Classroom research methodology

Ross Woods, 2018, '23

The purpose of this methodology is to evaluate an aspect of teacher performance as a basis for improving practice. The advantage is that your raw data is what actually happens in the classroom, which might be quite different from what the teacher thinks is happening. The trick, if there is one, is to collect data and interpret it as neutrally and objectively as possible. Otherwise, it might be no more than a study of your personal assumptions.

The methodology is presented as a series of steps.

  1. Select a domain. This could be a single criterion of good teaching or a group of interrelated criteria that relate to one phenomenon.
  2. Give your reasons. Why has this issue arisen? Give your reasons for selecting this domain.
  3. Select a population. Which teachers will you observe and in which school and which grades?
  4. Get permission. At the least, you will need to the school’s permission and the support of the teachers whom you will observe. In some cases, an ethical clearance might be required.
  5. Do a literature review to establish whether the domain is actually good teaching practice.
    1. You might have chosen a criterion that is actually incorrect. For example, use legible handwriting for kindergarten students homework is an unreasonable expectation.
    2. Consider the theoretical base of the domain, and refine it if needed. This is especially significant if the domain is counterintuitive, i.e. at face value it appears to be illogical. You should also consider that the domain might be subject to competing theories of learning, or more sophisticated definitions.
  6. Devise an observation protocol. It needs to be a focussed method that works for observing teachers while they actually teach, and it must match exactly the domain being investigated. It must also allow unanticipated results; in other words, it may not predetermine outcomes. It could include video. Possibible protocols are limitless, but some examples include:
    1. checklist of observation items (with spaces for comments and notes),
    2. timeline of how time was used
    3. records of discussion questions
    4. diagram of discussion patterns
    5. diagram of people’s movements in the classroom
  7. Do a number of observations until you reach data saturation.
  8. Write an analysis and evaluation of data.
  9. Questionnaire. If you find that you need to explore the reasons for the teachers' actions, you might want to try using a questionnaire of open-ended questions.
  10. Improvements. If you find that the domain is seriously problematical for teachers, you might want to go further and initiate improvements. So far, the process has been observing problems without any view to what to do about them. You’ve been holding funerals rather than driving ambulances. At this stage, you need to write a realistic improvement plan. If you are asked to implement the plan, you should also evaluate its effectiveness.
  11. Write the final report. It should follow a fairly conventional outline:
    1. Introduction
    2. Literature review
    3. Methodology
    4. Analysis
    5. Conclusion

Question: Researcher A observes a teacher making errors that are outside the scope of the research. What should Researcher A do?