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Innovation and Learning from Research: Turning Schooling on its Head and Moving into the Future with

Learners at the Centre

Professor Geraldine Castleton Dean & Head of School of Education University of South Australia

Innovation and Learning from Research: Turning Schooling on its Head and Moving into the Future with Learners at the Centre

Innovation in the context of schools may involve different forms of change, e.g.
in the way work is organised among teachers;

in the administrative or organisational activities of schools;

in the implementation of new teaching methods, assessment tools or curriculum content; or in the use technologies to enhance learning and improve students learning outcomes. (Roberts, K. & Owens, S. 2012, 17)

Action research/practitioner research

Three particular characteristics research are that it:

arises from practical questions; is participatory in nature; and



its validity is strengthened through peer examination and discussion. (Bartlett, S. & Burton, D, 2006,401)

Action research/practitioner research as inquiry

The objects of inquiry are:

observable social activities, patterns, structures;
intentions motivating those activities;

shared, available interpretations of these activities. Goal & interest to document, explicate, critique, transform.

Researchers toolkit

Methodology framework for conduct of research project [e.g. ethnographic, case study, discourse analysis, action research].

Method systematic, theoretically derived means employed for producing a public knowledge. It includes techniques to be employed for the collecting of data (e.g. survey, questionnaire, data bases, standardised or teacher-developed tests, field notes, participant observations) as well as the analytic techniques employed to analyse and interpret data.

Action Research Practical

Studying local practices involving individual or team-based inquiry Focusing on teacher development and student learning Implementing a plan of action leading to the teacher-asresearcher (Spears, B. & Skrzypic, G. 2012)

Studying social issues that constrain individual lives Emphasizing equal collaboration Focusing on life-enhancing changes Resulting in the emancipated researcher

Action research as cyclic (Spears & Skrzypic, 2012)

Stringers (1999) Action Research Interacting Cycle Look Think Act

Stringer (1999)

Look Think Act Look Think Act

Action research/practitioner research

Action research/practitioner research involves engaging educator researchers and collaborators in a cycle of

critical reflection, and action.

Key characteristics of Action Research (Freebody, 2003, 86)

It is a deliberate rather than a purely exploratory entry into a naturally-occurring educational setting. That is, it is planned and self-consciously focused examination of changing practice.

It is solution-oriented investigation aimed explicitly at solving particular problems rather than simply documenting their instances, character or consequences.

Key characteristics of Action Research (Freebody, 2003, 86)

It is group or personally owned and conducted. This is a reference to the politics of knowledge ownership, which emphasizes the importance of the educational practitioners role as determinants of the description of the problem, what counts as solutions, and what form the reporting of the project will take.

Key characteristics of Action Research (Freebody, 2003,86)

It takes the form of a series of iterations on and around the problem, its documentation and theorization, and the analyses that are used to display how it has been redefined and solved. These iterations are referred to as spirals but are more commonly known as the Action Research cycle. This cyclic feature of Action Research is taken to be central to its core emphasis on the documented improvement of practice.

Key characteristics of Action Research (Freebody, 2003, 86)

The trying out of ideas is not undertaken solely for the purposes of re-theorizing educational practice, or adding to knowledge, but is also aimed at improving educational practice, then and there. In that respect, Action Research is concerned as much with outcomes on the original research site as it is with generalizations to other sites or leading to theoretical refinement.

Process (Freebody, 2003,87)


select focus study available literature;


collect relevant data from variety of sources;

analyse, document & review the immediate, cumulative & longer-term effects of teachers& students actions; develop and implement interpretive analytic categories;


Process (cont) (Freebody, 2003,87)


organise the data and its interpretations by grouping instances, events, & artefacts into systematic, interconnected displays;
taking action on the basis of redeveloped short-and long-term plans; and



repeat the cycle.

Action Research/practitioner research results in data-driven action

What constitutes data? How do you collect it?

How do you analyse your data?

How do you substantiate your findings? - WARRANT

Research Checklist

research that can be completed with the available resources, including time (doable); research processes that are logical and coherent (credible); products of the research that are meaningful to the stakeholder groups who ought to be its beneficiaries (useful) SO WHAT;

outcomes are achieved in a timely way (efficient).

Ethical practice in action research

Action research is subject to the same ethical protocols as other social research.
Informed consent from participants- students, teachers, parents or others;
There must be an earnest attempt to do no harm. Processes should be transparent in the conduct; researchers accountable for the processes and products of their research making these public is part of the transparency.

Ethical practice in action research

It is collaborative in nature: - provide opportunities for colleagues to share, discuss and debate aspects of their practice with the aim of improvements and development and involves responsible sensemaking of data collected from within the field of researchers own practice. It is transformative in its intent and action: - Practitioner researchers engage in an enterprise which is about contributing to transformation of practice.

Leading for innovation a case study

While there are many different models of leadership, a number of them share the notion of distributed leadership (e.g. Gronn, 2000; Spillane 2005) with that term defining leadership as a more shared responsibility across a school staff. Recent literature makes a link between this form of leadership & student educational outcomes (e.g. Fullan et al, 2005; Graczerski et al, 2008; Robinson, 2008, Alton Lee, 2011)

Leading for innovation a case study

Achieving high levels of student literacy outcomes requires strong and effective leadership. It is the role of leadership to model and live the shared beliefs and understandings about literacy that underpin a school literacy program, ensuring that the school implements ongoing self-evaluation, and maintains the focus on literacy improvement (Sharrat & Fullan, 2006).

Leading for innovation a case study

Agreement in literature about need for strong focus on

enhancing teacher expertise in teaching literacy professional learning for teachers (evidence-based effective literacy pedagogy)
expertise seen as shared commodity residing in a community of learners (including leaders, teachers, aides/education workers, parents/carers, community)

Leading for innovation a case study

School Literacy Plans as a site for investigating effectiveness of leading for literacy.
They provide a vehicle for analysis of each schools understanding of the processes involved in literacy learning, their intentions in terms of providing leadership for literacy within the classroom and school community, their articulation of the needs of their educational community, and the intended mechanisms for the evaluation of their efforts to improve student outcomes (Castleton et al, 2011, 98).

Leading for innovation a case study

Common features across 5 schools that showed clear evidence of leadership roles and responsibilities were
strong connection between leadership positions/roles and classroom teaching (often identifying leaders as being classroom teachers)

specific detail on how leaders would lead to achieve improvement of practices

clear descriptions of how performance of leaders would be monitored and/or evaluated. ACCOUNTABILITY

Leading for innovation a case study

One school identified key elements of its literacy leadership as a focus on teacher learning and pedagogy through the development of learning/teaching teams - and linked the work of these planning teams explicitly to what was being taught, professional learning activities, the establishment of school-based standards of exemplary practice (linked to student achievement), and a requirement for teams to engage in action research to extend and refine teachers repertoires of practice.

Leading for innovation a case study

Strong leadership :
is collaborative in nature allows for distribution of responsibilities maintains a strong focus on self-evaluation & continuous improvement knows how to define success and set appropriate goals and targets

develops a shared vision that leads to shared ownership - a key foundation for SUSTAINABILITY.


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