ERIC Identifier: ED381530
Publication Date: 1995-03-00
Author: Abdal-Haqq, Ismat
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
ERIC as a Resource for the Teacher Researcher. ERIC Digest.
This digest outlines salient characteristics of teacher-led research and its
benefits. This overview is followed by discussion of selected resources for
teacher researchers, which are available through the Educational Resources
Information Center (ERIC).
WHAT IS TEACHER RESEARCH?
Several terms for teacher
research are encountered in education literature, including: action research,
practitioner research, teacher-as-scholar, practical inquiry, interactive
research, classroom inquiry, and practice-centered inquiry (Downhower, Melvin, & Sizemore, 1990; Williamson, 1992). Although these terms may not be
completely interchangeable, a common thread running through various conceptions
of teacher research is that the teacher is an active constructor of knowledge
rather than a passive consumer of it (Miller & Pine, 1990; Williamson,
1992). In recent literature, action research appears to be the most common
designation of this kind of research, perhaps, because it suggests most vividly
both the inherent empowering quality of the process and the immediacy and
concreteness of its outcomes (McKay, 1992; Miller & Pine, 1990). The
remaining discussion about teacher research refers primarily to inquiry that
reflects action research principles.
McCutcheon and Jung (1990) identify the core components of action research as
systematic inquiry, reflexivity, and focus on the practical. It seeks to answer
questions and solve problems that arise from the daily life of the classroom and
to put findings into immediate practice (McKay, 1992; Twine & Martinek,
1992). Teacher researchers may work alone or collaboratively with other
teachers, student teachers, or university researchers.
Systematic inquiry is the hallmark of effective teacher research (Shalaway,
1990). A variety of techniques and approaches are employed, including:
experimental designs, systematic observation, descriptive research, and
ethnographic/case studies (Wessinger, 1992; Eisenhart & Borko, 1993;
Neubert, 1989; Downhower et al., 1990).
McKay (1992) describes action research as a six-step cyclical process: (1)
identifying an issue or problem to study; (2) gathering and reviewing related
information; (3) developing a plan of action; (4) implementing the plan; (5)
evaluating results; and (6) repeating the cycle with a revised problem or
strategy derived from what was learned in the first cycle, until the question is
BENEFITS OF TEACHER RESEARCH
Effective teacher research
empowers teachers, giving them greater confidence
in their ability to individually and collectively promote change (Downhower
et al., 1990; Nihlen, 1992). In addition to developing new intellectual and
technical skills, conducting research often creates new career opportunities and
roles for classroom teachers: e.g., writers, college instructors, teacher
leaders (Shalaway, 1990). Downhower et al. (1990) and Nihlen (1992) indicate
that teacher researchers become more critical and responsive readers and users
Miller and Pine (1990) suggest that when teachers become agents of inquiry,
the locus of knowledge about teaching shifts from sources external to the
classroom (e.g., researchers, textbook publishers, administrators) to sources of
practical classroom experience (i.e., teachers). This shift enhances the
professional status of teaching because teachers, through this
knowledge-construction, actively help to shape the knowledge base of their own
profession (Johnson, 1993). Generally, teacher research is driven by the
practitioner's desire to improve his or her own practice with respect to a
specific problem and a specific set of students. Thus, students reap immediate
benefits from the teacher's learning (Shalaway, 1990; Williamson, 1992).
USING ERIC TO PLAN, IMPLEMENT, & DISSEMINATE TEACHER RESEARCH
The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) can assist teacher
researchers, at various stages of the systematic inquiry process, to access the
"strong knowledge base" and "multifaceted support system" that Neubert (1989,
p.9) asserts are needed to sustain research activity among classroom teachers.
Systematic inquiry includes gathering and reviewing information on the question
to be investigated. ERIC provides unmatched access to education literature and
related resources, which can be accessed through a variety of media: print,
microfiche, CD-ROM, commercial online services, and electronic networks such as
Neubert (1989) includes publication of findings among the external support
mechanisms that help to sustain teachers' enthusiasm for doing research because
publication helps to validate the teacher's contribution to the professional
knowledge base. ERIC supports teacher researchers' efforts to disseminate their
work by: (1) abstracting and indexing journal articles and documents, which they
submit, for the ERIC database; (2) making available paper copies and full-text
versions of most articles and documents; and (3) providing assistance in
locating print and electronic journals, as well as listservs and other
electronic resources, that publish material related to teachers' areas of study.
[Contact ACCESS ERIC, 1-800-LET-ERIC, for information on these services.]
ERIC RESOURCES & WHERE TO FIND THEM
The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is a nationwide
information network, which has been funded by the federal government since the
mid-1960s (Stonehill & Brandhorst, 1992). The system consists of 16 subject
area clearinghouses, a number of adjunct clearinghouses, and 4 support contact
components [For contact information on all clearinghouses and other components,
contact ACCESS ERIC: 1-800-LET ERIC.[
The ERIC database, the hub of the system, is the world's largest
education-related database. It contains more than 800,000 abstracts of journal
articles and documents such as research reports, conference papers, teaching
guides, and nonprint media. The ERIC clearinghouses and adjunct clearinghouses
collect, abstract, index, and catalog literature related to their specific scope
areas (e.g., teaching and teacher education, assessment and evaluation, urban
education, information and technology). The clearinghouses also publish
bibliographies, monographs, and digests; perform customized searches of the
database; and respond to scope-related inquiries.
