Last Saturday, members of Action Research Group (ARG) presented at Penn’s Ethnography in Education Research conference. It was our sixth time presenting, and I remember back to our first in 2012. I was then, as I am now, so proud of our teachers meeting and presenting, and the energy we felt before, during, and after. I was most struck with how our members were changed by the experience.
After presenting, audience members addressed our presenters as researchers and asked about their work and insights about teaching and learning. Discussion lead to deeper understanding of the issues connected to their action research. One ARG member remarked she felt honored to be a part of such growth-minded discussion: she felt like a “real” professional.
Teachers and educators are all real professionals, but today, both within and outside of education, teachers can often feel attacked and de-professionalized. The national discourse on education doesn’t include educators and often blames teachers for not adequately responding to the ever-increasing demands placed on them. Within school systems, scripted curriculum and a narrow focus on achievement shackle teacher. High stakes testing can create a sense that teaching is more like being a on an assembly line than about whole-child learning.
At conferences, this experience can flip, and educators can feel honored as professionals. They contribute to meaningful dialogue and work on understanding and improving teaching and learning. When we do action research in ARG, we claim our professionalism. As we study our practice in our group, we are professionals in a community of practice. When we present publicly, the circle of our professional community of practice grows.
Our presentation at this year’s Ethnography Forum further reinforced my belief that presenting at a conference can be empowering. At the forum, our action researchers explored:
Aly, Sophie, Rebecca, and Jaimie came with a seed to our ARG meetings and, through thoughtful discussion and encouragement, grew them into practice-shaping research questions. Their presentations exhibited passion, provided probing insights, and exuded excitement to engage the educators and researchers in attendance.
To educators interested in claiming and elevating their professionalism, come to one of ARG meetings. We eat, talk, plan, reflect, research, develop, present and overall build and strengthen our professional community. Join us the first Monday of the month from 6-8pm on Penn’s campus. Contact us to join our mailing list. We look forward to learning with and from you soon!
-Andy Danilchick, Action Research Director