WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY STUDY
IMPACT ON STUDENT LEARNING
During my action research, all 20 of my first grade students showed growth. They gained confidence, thought critically about questions and their answers, and displayed improvement in other subject areas.
My students gained confidence throughout my action research. Prior to starting my study, I had several students that refused to answer questions or provided very short, timid responses. When these students answered questions incorrectly, they showed signs of embarrassment. With red cheeks, they would bow their hands, divert their eyes, and, on occasion, cry. By the end of my study, these students fearlessly answered questions. They became accustomed to being asked questions every day and recognized that even incorrect responses were nothing to be afraid of.
In addition to their increased courage, my first graders also began to think more critically. They knew that they would have to answer a question about the text after we read. Thus as they read, they focused on the text. When it came time to discuss the text, they thought about the question and used text evidence to form their responses. Instead of immediately raising their hand to answer, they took the time to craft their replies.
My action research also impacted student learning in other subject areas. My students’ scores in Social Studies and Math increased. During Social Studies assessments, my students took longer to answer individual questions. They thought about what the question was asking them and devised responses that were thorough and had a lot of detail. In Math, their answers to story problems improved. Similarly, they spent more time thinking about what specifically the questions were asking them. They thoughtfully selected the correct strategy and showed their work.
IMPACT ON CURRENT TEACHING
My action research not only impacted my students, but it also influenced my teaching. My study helped me to recognize the importance of using research-based strategies in my classroom. The research I conducted as I crafted my literature review was critical to my students’ success at the end of my study. I used the research of Fountas and Pinnell to guide my instruction. Their replicable practices allowed me to challenge my first graders to reach new levels of achievement.
Additionally, my study helped me to become a better analyst. I learned how to select significant data sets and look at that data through a critical lens. By choosing appropriate data points, compelling information was exposed. I learned to analyze that information and use my analysis to make important decisions about my instruction.
IMPACT ON PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
My capstone journey aided in my professional growth. Most importantly, this study demonstrated the importance of collaboration. At the beginning of the school year, I was nervous to ask for the advice of others. I did not want to burden other individuals with my questions or concerns. However, I quickly learned that this kind of timid behavior would not allow my students to reach their fullest potential.
Throughout my action research, I worked with other industry professionals to make critical decisions. When I needed resources, I reached out to my first grade team for their advice and assistance. When I knew my guided reading procedures could be more efficient, my CADRE Associate was there to devise a new system with me. When I had questions about my action research, I communicated with my CADRE Cohort and asked for their input. When I noticed a concerning score from a student, I knew I could brainstorm with my literacy coach to find new ways to support this student. These collaborations helped me grow as an educator.
WHAT WAS LEARNED & WHAT QUESTIONS REMAIN
From start to finish, I learned a lot during my capstone journey. Primarily, I learned how much students can grow when incorporating action research in the classroom. Because I collaborated with others, implemented research-based strategies, purposefully planned lessons, collected effective data, and used student evidence to modify my instruction, my students were able to reach their goals.
Despite everything I learned, three questions, in particular, still remain. First, where would my students score at the end of the third quarter if I had incorporated targeted questioning since the beginning of the school year? Though I will never know the answer to this question, I assumed that my students would have had even better comprehension skills if they were exposed to targeted questions all year long. Second, how could I continue to stretch the minds of my high readers using this strategy? By the end of my action research, many of my students were very high readers compared to the grade level norms. I was curious to know how I could use targeted questions to continue to challenge them. Finally, how much growth was occurring because students were receiving additional support at home? Many of my first graders went home to families that were very supportive of their education. These students received additional practice reading and answering questions after school and on the weekends. I wonder how much this affected their progress throughout my study.
WHAT WILL NEED TO BE MODIFIED IN THE FUTURE
I look forward to conducting action research in the future as it proved to be very beneficial for my students and me during my targeted question study. However, when I conduct action research going forward, I will need to make some modifications. First, I would like to conduct research for a longer period of time. During my study, I lost a lot of time due to snow days, in-service days, Spring Break, class celebrations (such as Valentine’s Day), and substitute teachers. In the future, I will try to schedule make-up research days. In doing so, these built-in days will allow my research to be conducted for the appropriate duration. Similarly, I also want to devise a plan for students who are absent. As it showed in my data, students that had regular absences did not make as much growth as those that were present each day. To ensure that absent students do not fall behind, during future my action research endeavors I will create a plan for providing absent students with additional support.
IMPACT ON FUTURE THINKING & BEHAVING
Going forward, I will be more confident in supporting my students because of my experiences during my targeted questions study. When I see my students struggling in the future, I will replicate the process of my capstone project. I will collaborate with others and conduct research to find reliable and valid strategies that can be implemented in my classroom. As I look at different research methods, I will be able to select the appropriate strategy for the needs of my students. I will also be capable of implementing those strategies with my students and select appropriate student data sets. Finally, I will analyze this data to make modifications as needed to promote student growth.
IMPACT ON FUTURE TEACHING
I intend to incorporate targeted questioning in my classroom as I continue my career as an educator. By thoughtfully planning the questions I wanted to ask each student in my guided reading groups, my students grew significantly as readers and increased their reading comprehension abilities. Because of the success this group of students achieved, it is my hope that my future first grade students will also demonstrate achievement in guided reading. In the forthcoming years, however, I aim to implement targeted questions all year long. I want to consistently emphasize reading comprehension through questioning, as the purpose of reading is to understand text.