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Title: Action Research to support school development
Authors: Tyrén, Lena
Department: University of Borås. School of Education and Behavioural Sciences
Issue Date: 2010
Citation: Australian Association for Research in Education, 28.11-2.12 2010, Melbourne University, Australia
Media type: text
Publication type: conference paper, other
Keywords: action research
school development
teaching profession
school under change
Subject Category: Subject categories::Social Sciences
Area of Research: Pedagogical work
Abstract: In schools in Sweden today researchers are encouraged through national policies that highlight the importance of research in the teaching profession in relation to school improvement to work with school teachers in local development projects. In autumn 2007 I was contacted by one of the teachers at a local school, about my willingness to participate in one such project that was attempting to use computers with young school children 6-9 years as tools for learning to read and write. This paper is based on this project. It was carried out in the academic years of 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 at a school that I have called Tower School: an 0-9 school in Sweden. We developed the project in the form of an action research project. Action research was seen as highly suitable by all involved parties as it is an approach where research is conducted in cooperation with participants in practice in an attempt to improve that practice or its outcomes in some respect. Action research gave me the opportunity to combine practical relevance with the scientific requirements that exist in academia. Teachers at Tower School were given the opportunity to reflect on their own practice and their professional roles, and they were encouraged to think about and eventually change any ingrained approaches in relation to how they work with pupils when helping them to learn to read and write and develop reading and writing proficiencies. The project was organised on the basis of an action research question that could be phased in the following way: How can we use the computer together with pupils as a tool that can help the development of better reading and writing competencies amongst young school pupils? In this study we used various tools to make everyday life visible and take action, to observe what was happening in the classroom and for reflection on what happened. By using various tools such as focus groups, observations, conversations with teachers and pupils, evening meetings/sessions and journal writing we tried to create an opportunity for reflection, documentation and teacher and researcher development. The use of tools like these is common in action research. The tools are meant to complement each other and are a condition for the development and operation of a learning effect. By reflecting and discussing individually and in groups an intention is to create a new understanding of the operation. The use of tools is an opportunity to gain insight into practice. The action research project began well and ran well over the course of just over one year. However, after a year education restructuring in the region resulted in significant changes within the organization of comprehensive schooling. These changes were significant at Tower School in that they significantly affected the working conditions for teachers (through redundancies and transfers), their pupils (through teacher changes) and the researcher (through the changed conditions for conducting action research). The aim with this present paper is to focuses on the effects of these changes on the research process. Often it is taken for granted that everything runs smoothly in empirical research. But what happens to research and school development in a school under change when components in the organization and running of schools begin perhaps to break down? This can occur when social structures change. But what consequences does this have for an action research approach in an ongoing study? One can speak of certain principles of action research and certain conditions that are required in order to implement these principles in practice. One of these is continuity of participation and access to the field, another is time for reflection and a third is the development of stable social relations and critical friendship groups. The restructuring of education in the region destabilised the school and troubled the preconditions for action research. Using first hand materials from my own investigation and combining these with data from other sources regarding the effects of restructuring on schools, the people in them and the relationships these people are able to form with each-other and with people from outside (not the least researchers of course) in the present paper I will discuss how the importance of action research at school and its strengths and weaknesses can be undermined when an organization begins to change in ways that teachers and researchers can do little about. Some tentative conclusions will be drawn about the implications of unforeseen change and unstable conditions of labour for planning and conducting action research.
Appears in Collections:Konferensbidrag / Conference papers (PED)

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