and examining their written summaries and predictions.
On Monday of the second week, Mr. Douglas finds that several students still struggle to apply the new technique effectively. So, he dedicates the day to reinforcing the method through guided practice and group discussions.
Throughout the second week, he continues to monitor and document his students' progress. He also collects their work samples and uses them to analyze the effectiveness of the method.
At the end of the two weeks, Mr. Douglas reviews his journal and the collected data. He finds significant improvement in students' reading comprehension skills, evident from their more accurate summaries, insightful predictions, and increased ability to clarify their doubts.
The sprint ends with a class discussion where students reflect on their experiences with the new method, providing Mr. Douglas with valuable insights for further refinement.
What were the main elements of Mr. Douglas's research question? How did this question guide his actions?
What data collection methods did Mr. Douglas employ in his research sprint and why? How can these methods be useful in your own practitioner research?
How did Mr. Douglas use the collected data to inform his teaching strategy and evaluate its effectiveness? What does this tell you about the cyclical and reflective nature of practitioner research?
Case Study 3: Integrating Role-Playing Games into Social Studies Instruction
Ms. Fisher is a dedicated 7th-grade social studies teacher at Valley View Middle School. Recently, she's observed that her students seem disengaged and unmotivated during lessons. Recognizing the criticality of active engagement for learning, she wonders: "How can I increase student engagement in my social studies class?"
A fan of role-playing games, she has an idea: integrate "Dungeons and Dragons" into her curriculum to spark students' interest and engagement. To test the potential of this novel approach, she plans a four-week teacher research sprint. Her research question becomes: "Can integrating 'Dungeons and Dragons' into my curriculum increase student engagement in my social studies class?"
In the first week, she starts by reviewing her teaching practices and researching how role-playing games can enhance learning. She outlines a plan to integrate a "Dungeons and Dragons" campaign that aligns with the current social studies unit.
On Monday of the second week, Ms. Fisher introduces the game to her students, explaining its relevance to their studies. She records her observations and students' initial reactions in a research journal.
Throughout the second week, students embark on their "Dungeons and Dragons" campaign, applying their social studies knowledge in gameplay. Ms. Fisher collects data by observing student engagement during the game, reviewing their gameplay decisions, and noting their discussions related to the social studies concepts.
By the start of the third week, Ms. Fisher notices that while most students are more engaged, a few seem overwhelmed by the game's complexities. She spends additional time simplifying the rules and providing individual support to these students.
Throughout the remaining weeks, she continuously monitors and records the students' progress, collecting work samples and feedback. She analyzes the data to assess the effectiveness of the game-based approach.
At the end of the sprint, Ms. Fisher finds that the "Dungeons and Dragons" integration has led to increased student engagement, participation, and understanding of social studies concepts. The class discussion at the end provides her with further insights on refining the method to better serve the learners.
What were the central elements of Ms. Fisher's research question, and how did it guide her actions throughout the research sprint?
What data collection methods did Ms. Fisher utilize in her research sprint, and why were these methods chosen? How could these methods be applied in your own practitioner research?
How did Ms. Fisher utilize the data she collected to refine her teaching strategy and evaluate its effectiveness? What does this case study illustrate about the iterative and reflective nature of practitioner research?