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Sagor's Four-Stage Action Research Model - In ActionTerm Paper

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Teacher Coaching in Action Research

Teacher Coaching -- Action Research

The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance to teachers in the implementation of an action research project in the area of reading comprehension. The action research project is 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 action research that will be employed is 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 students under consideration in this action research project are third-graders in Central City School District. An average reading comprehension score has been 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, it is apparent that the literal / explicit score is higher than for other categories, and the vocabulary score is lower than the scores for the other three categories. The group's score for the literal / explicit category is 86% and the score for the vocabulary category is 66%. The research question is whether the relationship among the categories of reading skills is such that an increase in the score for the vocabulary category will signal an increase in the reading comprehension score.

The achievement target is to bring all students up to 100% accuracy in vocabulary. At the completion of the instruction, students should 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 will be used to provide vocabulary instruction, and teachers will make abundant use of graphic organizers for both vocabulary and comprehension.

Literature Review

The focus of the action research is to explore the relationships among four elements of reading comprehension (literal, analysis, inference, and vocabulary) and overall reading comprehension levels. The searches you do for the literature review may turn up some new strategies or best practices related to these reading comprehension elements, and emphasize 3rd grade reading skills and teaching strategies.

Opinions on the importance of a review of the literature to action research vary widely. While action research is based on a problem of practice, it is helpful to consider that a literature review can turn up new evidence-based practice that may not be part of your current instructional repertoire or that may shed a new light on something that is old hat to you. Consider that the wealth of information about reading comprehension may be restricted by what a district has determined will be their particular approach to reading curriculum and instruction. Keep in mind that action researchers are typically bothered more by the need to narrow down the available information on their topic into a manageable resource, than by any sense that there is nothing new in their area of interest that they can apply in their action research.


Thinking about the kind of data that you believe you need to collect in order to answer your research questions will facilitate selection of the research methods you ultimately use. The Critical Ideas for Doing Reconnaissance Checklist may be of help as you drill down on your problem of practice. In your priority pies, you identified the dependent variable (the student outcome desired) and developed some ideas about independent variables (the student performance indicators). In planning your methodology, consider whether it would be helpful to develop two priority pies: One for your own instruction, and one for student performance behaviors. We'll consider that idea more when discussing data collection.

Data Collection

One of the early tasks when using this model is to articulate research questions and a theory of action. The theories that are the foundation for this action research are likely to already be familiar. Indeed, you may be using these theories in your instruction each day without having articulated them to yourself or your professional learning community (PLC). For instance, you mentioned the importance of constructing meaning as an element of reading comprehension -- and your literature search is likely to turn up more information about that topic.

The catalyst for this action research project has been your "wonderings" about how the elements of reading might be related, and whether improving a student's performance in one of these elements might support improved reading comprehension. With the focus on the element of vocabulary, you considered how students learn vocabulary. Two common approaches to reading vocabulary are: 1) writing the vocabulary words -- several times for each word -- 2) using the vocabulary words in sentences, and 3) actively listening for use of the new vocabulary words as others engage in conversation. Combining the findings from the reading comprehension assessment data from the 3rd grade classrooms and these commonly used approaches to building vocabulary, you identified two research questions for this action research.

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?

Your research questions are specifically designed to address the achievement issue you have identified. With the research questions you have developed, you may wish to consider mixed methods. That is to say, consider if one of your research questions lends itself to quantitative methods and the other to qualitative methods. Ask yourself: What will I be able to observe directly, and what -- and how -- can I measure what I observe?

Data Analysis

Since it seems possible that your data may be coming from several different sources and opportunities for observation of student performance, it may be helpful to organize your thoughts about data analysis in a matrix format. This is a common strategy for qualitative research methods in which triangulation of data is essential to developing and understanding of the trustworthiness of the data. Consider constructing a matrix that lists qualitative data sources in one column and quantitative data sources in another. As a last check to your organizational strategy, consider if any of the data sources can be switched to a different data collection method. And then think about why you might want to consider doing that. For example, you have suggested that students will practice using the vocabulary words in class and that they will do active listening to hear the vocabulary words across several contexts. Would useful data be provided if students made a bar chart of the new vocabulary words they hear most often in the classroom? This activity could help make the vocabulary words more salient for the students, and it would provide actual quantitative data on active listening, which is a student behavior that seems like it would be difficult to capture.

Action Plan

A primary reason for the careful construction of a plan for collecting and analyzing data is that once you have reached this stage, you want to be sure that the data will be interpretable and actionable. That is to say, what new learnings will you have acquired from your action research, and how can you apply it in order to improve student performance. Taking the time to understand the foundation of your priority pies will be helpful as you can identify just where in the scheme of either teaching or learning your data highlights a needed change. As with any action plan, the roles of the people need to be identified along with their area of responsibility. A common format is to identify the research finding or the answer to the research question, and describe the action to be taken and who is responsible for that action. Additionally, the action plan needs to identify other resources (which can include consultation with authorities and others) that will be needed to carry out the identified action. From there, the action plan identifies who will collect and monitor additional data, and determines the timeline for that data collection, any checkpoints, or when the current full cycle of Plan > Do > Check > Act will be completed.

Conclusions Regarding Coaching the Teacher Through the Action Research Study

The introductory section provides an overview of the proposed action research as it is currently understood and outlined. The literature review encourages further scholarly and practical study of the focus topic, which can support the development of a solid theory of action. The methodology section provides an opportunity for the action researcher to step back and examine the action research holistically, and thereby make better decisions about data collection and data analysis. The data collection section fosters consideration of the dependent and independent variables, and how these relate to the research questions. The data analysis section provides an opportunity to deepen the relationship of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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