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Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching:

Teaching and Learning About Action Research
Reviews of Popular Action Research Textbooks

Hubbard, R. S., & Power, B. M. (2003). The art of classroom inquiry: A handbook for teacher-researchers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 0325005435

The Art of Classroom Inquiry: A Handbook for Teacher-Researchers by Ruth Hubbard and Brenda Power is an introduction to the philosophy of teacher research and a resource for developing one’s research skills. In the preface to the text Hubbard and Power invite teachers to consider teacher research as a path to developing “more principled classroom practice” and, in doing so, redefining their professional roles to include a more public voice.

The structure of this text parallels the action research process. The text begins with a chapter on developing open ended questions to guide one’s inquiry. Chapter two focuses on designing a plan to investigate one’s question. This chapter includes extended examples of plans written by contributing teacher researchers, as well as sample permission forms and schedules. In chapter three, “The Artist’s Toolbox”, Hubbard and Power describe, illustrate, and offer technical suggestions on data collection methods ranging from note taking to interviewing to creating sociograms to recording with audio and video. The chapter includes multiple examples of raw and “cooked” notes, sample surveys and interview schedules, two representations of data gathered from a sociogram, and two transcription methods. Chapter four continues with data analysis. As in the previous chapter, the authors are explicit regarding both the philosophical and technical aspects of the work. The focus in this chapter is on developing systems to catalogue data, code data, analyze student work, writing memos, and use triangulation and “crystallization” methods to confirm or disconfirm emerging themes. Chapter five focuses on “creative literature review”. Hubbard and Power urge the teacher researcher to read a broad range of genres to help them think creatively and critically about their work. In chapter six, Hubbard and Power urge teachers to “tell their research stories” through writing. The chapter includes samples and suggestions for writing strong leads, considering the audience of your work, and overcoming writer’s block. The final chapter focuses on finding and developing communities that will support your research.

A distinctive feature of this text is its balance between urging teachers to draw on the professional and contextual knowledge they bring to their research and urging teachers to question the assumptions they bring to their work. The authors write that “teacher researchers are often building on years of tracking student responses and behaviors, depending on their previous experience of understanding and analyzing even subtle nuances of change in individual kids”. (91) At the same time, however, teacher researchers guard against confirming what they already know. Hubbard and Power offer suggestions to do this throughout the text including framing open-ended questions, seeking out alternative points of view, cultivating an “inquisitive stance” to guard against defensiveness, seeking out “disconfirming evidence”, avoiding the “delusionally anecdotal”, triangulating data sources, and collaborating with critical friends who can take “cold looks” at data. Hubbard and Power make clear that “the answers to these teachers’ research questions won’t necessarily validate their teaching practices. More likely, these teachers will discover that they need to change how they work with students and how they view young learners.” (7)

Hubbard and Power are also the authors of another text reviewed on this site: Living the Questions: A Guide for Teacher-Researchers. Living the Questions… includes many of the same themes of The Art…, but is structured less like a textbook.

Other noteworthy features include:

  • Liberal examples of questions, quotes, and sample data from teacher researchers
  • “Suggestions for Getting Started” and “Extensions” at the end of each chapter are structured to help reader move back and forth between his or her own project and chapter themes and examples
  • Inspirational quotes, anecdotes, and metaphors from art, architecture, literature, and education
  • Case studies include commentary on the research process and features of the case
  • “Practical Tips” are offset and include sample letters of consent, suggestions for organizing one’s work, etc.

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