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Action Research Teacher Coaching -- Vocabulary BuildingTerm Paper

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¶ … Action Research Teacher Coaching -- Vocabulary Building

Evaluation of Coaching in Action Research

Considerations Regarding Working with the Teacher

Theory of Action Guiding the Action Research

Specific Design Methodology to Clarify and Answer the

Conclusions Regarding Your Action Research Project

Central City, Third Grade Reading Scores

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate an action research project, and to describe the methods and approaches that were used to introduce action research to the teacher and to guide the teacher through implementation of the action research project that was designed to answer the teacher's specific questions about the problem of practice. The action research model employed in this project was Dr. Richard Sagor's four-stage process designed especially for teachers and school education teams: Stage 1 -- Clarifying a vision; Stage 2 -- Articulating theories; and, Stage 3 -- Reflecting & Planning Informed Action.

The action research project was designed to test the theory that a rise in one area of reading skills represents a subsequent higher rate of comprehensive reading level by students in grade 3. The students under consideration in this action research project were third-graders in Central City School District (see Appendix -- I - Central City, Third Grade Reading Scores). An average reading comprehension score was obtained for this group of students: the average reading comprehension score is 75.2%, inclusive of categories literal / explicit, analysis, inference, and vocabulary. Upon deeper exploration of the group's reading comprehension scores, however, was apparent that the literal / explicit score was higher than for other categories, and the vocabulary score was lower than the scores for the other three categories. The group's score for the literal / explicit category was 86% and the score for the vocabulary category was 66%. The research question was whether the relationship among the categories of reading skills was such that an increase in the score for the vocabulary category would signal an increase in the reading comprehension score.

The achievement target was in the action research project was to bring all students up to 100% accuracy in vocabulary. At the completion of the instruction, students were expected to be able to define, understand, and utilize vocabulary words in all four domains of the English language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A 7-point teaching technique was used to provide vocabulary instruction, and teachers made abundant use of graphic organizers for both vocabulary and comprehension.

Considerations Regarding Working with the Teacher

The primary methods used to coach the teacher to develop the skills needed to effectively approach action research and develop a full-fledged action research project are as follows: Reflective conversations; planning with the end in mind; graphing, connecting with resources; and establish a trusting learning environment (Joyce & Showers, 2002; Newfeld & Roper, 2003). Reflective conversation was used throughout the action research planning process to capitalize on the teacher's ability to think through the problem of practice (i.e., increasing students' reading comprehension scores through instruction). A pivot point in these reflective conversations was a periodic check to be sure that the teacher was planning with the end in mind. For instance, when talking with the teacher about independent and dependent variables, it became easier for the teacher to bypass the focus on vocabulary and hone in on improvements to reading comprehension scores. Using graphs to identify the connections between student behaviors, teacher behaviors, dependent variable indicators, and measures of the independent variables made it easier for the teacher to create a visual image of the research design and its various components. On more than one occasion, particular resources were made salient and providing hyperlinks to resources facilitated access. An important objective of the coaching process was to ensure that the relationships were characterized by safety, trust, and an overarching learning culture.

Theory of Action Guiding the Action Research

A theory of action functions like a conceptual ladder of if-then statements that provide the rationale for selected interventions. When a theory of action is allowed to unfold at a very fundamental level, it acts like a storyline that identifies the predicted and actual events of an interventions strategy (City, 2009). A theory of action is essentially the best explicit thinking about choosing one intervention or strategy over another, with the planned course of action lined out complete with identified checkpoints and evidence that implementation is having the desired effect (City, 2009). Action research lends itself well to the explication of theory of action: each sequence in the action research plan must be associated with a particular rationale (theory) that explicitly identifies the intended outcomes and enables testing of whether or not the theory is proving to be correct (City, 2009). By explicitly delineating the course of action -- with each sequential relationship mapped to the next -- a sort of audit trail is created that facilitates being able to track down weak spots as needed at any time during implementation (City, 2009; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

To provide meaningful coaching to the teacher about theory of action, the storyline approach used by Liz City and Richard Elmore was employed as a framework for decomposition of the basic and connected implementation steps. This storyline process produced a written and graphic representation of the theory of action that leads from the needs indicated by the interim assessment to an intervention matched to those needs and expected to result in improvements that have accurately targeted the previously identified needs. The storyline developed for improving reading comprehension scores by improving the teaching of vocabulary words was as follows:

IF teachers require students to write the vocabulary words several times, THEN the students will focus on the new vocabulary words.

IF the students focus on the new vocabulary words, THEN they will be better able to learn the definitions of the new vocabulary words, thereby attributing meaning to the words.

IF the students attribute meaning to the new vocabulary words, THEN they are more likely to be able to use the new vocabulary words in sentences.

IF the students are able to use the new vocabulary words in sentences, THEN they will be able to recognize and understand the meaning of the new vocabulary words in their reading.

AND THEN, student reading comprehension will improve.

The If-Then statements above reflect the 7-step vocabulary building instructional intervention (the independent variables) and points to the intended desirable outcome (the dependent variable) of improved reading comprehension scores. A similar storyline was created for the use of visual and graphic organizers as a means of improving the learning of new vocabulary words (van den Broek & Kremer, 2000).

Research Questions

The literature research pointed to the use of students' prior knowledge, and the use of graphic and semantic organizers, as ways of improving comprehension in reading. Specifically, the literature underscored how beginning readers use their experience and background information to make connections while they are reading. This line of research was linked to the concept of using activating schema, an approach that was also used during the action research.

Using the coaching methods outlined in the section above, Considerations Regarding Working with Teacher, the teachers was assisted to move from a basic understanding of these lines of research to the considering fundamental research questions, such as those below.

Do reading comprehension scores improve for students who write the definitions of unit vocabulary words and use the unit vocabulary words in various sentences?

Do reading comprehension scores improve for students who hear the unit vocabulary words in use during active listening skills in multiple contexts?

By considering the research questions to map to instructional methods, the teacher was able to develop the 7-point instructional strategy for teaching vocabulary (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). These instructional strategies in the 7-point approach collectively provided three different data sets for students: Oral vocabulary, written vocabulary, decoding vocabulary words, and reading comprehension. Indeed, these research questions are clearly linked to the needs identified in the interim assessment, and the instructional strategies provide evidence-based best practices for achieving improvements in student performance in reading comprehension.

Specific Design Methodology to Clarify and Answer the Questions

A quasi-experimental research design was selected for the action research project since the measures that were of the most interest to the teacher were quantitative. A descriptive research design based on qualitative data would not have answered the research questions well, nor would a descriptive design and qualitative data have been as effective when translating measurement data for the independent variables to the dependent variable (comprehensive reading scores). The teacher did consider a mixed methods design early in the deliberations about research design, but decided that quantitative data would provide a more direct thread through the fabric of the action research project: from the 7-point vocabulary building instructional method to the scores on the four skill categories to the comprehensive reading scores. These instructional strategies collectively provided four different data sets for students: Oral vocabulary, written vocabulary, decoding vocabulary words, and reading comprehension.

Conclusions Regarding Your Action Research Project

The introductory section provided an overview of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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