How Can Teachers Improve Their Skill By Doing Research?

Teaching has gone a long way from the traditional lecturer-listener system. Today, teachers are not just lecturers, but guides; students are not just listeners but co-explorers of knowledge. Education has become more interactive and experiential for both parties. Thus, teaching skills have also evolved, with more techniques available for teachers to use.

The wide variety of education-centered skills may seem overwhelming for a teacher. Fortunately, there is one method that helps a teacher see the aspects of his or her teaching that need improvement. This method is research, particularly Classroom Action Research.

In its broadest sense, research is itself helpful when a teacher is trying to introduce concepts to students. Teachers who do their own research on the topics they teach, instead of depending on textbooks, can gain a much better understanding of those topics. As a result, they can be more effective in sharing the knowledge with students.

Classroom Action Research (CAR) is more specific than basic research, and it is more concerned on the teaching process itself than on the topics taught. In a nutshell, a CAR is a form of practitioner research on the current situation of a class. That means that the practitioner - the teacher - is the one who conducts active research on what his or her class truly needs.

The CAR method has different versions, from basic observations to fully scientific studies. A good CAR, however, involves several systematic steps.

First, of course, is the identification of a specific research question based on a premise. The question may seek a current description of the class, as in "Do students fulfill their home reading assignments?" Or it may discover whether a certain teaching technique is effective or not, as in "Are audio-visual presentations helpful in student performance?" The important thing is that the question should be a top concern of the teacher.

Next step is to research on previous studies on the same question. In scientific research, this is called review of related literature.

Third step is to lay out a research strategy, or the action that is purposefully done for the research. This could be as simple as conducting quizzes that are especially created to help answer the research question.

Next are the implementation of the strategy and the collection of results.

After that, the teacher now has data to analyze. The quiz results, for example, can show patterns and even clear answers to the original research question. They may indicate how many students provided correct answers to home reading questions, or how much of the audio-visual presentations they have remembered, and so on.

Now that the teacher has solid evidence on what works or what doesn't, he or she can take action based on it. This action could be continued use of a teaching technique that has been proven effective, or replacement of a technique that did not show success. Another action item might be to conduct another CAR on a different teaching skill.

The seventh step is sharing with other teachers the findings of the study. Since the CAR is a practitioner research, meaning done by one teacher for a particular class, it may produce unique results that can be discussed among the teaching staff.

Throughout all these steps, it is important to be specific and systematic to get accurate results.

Classroom Action Research is truly helpful for teachers to find out what the students need. But more importantly, it is a tool for them to identify what they themselves need to improve on when it comes to their teaching skills. This identification is the first step towards better teaching, and consequently, a better quality of education.

Teacher as Researcher