This is part 3 of a series of blog posts by Kevin Sonico (Grade 9 Math/Science Teacher) on Research Experience and Its Impact on Teaching Practice. Theme 1 on Professional Growth can be read here and Theme 2 on Student Voice can be read here.
Teacher-researchers classified the nature of their inquiries as exploratory and investigated different elements of their practice. From teaching a lesson, to reporting student learning, to structuring a class, participants viewed the RI program as an opportunity to chronicle and share new experiences with an audience. Their willingness to experience such a rigorous and public endeavour reflected teachers’ entrepreneurial spirit. This disposition referred to someone “who explore[d] ideas and challenge[d] the status quo…and who ha[d] the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions” (Alberta Education, 2011, p. 6). Entrepreneurial spirit was one of three qualities that Albertans wanted our education system to inculcate among students (Alberta Education, 2010b). By inquiring into their practice, participants modeled what it meant to possess entrepreneurial spirit. Although specific lessons could be aimed at teaching and practising entrepreneurial spirit, the impact of teachers inquiring into their work could be equally powerful. More specifically, by demonstrating transparency in their classroom research, soliciting others for feedback, and sharing one’s experiences publicly, teachers modeled what it meant to have entrepreneurial spirit. Further, teachers might have impressed upon their students the value of lifelong learning (Vogrinc & Zuljan, 2009) by questioning current practices and exploring ways to change them.
Two participants commented on the cultural perception of innovative teaching practices in the education community. One said, “I definitely get the vibe that sometimes…teaching is…almost like a communist position. So nobody wants to kind of step outside and say like, ‘This is some awesome stuff I’ve been doing on top of teaching.’” This observation referred to the perceived reluctance by teachers to be recognized. While another participant described a culture of risk-taking at Connect, “The feeling around the school that doing this sort of thing [action research], I don’t want to say that it’s expected, but it’s not out of the ordinary.” Interestingly, by instituting the RI policy, Connect Charter School formalized an unwritten facet of their school culture of risk-taking.