Teacher Research for Better Schools
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2003
Mary K. Tedrow, a Virginia teacher, comments that “Teacher research is highly personalized professional development that ultimately empowers the researcher to step outside the classroom and take an active role in the shaping of their professional lives.” The authors tell the story of their own three-year research process.
Citation: Clawson, S., MacLean, M.S., Mohr, M.M., Nocerino, M.A. & Rogers, C. (2003). Teacher research for better schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
By Marian M. Mohr, Courtney Rogers, Besty Sanford,
Mary Ann Nocerino, Marion S. MacLean and Sheila Clawson
2003 (208 pp./paperback)
Teachers College Press
$21.95 ($18 from National Writing Project)
Reviewed by Mary K. Tedrow
Millbrook High School
Even before Courtney Rogers drew the parallel in Chapter 10 of Teacher Research for Better Schools, my reading had led me to think of teacher research as a pebble dropped into a pond. The ever widening circles of influence that spread out from a teacher researcher group are apparent in the book by NVWP (Northern Virginia Writing Project) writers Marian M. Mohr, Courtney Rogers, Besty Sanford, Mary Ann Nocerino, Marion S. MacLean and Sheila Clawson.
Recently published by the National Writing Project and the Teachers College Press, the study is the result of a grant that permitted the authors to explore the effect of Teacher Research (TR) on changing the culture of buildings and systems.
Personally, I must go a long way back in my memory to remember a time when TR hasn't impacted my teaching environment. Having been fortunate enough to work with Theresa Manchey, my department head for the past nine years and a practitioner and leader of teacher research groups, the habits and practices of teacher research have been a part of my working life – I now realize after reading this book. It is only when I reflect on the "old days" of teaching, where everyone's door was closed and asking a question merely revealed your ignorance to the group rather than fueled a discussion of best practices, that I can measure how far we have come. Perhaps you too have been fortunate to reap the benefits of a teacher researcher without actually having partaken of the feast.
Though the book is primarily a report of the group's findings, it is exciting reading for a classroom teacher. What becomes evident is the obvious potential for teacher leaders to effect change in their effectiveness with children, their attitude toward their profession, the climates of their buildings, their relationships with their administrators, their bonds with fellow educators, and their confidence in their own abilities to observe, reflect, and change their own practice.
Teacher research is highly personalized professional development that ultimately empowers the researcher to step outside the classroom and take an active role in the shaping of their professional lives.
The book tells the story of the three-year project beginning with the effort to secure a grant. What follows are chapters written in rotation by each of the participants in the study, outlining their findings in different areas of an educational system.
Discussed first in the book is the impact on the teacher's behavior in the classroom, the nearest circle to the TR pebble dropped. The argument is expanded to include the next circle, the teacher researchers' impact on schools. And finally the widest circle is addressed, the impact on the system as a whole. The unspoken, unwritten circle is the one out furthest, the impact that this book itself may have on educational leaders who are looking to improve schools from within.
Each chapter helpfully ends with a summary of the key findings. The entire book concludes with recommendations for those who wish to initiate, support, and utilize a research program in their system or school. Finally, the authors address how TR can be used in school and system wide decision making.
Who should read this book? Certainly all educational leaders should be handed a copy to validate the efforts of teacher research groups that exist or that are being considered. Teachers who have gone through the research practice may want to read this to confirm hunches they may already have about how their research has affected their working lives. Those who wish to demonstrate the usefulness of a TR program in their system will find the data described an invaluable resource.
Teacher Research for Better Schools is an extended and valid argument in favor of encouraging teachers to take action in their own classrooms to support and encourage the best teaching practices.
This review first appeared in The Journal of the Virginia Writing Project