Collaborative online research experiment

Cynthia D’Costa

Teaching is a profession, where teachers are continuously discovering, incorporating and applying new and more effective skills and knowledge about students, for development of self and students. This quest for development puts the teacher in the crucial role of a researcher. By investigating pedagogical problems through inquiry, the teacher collaborates with pupils and enhances their potential to achieve the desired improvements. Action research is used to investigate a relevant classroom problem. However, it is still an area that remains unexplored. Most teachers equate research with a lot of technicalities as statistics and experimental designs, when it need not be so. In a way, every teacher is involved in action research when he/she tries to find a solution to a problem.

Using Teacher Plus as a springboard, this article is an attempt to initiate a wide spectrum action research based on three main premises. One, a broad pattern of research (like the model given in this article) can be refined by individual teachers to suit their context. Two, every teacher is capable of using and creating constructivist strategies to formulate solutions to problems faced. Three, collaboration between teachers will help find solutions to universal educational queries, leading to a knowledge repository that belongs to all.

The paragraphs that follow depict a model that can be used to deal with students who are indisciplined in class. Such students have some common traits such as being trouble makers in the class. They are consistently irregular with their work. Often labeled as underachievers, they are known to disrupt class peace, instigate fights and break rules. Such students are ignored, punished or in extreme cases dismissed. Sometimes they are referred to the school counsellor. While it is true that the counsellor is better qualified than the teacher, it must be borne in mind that many students do not like going to a counsellor. The teacher, who spends more time with the student, may handle such cases better than a counsellor.

Model to deal with indisciplined students

Phase One: Striking a rapport
Rapport should be built with the student through non-threatening dialogue. Build a profile of the student by finding his/ her social, economic, academic and family background. Get to know the student better through self disclosure regarding his/her fears, worries, anxieties and beliefs. Administer multiple intelligences and self esteem tests to know the student’s assets. Find more about his/her role models, leisure time activities and aspirations. An element of trust and an understanding of the student should be the ultimate outcome.

Phase Two: Asset Acknowledgment
Every individual has his/her share of assets. Acknowledge these assets. It is quite possible that the student has a low self image because he/she is unaware of how gifted he/she is. It is this lack of a positive self image that transforms to disruptive behaviour to attain attention. Provide examples of successful individuals who share the student’s assets. Let them read success stories of people like Einstein or Walt Disney, who were rejected by many. When the student acknowledges his/her own assets, help him/her to formulate a goal to achieve. This goal could be in terms of academic achievement and in terms of responsible behaviour. Keep the goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound). Help the student devise a plan of action to achieve the same. Giving a definite goal to achieve keeps them away from disruptive behaviour as they have a focus in mind.

Phase Three: Responsibility building
Let the student be given responsibility according to their strengths. Enlist the support of other teachers, parents and the principal in this venture. Motivate the student when he/she executes responsibility satisfactorily. Impress on the student the need for responsible behaviour.

Throughout the three phases it is necessary to motivate the student, reinforce desired behaviour and correct wrong behaviour. At no stage should self-esteem be wounded. Enlist the support of all stakeholders – parents, co-teachers and peers in this behaviour modification process. Let the student realize that the responsibility of change lies with him/her.

Researcher’s role
While the general line of the action research would remain largely as mentioned above, each participating teacher or action researcher should note that, in collaboration with the student, you are the director of this exercise. Use strategies that suit your context. Feel free to search for other modes of behaviour modification from sources like books or the Internet. Use them judiciously without threatening the self-esteem of the student. This way the experiment becomes constructivist in approach.

Maintain a short summary of the student’s progress throughout the process. Make a special note of strategies that were more effective than others. Reflect on the experiment from time to time, so that you see a pattern emerging, regarding what helps behaviour modification. Ask the student concerned to tell you what really helped him/her change.

After about three to four months, communicate to the writer regarding your experiences, so that she on her part can collate the experiences of teachers all over, identify ways that work in case of behaviour modification of indisciplined students and disseminate the same through a platform like Teacher Plus. This way the research becomes collaborative and online.

While reporting your experiences, give a brief account of the student’s behaviour before and after the modification programme. Describe in brief the strategies that you used for bringing about a change. Also describe the effect that the action research had on you as a teacher.

Benefits of CORE

  • Teachers will be encouraged to take up more action research. The exercise will make them realize that action research does not entail difficult procedures. It is a way of dealing with problems that are localized.
  • Teachers will be more constructive in their approach. As life-long learners, we are expected to devise our ways to deal with difficulties we face in our career. Only a constructivist bent of mind will help us become problem solvers. Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!
  • The results of this experiment will be based on experiences of a wide data base of teachers making the findings more valid and authentic.
  • All participants can claim to be resource generators, who have worked to add to the knowledge repository. The findings of the research will be our collective wealth.
  • Collaboration will enrich working relationships amongst teachers.
  • Through action research, teachers gain a greater understanding of their own practice and their students’ behaviours. They are therefore “empowered to make informed decisions about what to change and what not to change, link prior knowledge to new information, learn from experience (even failures) and ask questions and systematically find answers” (Fueyo & Koorland, cited in Mills, 2003).
  • Hoping that through this article, we in collaboration with Teacher Plus, usher in a new phase in action research through networking and sharing. After all, a magazine like Teacher Plus is geared to formation through information.

Reference
Mills, G. (2003). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher. (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

The author is a teacher educator at Pushpanjali College of Education, Maharashtra. She can be reached at c.dcosta@rediffmail.com.