Most university libraries, some public libraries, some school districts, and
ERIC clearinghouses provide access to searchable print, CD-ROM, or online
versions of the ERIC database. At present, there are also several Internet
access points for the database. Paper copies of journal articles and documents
are available. Full-text versions of approximately 95% of the documents are
available on microfiche at more than 900 locations (Educational Resources
Information Center [ERIC], 1994).
The Office of Educational Research and Information operates an Internet
gopher site that provides direct access to a range of online ERIC resources and
pointers to free online access to the database. AskERIC is an Internet-based
information provider that offers individualized responses to education-related
questions within 48 hours and maintains a free electronic library. The AskERIC
Virtual Library is an FTP/gopher site that offers lesson plans; more than 1,000
2-page research syntheses (digests) on current topics; prepared ERIC searches on
current topics; resource guides; archives of some education-related listservs;
government information; remote access to library catalogs; and access to other
gopher sites (ERIC, 1994).
The teacher researcher who consults ERIC resources might find journal
articles that provide (1) a step-by-step account of how a practitioner carried
out an action research project (Downhower et al., 1990); (2) strategies and
resources for locating information on a particular topic (Keeney &
Sunnarborg, 1992); (3) the location of teacher researcher support groups
(Shalaway, 1990); and (4) a guide to basic data analysis for beginning
researchers (Culkin & Davis, 1992). Internet-based ERIC resources can lead
the teacher researcher to listservs for teachers; such as XTAR [contact
information given below], a network for teacher researchers and others who want
to share information on teacher research in general (B. Blanton, personal
communication, October 6, 1994). Another valuable Internet-based ERIC resource
for teacher researchers is the Test Locator--a searchable file, which can be
used to locate data collection and evaluation instruments--on the ERIC
Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation's gopher.
All ERIC clearinghouses and components
can be contacted by mail, phone (toll-free numbers), fax, and e-mail. ACCESS
ERIC can provide specific contact information and referrals to appropriate
components of the system. Listed below is contact information for some of the
resources mentioned in this digest.
ERIC--phone: 1-800-LET-ERIC--e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Locator--phone: 1-800-464-3742--e-mail: eric[underscore]email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. References followed by an SP
number were being processed at the time of publication. Journal articles (EJ)
should be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are
available in microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can
also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
Culkin, D., & Davis, H. (1992). Basic data analysis for nonresearchers.
Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 63(9), 32-35. EJ461928
Downhower, S., Melvin, M. P., & Sizemore, P. (1990). Improving writing
instruction through teacher action research. Journal of Staff Development,
11(3), 22-27. EJ430614
Educational Resources Information Center, Office of Educational Research and
Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. (1994). All about ERIC. Washington,
DC: Author. [ERIC 94-5018].
Eisenhart, M., & Borko, H. (1993). Designing classroom research: Themes,
issues, and struggles. Allyn & Bacon: Needham, MA. ED 370 906
Johnson, B. (1993). Teacher-as-researcher. ERIC Digest 92-7. Washington, DC:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education. ED355205
Keeney, G., & Sunnarborg K. R. (1992). Strategies for identifying health
information--One practitioner's experience. Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation and Dance, 63(9), 26-28. EJ461928
McCutcheon, G., & Jung, B. (1990). Alternative perspectives on action
research. Theory into Practice, 29, 144-151. EJ417491
McKay, J. A. (1992). Professional development through action research.
Journal of Staff Development, 13(1), 18-21. EJ460505
Miller, D. M., & Pine, G. J. (1990). Advancing professional inquiry for
educational improvement through action research. Journal of Staff Development,
11(3), 56-61. EJ430617
Neubert, G. A. (1989). Supporting teacher research. Teacher Educator, 25(1)
Nihlen, A. S. (1992, April). Schools as centers for reflection and inquiry:
Research for teacher empowerment. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA. ED354584
Shalaway, L. (1990). Tap into teacher research. Instructor, 100(1) 34-38.
Stonehill, R. M., & Brandhorst, T. (1992). The three phases of ERIC.
Educational Researcher 21(3), 18-21. EJ445360
Twine, J., & Martinek, T. J. (1992). Teachers as researchers--An
application of a collaborative action research model. Journal of Physical
Education, Recreation and Dance, 63(9), 22-25. EJ461928
Wessinger, N. P. (1992). Demystifying research for the practitioner--How do I
find out what I want to know? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and
Dance, 63(9), 12-16. EJ461928
Williamson, K. M. (1992). Relevance or rigor--A case for teacher as
researcher. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 63(9), 17-21.