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Volume 13, Number 3
May/June 1997

Teacher Research as Powerful Professional Development

Practitioner inquiry validates teachers as knowers as well as doers


Teacher research is one of the fastest-growing and most promising forces for positive change in schools today. Its premise resonates with teachers at all grade levels: that teachers can construct useful knowledge about teaching and learning by systematically studying their own practice. Elements of teacher research have long existed; John Dewey envisioned teachers as reflective professionals who build theory from practice. A more direct connection can be traced to the "action research" movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which sought to improve the performance of organizations, including schools, by using group problem-solving cycles based on disciplined inquiry.

However, teacher research is a relatively new phenomenon. Jay Sugarman, a 4th-grade teacher in Brookline, MA, and cofounder of the Teacher Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, feels that for years there has been little encouragement and support for teachers to study their own practice. "Teachers have been expected to implement the research findings of others," Sugarman says. "They have been the objects of study and not true collaborators in the inquiry process."

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Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    E.F. Calhoun. How to Use Action Research in the Self-Renewing School. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994.

    M. Cochran-Smith and S.L. Lytle. Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge. New York: Teachers College Press, 1993.

    D. Goswami and P. Stillman, eds. Reclaiming the Classroom: Teacher Research as an Agency for Change. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987.

    S.L. Lytle. "Risky Business." Quarterly of the National Writing Project and Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy 15, no. 1 (Winter 1993): 20-23.

    R. Shagoury Hubbard and B. Miller Power. The Art of Classroom Inquiry: A Handbook for Teacher-Researchers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.

    A. Peterson, J. Check, and M. Ylvisaker, eds. Cityscapes: Eight Views from the Urban Classroom. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project, 1996.

    J. Sugarman. "Introduction." Reflections: The Brookline Educational Journal 8, no. 1 (1990-1991).

    Teacher Research: The Journal of Classroom Inquiry
    . Semiannual newsletter. Johnson Press, 49 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, NY 12210.