The following four-step process will help you plan a small action research project to explore your questions about working with diverse learners, implement action plans for accommodating the needs of all of your students, and collect information to assess your instructional innovations. Before you begin this section, you can go to About Action Research for an introduction to the process of designing and conducting action research projects. If you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project from any one of the eight workshop sessions as an assignment.
If you would like to focus on working with diverse learners for your action research project, use the following questions and examples to help frame your thinking and shape your action research project.
- What issue concerning working with diverse learners do you want to describe, document, and investigate? For example, you could examine your students' learning strategies, observe the diversity that exists in your classroom, or study how the concept of multiple intelligences may be applicable to your students. If you teach heritage language speakers, you might want to investigate their unique learning needs and how instruction can accommodate these students. This will be the focus of your action research project.
- Why is it important to you as a teacher to accommodate the needs of different kinds of learners? How have you accommodated different students' needs in the past? How do you want to change that approach and why? What has been your experience with accommodating heritage language speakers? Students at different language levels? Special needs students? Are you satisfied with your approach to working with each of these types of learners? Why or why not?
- What is your research question concerning working with diverse learners? The research question will help you investigate your area of focus and understand it better. For example:
- What are the unique learning styles that my students bring to the classroom? How do my students' learning styles compare with my own learning style?
- How can I differentiate instruction to ensure that all students' learning needs are met? What will guide my instructional decisions, and how will I evaluate whether my differentiated approaches are effective?
- What are the opinions of my heritage language speakers regarding their language class? What do they identify as their own learning needs? How could I begin to address or improve upon the way I address the needs that they report?
- How do my special needs students with identified learning disabilities in their first language perform in my foreign language class? How are their achievements similar to or different from those of students without learning disabilities? (In other words, are there significant differences in learning outcomes? If so, how can these differences be described?)
- What is the action plan for carrying out your project? Depending on your action research question, the following are some questions you might ask yourself to help you develop an action plan:
- How will I identify my students' learning styles?
- How will I differentiate instruction for my students, and how will I know if the instruction is effective?
- How will I gather information on the diverse needs of different learners?
- What accommodations will I make for special needs students, and what school resources might I use to inform my decision making?
- How can I better understand the diversity of my classroom?
- What information will you need to collect to answer your research question and assess your project? For example, you could take field notes, ask a colleague to observe your class and look for particular aspects relevant to your study, distribute student questionnaires and self-assessments, or gather and analyze student work samples. You should have at least two sources of information.
- How much time will you allot for your action plan? That is, when and for how long do you plan to collect information before you're ready to begin analyzing it? Develop a timeline for implementing your action plan.
- After collecting your information, how will you analyze it? That is, how will you organize and review the information you have collected to understand it better and help you answer your research question? For example, will you use responses to a questionnaire, such as the Multiple Intelligences Survey? Will you compare performance data that is based on your instructional intervention? Will you review observations of critical incidents that took place during your study? Will you gather students' opinions using pre- and post-activity questionnaires to assess how your instruction met their needs?
- How will you display the information so that it can be shared with others? For example, you can use charts, graphs, and/or tables. The goal is to organize your data in a way that presents a clear description of what you investigated.
Note: The final step of the action research project is to reevaluate your teaching practice based on your research data. Because it takes time to complete an action research project, it may not be possible to do this step during the workshop. However, if you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project during or after the course of the workshop to submit as an assignment.
If you are taking the workshop for graduate credit, submit your completed action research project on any one of the eight session topics.
- Based on what you learned through your data analysis, how will you rethink your teaching practice? What changes will you make to your lessons the next time you plan to address the needs of a diverse group of learners? If you had to research the needs of diverse learners in your classroom again, what changes would you make to your action research plan?
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